THE OTHER CAMINO
A BLOG ABOUT POSSIBILITIES
This is not a blog post about dresses.
This is a blog post about dogs.
Some background information, in the way of a story.
Three years ago, I came home from work via the grocery store and pulled into my driveway, and as I got out of my car, I noticed something unusual. My neighbor (and friend, truthfully) was across the street at the empty house, on his knees, his rear end facing me. I recognize an adventure when I see one, so I left my groceries to wilt and melt and fester, and I crossed the street to join him.
"It's that little dog," my neighbor explained, and at that same moment, said little dog appeared from the bushes--skinny, black with a white throat, giant ears angled downward. I recognized her immediately as a little dog who had been loose in our neighborhood for months. I'd first spotted her during the winter while walking Baxter, the world's most spoiled beagle, and she'd almost seemed like a mirage--a tiny black and white flash darting into an alley and then gone when I turned the corner.
The little black dog assessed the situation with its beady black eyes, and then darted directly between my neighbor and me, eluding our outstretched arms. We followed her on a mad tear throughout the neighborhood's hedges and bushes, and down to another empty property, where we tag-teamed her, trapping her in a bush. My neighbor got hold of her, and she went limp; later, I would realize that she had wanted to be caught, that maybe she had been wanting it for months, and that it was what she wanted more than anything.
She stared at us, and my neighbor and I stared at each other, and I imagine we were all asking ourselves the same question: What now?
"I already have four dogs," my neighbor pointed out. It was true--his brood even included a three-legged dog. He'd done his share for the desperate dogs of the world.
"I have a husband who will kill me," I pointed out. This wasn't true--kill was an exaggeration. Recently, we'd been at a party where everyone seemed to be announcing a pregnancy, and a bottle of wine in, I'd blurted out: "We're thinking about adopting another dog!" I hadn't cleared this announcement with W., who regarded me with raised eyebrows from across the room. At the time we had two cats, both horrible bullies to Baxter, and it was something I'd been thinking for quite a while. Baxter needed a friend. And I loved dogs.
I ended up taking the LBD to our backyard, setting out food and water bowls and then watching through the window as she sat on the concrete patio looking up at me. Honestly, I'd participated in the LBD rescue as a way to keep the dog safe, to get her off the streets, and to find her a home.
The only trouble was that five seconds into the process, I'd fallen in love with her.
W. tells the next part of the story to whomever will listen. He's probably told it to you already, but here it goes:
When he left for work, we had one dog. When he came home, we had two.
Actually, he came home to find a note from me, affixed from the doorframe.
There's a small dog in the backyard. I'll explain later.
My husband is not a cruel person. We once rescued two kittens from the middle of the road in the middle of the night, he's recently developed an affinity for our neighbor's giant black cat, and he simply can't watch ASPCA commercials. (Neither can I. When I hear the opening chords of Sarah MacLachlan's "Angel," my eyes start to water.) If I'd begged and coaxed and pleaded and brought him down to the animal shelter one day, he might have happily adopted another dog. Instead, I'd shocked him with it--leaving a note that informed him succinctly that our lives had changed, again, and then returning home with a new food bowl, a collar and a leash, clear signals of my intentions.
There was also the fact that this dog was tiny--not on the scale of dogs W. had ever been interested in, the golden retrievers and black labs and German Shepherds of the world. Our overweight beagle may have been the smallest dog to catch his attention. But this LBD? Its neck slipped loose from an extra small collar; its feet were skinny claws.
W. set out on a valiant quest to find the dog's owners. He knocked on doors. He stapled fliers to telephone poles. He posted on Facebook. He checked Craigslist and local lost dog websites. He mentioned the dog--our dog, by this time--to anyone who liked dogs or had ever shown the remotest interest in owning a pet. It was embarrassing, really.
I called the animal shelter, and was told to bring the dog in. This was how people found their lost dogs, the woman on the phone explained. In the background, I heard a high-pitched yipping. She asked me to describe the dog, and I guessed that it was some blend of chihuahua, judging by its size and feet. She hesitated, then told me that they were overrun with chihuahuas. "But it has seven days to be claimed before..." she trailed off.
I thanked her and ended the call. No freaking way.
Up until this point, the LBD had been living in our backyard, barely eating and rarely coming out of the Dogloo where I'd stashed a blanket. She was wary of me, and didn't know what to make of dear, blundering Baxter who must have thought it was a miracle that one day he had been an only dog, and the next day he had a sibling.
I loaded the dog into the cat carrier, and she huddled in a corner during our trip to the vet. This was where I learned that she wasn't a chihuahua at all, but a rat terrier--the toy version. At the front desk, I explained that we needed to check first of all for a microchip--there wasn't one--and then that she was going to need the works: a flea bath, worming, shots. I needed to know if she'd been spayed, and if she hadn't, we needed to schedule that, too.
The receptionist wrote this all down, faithfully. Then she looked up at me. "What's the dog's name?"
I hesitated. W. had specifically instructed me not to name her, and I'd resisted the urge myself, knowing the importance of a name to a pet and its owners. "She doesn't have a name," I said finally. "Not yet."
"Well, then," the receptionist said briskly, undeterred. "We'll just call her Little Girl DeBoard." She wrote the name in capital letters across the intake form, scooped up the tiny, shivering mass from the cat carrier, and headed off to the examination room.
And that, kids, is the story of how LG got her name.
W. came around, eventually.
It may have helped that I reminded him that in 2006, we'd traveled to Spain and I hadn't stopped him when he decided to run with the bulls in Pamplona, even though I hadn't been able to ascertain exactly how this was covered by our life insurance policy. At the time, he'd promised me a "get out of jail free card", and this seemed as good a time as any to cash it in.
When he came home that night, LG and I were snuggled together on the couch. This was, and is, her thing--she likes to sit directly next to or on top of the people in her life. Her favorite spot to perch these days is on the back of Will's neck when he sits on the couch. When we visit my parents, she claims my dad's lap.
We gave crate training a half-assed shot, and after three nights of listening to her whine, high-pitched and nonstop, we opened the door. She immediately ran into our bedroom and dove underneath the sheets to sleep in a tiny hump at the foot of the bed. Now I find it almost impossible to sleep without her, my furry friend, my footwarmer extraordinaire.
After a week of being scared and clingy, LG became our protector. When the mailman steps onto our porch in the late afternoons, LG is waiting with the fiercest bark that can possibly come from a seven-pound dog. When someone pushes a baby stroller down the street, LG lets them have it. When the neighbor recovering from a stroke inches his way past our house, LG reminds him that he has no business being in her territory. Don't even get me started on the neighbor's wandering cat.
She's fierce, and funny, and wonderful.
Recently, we spotted another LBD (this time a little brown dog) running through our neighborhood. It had a limp and a wary, watching eye, and this time, it was W. who fell hard for it.
(Part II... to come!)
Paula Treick DeBoard