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January Magazine lists Never Left Behind
In the spring, not on any trail but hidden hundreds of yards away from view, few people knew about the rolling hills of bluebells. Catching my breath the first time I happened upon them. Acres upon acres of undisturbed bluish-purple English bluebells masterfully hidden from view, not to be disturbed; their brief, elusive moment when in full bloom. Pepper, always leading and shorter than the perennials, would be lost had it not been for the shaking flower bulbs consuming his body, as we carefully navigated through the masterpiece. Similarly both amusing, and breathtaking.
"I was oblivious to what had happened, nor had I noticed the bullet having entered his body, penetrating his back and into his spine. His auburn hair masking the blood around the entry. I recall mom coming out of the house saying he had been shot, probably with a farmer’s bullet from a .22 long rifle. Any larger caliber certainly would have killed him."
We came upon dried streams, no larger than small puddles, with dozens of fish squirming and fighting to survive. As if he understood, Pepper, crouched over and scratching at the dirt, watched intently as I scooped as many as possible into an old milk jug and brought them to a larger stream for survival. Regularly, we would stumble across carcasses of various animals that had succumbed to an untimely death. Be it age, the elements, or injury. On other occasions we would witness herds of mule deer grazing off the forest bed, their bodies shrouded in a haze of fog from over the lush green forest bed; a photogenic scene. On sunny days, penetrating the highest of trees, streams of brilliant rainbow light beams filled with pigments and particles of dust danced in the brilliance from 100 feet up. Trees undoubtedly a century old, as round and broad as a car at their trunks’ base, with curvatures and deep wood-crevices inches deep. I would find myself mesmerized by these mundane observations, had I not understood the verity of where my life was at the time.
"I cheated and had to go to the end of the book to find out what happened. Excellent Read!" ~ Beta Read ~
"Very similar to Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential. Great kitchen anecdotes, oh, and the dog!" "Amazing." ~ Good Reads ~
"Another dog book? I shudder. Was pleasantly surprised with a good read, a "true" story about a man losing his dog." ~ Writers World ~
Paul Barthel had this to say
"I had to put the book away on several occasions, many times for months on end. In addition to many unfortunate deaths in the family causing delay, the writing process, while rather easy, became arduous revisiting many of those moments putting pen to paper so to speak. I only wish Pepper could read"
Paul Barthel, A Chef entrepreneur and restaurant owner who worked behind the scenes in kitchens for over thirty years. Animal rights advocate who pushed to establish an Illinois law recognizing pets in divorce or separation.
Currently pursuing Michigan, Iowa, and Ohio further establish an identical law in addition to puppy mill legislation, and furthered anti-cruelty measures. Currently working on his second publication.
Editor, Jessica A. Vaillancourt https://www.linkedin.com/in/jessica-vaill/