This post is a bit late, mainly due to the holiday craziness and me being a total space cadet. I went to Nutley a few weeks back, which will be the last time for me in 2017. This time, I ventured out with the Lish and Ulf. We rolled up, geared up, and got to work.
Attendance was lighter than normal this week, though I still got in some great passes. HRH Duke Brennan was there, Sir Douglas, Sir Yan (sp), Arne, and a few others whose names I can’t remember because it’s me and I suck at that. Brennan fought glaive this time, and overall I think I did ok against him. After our fight, he and sir Douglas came up and told me about an issue I didn’t even realize I had. When I move, I swing my arms, ya know like normal people when they’re walking. Problem is, I have a shield on that arm, so when I walk I open up my defense in a rhythmic way, which he was able to exploit over and over again. I also didn’t react enough when he switched handedness, leaving my right side more vulnerable. I made it a point to focus on that the rest of the night.
I got some nice compliments as well, people noting that I’m still improving, which is a great thing for me to hear. I know in time I will hit a wall and stagnate a bit while I figure out how to get over or around it, but for now I’m still slowly pushing forward. Another big issue I have is that I don’t do any pell work. I need to establish the habit of going out and doing a little bit every day, regardless of weather.
The following week, I went to the Wantagh practice to spread some holiday cheer. There were four of us, me, Caitlin, Dante, and Conrad. I did about as good as I usually do, though with better leg protection. I’m still leaving my offside leg too open for my liking, though I didn’t realistically expect to have figured that out in a week of sitting on my couch. I also feel the lack of pell work more and more at these practices, since the fighters here leave more open than those at Nutley. Problem is, I have a helluva time trying to get there accurately while keeping enough force, so practice practice practice!
I also spoke with my cousin about fighting. He doesn’t really know much of the SCA, so I was explaining what fighting in our society is like, and he told me that he’s actually a 2nd degree black belt in Kendo. We spoke about the similarities and differences between the two, and he mentioned some suggestions on how to improve. What I found most interesting about this was the similarities in training. His suggestions were to have a dummy to practice on (like a pell), and only to practice in full armor. The reason for this, which I totally agree with, is that it makes me used to throwing shots exactly as I would in a fight, with the same limitations and restrictions. He also suggested working out different combinations, as well as footwork and movement. Lastly, he said to work on speed. Now, while SCA combat isn’t at all like point fighting in terms of force, the speed drills would absolutely help, in my opinion. Once my form and technique are on point, I’ll be working to build up my speed.
If I can keep this up, or hopefully even step up, my dedication to practice over the next year, I feel like I should be able to get to my ambitious goals. For me, I have two goals at the moment. I would like to be on par with the average SCA fighter in the east kingdom by my two year mark, which includes being competent at sword and shield. My other goal is to work in another form and not be a human pell with it by the same point. Sure, I have other shorter goals, like sticking with it, getting footwork down, working on my technique, etc, but these are my lofty ones. Whether I hit them or not, I think they’re ambitious enough to keep me pushing for at least the next year and a half. After that, we’ll see how things are and what I need to focus on.
This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of fighting in a bear pit tournament in NJ. I traveled there with a local fighter, Ozurr, and we got there just in time for the fun to begin. In total there were 18 fighters, and there were 2 pits. Winner stays, loser goes, wounds retained. Winner gets 2 points, loser gets one point. Pits ran for 2 hours straight.
I started the day with that massive bruise on my leg, and though it was days old now it still hurt to the touch. I soon found out that I’m still leaving that side too open, as shot after shot came in right on that bruise. Eventually it hit critical mass about an hour and twenty minutes in, when a particularly hard shot blasted that same spot. The pain jumped up and I had to take myself out for the day so I didn’t risk more serious injury. Still, I ended the day having fought 36 fights, and I went 13 and 23, something I’m pretty proud of. I learned quite a bit, too, as other fighters were able to let me know what I was doing wrong that left me open. I also received praise from a few people on how I fought, which left me grinning like an idiot. I’m pretty shitty at accepting compliments, so I probably came off like an ass when in fact I was humbled by the praise and the fact that they went out of their way to say something to me. I even got in some shots I’ve never been able to land before, which was super cool! Also, I finally got to fight some members of my household. I fought Sarvu, Travis, and Darius. I got to fight Darius a few times, but only the other two once each.
All in all, it was a good day, and I needed a good day after the day before. I think I fought relatively well, and I got some great feedback on stuff I need to work on. I had the pleasure of fighting mostly people I’ve never fought before (Zack was the only person there I’d fought before), and all my passes were clean and excellent. Now I just gotta wait for this Africa shaped bruise to heal a little before I get back in armor again for a practice. I also have to work on my cardio if I’m gonna get through Birka.
This is difficult for me. This past Saturday, we said goodbye to Sophie. It was one of the hardest decisions we’ve ever made for many reasons, which I’ll get into later. For now, let’s talk about the beautiful life of Sophie the Monster.
When we moved into our first house, we adopted two dogs, Yuna and Cosmo. Yuna had an issue where she’d chase her tail constantly, and we thought maybe if she had someone to play with (Cosmo was a grumpy old fucker) that she’d snap out of it. So we went to the local pound and looked for someone in need of rescue. That’s when I saw my monster. She was a 3 year old American Staffordshire Terrier that was supposedly rescued from somewhere where she was overbred for puppies. The vets said it looked like she had quite a few back to back litters, one of which was recent. The catch? According to her temperament profile, she was not good around men. When I asked about that, they said that she did not like the male employee that helped do the profile, and that she might not be good with a male owner. I wanted to meet her anyway. We met, played, walked, and she seemed to be ok. We had her meet our pups, and they seemed fine with each other, so we took her home. This was Father’s Day weekend, so I stayed home all weekend with her.
We bonded that first weekend in a big way. We played, snuggled, napped, and really fell in love. From that moment on, as the Lish would tell people, she became “my dog”. While Lish claims Sophie merely tolerated her presence, she only had eyes for the dad. So much for her hating men. Pretty soon we noticed something else interesting. Her and Yuna would roughhouse and play a lot, and from that moment on, Yuna stopped chasing her tail. The only caveat now was that sometimes their play time would get a little too rough, so we had a dog trainer come in to evaluate Sophie. She was very standoffish to the dog, and didn’t like that Sophie was a dominant dog. Her official recommendation to us was that she could not be trained to not be dominant, and that we should put her down. I was fucking devastated. Lish and I spoke about it for hours, and in the end, decided “fuck that bitch”, and we kept her.
We moved to our next home, and eventually things escalated between Yuna and Sophs. They had a terrible fight one day while the Lish had them outside, and it resulted in Sophs having to alpha-roll Yuna to get her to stop attacking. She just pinned her down and then let her go. From that moment on, however, we had to keep them separate to avoid any future fights, especially with a newborn on the way. Sophie was always wonderful around my children. There was never any hint of aggression or whatnot. They’d pet her, pull on her when they were very little, and feed her. She loved the kids so very much, and seemed rather protective of them.
Over the years, we played, laughed, got licked in the face, almost died from the farts, and loved that little pup. We named her Sophie after Princess Sophie from the DaVinci Code (her original name was Duthie…yikes!). Since she looked fierce to some people, due to her breed, but was actually a love muffin (my other nickname for her), she got the name Monster, an ironic jab at those who thought all pits were horrible and dangerous. We’d play with her favorite toy, this round rubber ball that she was never able to destroy, and absolutely loved. We called it round and fun, just like Sophie. We’d also call her Chewie sometimes because instead of barking she’d make Chewbacca noises sometimes. She loved snow, and would go outside and just eat it, which would sometimes make cold walks in the winter frustrating for those pansy humans who were shivering. She was like a bull in a china shop, and we’d joke that she was “beauty and grace” when she would barrel through something. She was a great pup.
Over the past year or two, Sophie lost quite a bit of weight, and at one point she seemed sensitive on her back towards her tail. We brought her to our vet, and we left with bad news. Sophie had liver cancer. In the months that followed, we watched her get worse slowly. She had trouble with her back legs, and eventually was falling very often. We tried medications to help, but it didn’t make a difference. She also lost her ability to hold her bladder and bowels, and was having accidents in the house pretty much daily. We had to keep her in a diaper at all times when she was in the house. She went completely deaf in both ears, and blind in one eye. We couldn’t leave her out of her crate unless we were downstairs in the room with her. Otherwise, she’d pace around the house, get into things, and have accidents that would go through the diaper and leave deposits around the house for us to find later.
Still, on occasion she was try to hop around and play with the same playful energy she always had. This made it extremely difficult to consider letting her go. I’d think to myself that she’s still got lots of life left in her, and how could I do such a thing. I didn’t think she was ready to go. When the time came recently to make the terrible call, it was with pain and overwhelming emotion. The fact of the matter is that her quality of life was poor due to the pain, lack of function, and lack of control. She ended up starting to snap at us, thinking that our hands near her face were us trying to feed her. We couldn’t risk her nipping one of the kids, and it wouldn’t be right to keep her crated all the time unless the kids were upstairs. Peanutty said to the Lish a few days earlier that he misses the old monster, and liked the old monster more than the new one. It was time. We gave her a long life, she was 13-14 years old, and would have been put down in the pound had we not taken her in, and though that should have given me some comfort, I can’t really take any at this time.
Our vet came to our home with an assistant, and we said our goodbyes to our beautiful little monster. I can’t begin to express the depth of my sorrows, my anger, and even my guilt. While a big part of me believes that what we did was right, I’ll always feel guilt about putting a dog down. I don’t think there will be a day where it won’t make me feel like some sort of murderer, someone who did away with a beautiful life without that being’s consent. I was the love of her life, and loved her so very much. A part of me hates myself for this. I loved her, more than words can accurately describe. I want her back, the old her, who played with me and roughhoused with me. I want to hit things and scream. I’m crying while writing this and can’t stop. We were there for her when she left this world, and I held her head and cried into her fur. I will miss you always, my love. Always and forever. You were my monster, my love muffin, and one of the best friends I ever had. I’m so sorry about everything, and I truly hope you are at peace. I will miss you always. I love you.