My sisters often told me that living alone was not good for me. If I had a dog, they said, I would meet neighbors walking dogs, maybe even a woman with a dog.
But I wasn’t ready.
My wife left me. We had to sell our business. Our kids went to college. So I rented a one-bedroom cottage in Mar Vista, where there was no room for either the dog or anyone else.
Strange as it may sound, I didn’t think I would live long. My father died at 47. He was killed by a heart attack. I never felt I could or should survive my father. I was then 47 years old. I believed I would die at the same age as my father. But the date of his death came and went, and the shadow my father cast on my life began to fade.
I quit smoking, smoothed my children, bought a bike and rode by the ocean for a long time. I went to the mountains and planted my first vegetable garden, tomatoes and beans, but I still didn’t get a dog.
I found a job producing audiobooks. I put on radio shows for fun. At one of these performances I met a woman. We had a novel. She did not have a dog, but she had a cat and a husband. Our romance was troubling, but it opened my heart for the first time since my divorce. However, I was still not ready to have a dog.
Instead, I started dancing. When I was 13, I was a partner of my older sisters in dance. They needed a man with whom they could practice before dating. I remembered how much fun dancing was, so I signed up for a swing class on the East Coast at the Pasadena Ballroom Dance Assn.
It was there that I first saw Trish, although I couldn’t dance with her. The guy she was with didn’t let her dance with anyone else. Six months later he was gone, so I asked Trish to dance. She took my hand.
My sisters would be happy. I finally met a woman with a dog, actually two dogs. Jesse and Sydney were Trish’s dogs, but they were close to the end of their lives.
Sydney died first. He had Cushing’s disease. Four months later, his namesake, Jesse, was diagnosed with head and neck cancer. She also failed to save. I left with Trish when she last took Jesse to the animal hospital.
The assistant vet took us to a small room. She carried the trembling dog to prepare it. The tube hung from Jesse’s leg when she returned it. The veterinary assistant put a towel under Jesse and placed her on a metal table.
The vet came in, she inserted the needle into the tube. She looked at Trish and quietly asked, “Okay?”
Trish nodded. The vet pushed the needle plunger. Jesse shook, calmed down, then closed her eyes. A moment later her heart stopped. Her body sank and her bowels let go.
The vet did this too often to cry. Trish held back tears as she kissed Jesse goodbye. We went to the next bar, and Trish cried. Tears eased her pain, but grief was always one memory.
“The house seems empty without Jesse and Sidney,” Trish told me.
She missed how they lied in the mornings to the transport, then raced down the stairs as their tags fought about their bowls. When Trish returned from work, Jesse and Sidney met her at the front door. Jesse danced at Trish’s feet, and Sydney happily ran down the hall.
Once they disappeared, Trish couldn’t bring herself to scatter their ashes. Their leashes still hung in the closet.
However, a year later Trish discovered that she was scrolling funny videos about dogs on the Internet. “I’m just looking at the dogs,” she told me. One day she followed the link and found herself at a dog rescue site.
The woman was holding a dog. He approached her face and kissed her. She called him a little mistress. As if on cue, he kissed her again. The woman turned to the camera and said, “If you want more kisses in your life, this is the dog for you.” Trish asked me to watch the video.
“Do you want to adopt him?”
“I don’t think I can survive the pain of losing another dog,” Trish told me.
However, she often watched videos of this little dog. She asked me a question she was asking herself.
“Why didn’t anyone adopt this cute little dog?”
“He may have already been adopted. They could just forget to make a video, ”I said.
Trish called Baldwin Park Animal Shelter to find out. The doggie was still available for adoption. The clerk added, “He’s been here for 19 days.”
Trish knew what that meant. District shelters were overcrowded and inadequate. Dogs were often euthanized after 15 days.
“We need to see him before it’s too late,” Trish told me.
So on a rainy winter night we drove 20 miles to the shelter. We didn’t talk about what we could do. We didn’t know.
The traffic was bad. The shelter closed at 7 p.m. When we arrived, it was 6:50 p.m. The door was open, but the man stopped us.
“We close in five minutes. Come back tomorrow. “
Trish asked him. “We just want to see the little dog we saw in one of your videos.”
“We have hundreds of dogs here. Their numbers are in the computer. But it is disconnected for the night. “
“I have his number.” Trish showed it to the man.
“Okay, but you only have five minutes,” he said.
A young volunteer took us to dark booths. The dogs began to bark, asking for attention. Some did not look up, their resignation even more sad.
The little dog we came to was lying with a chihuahua in a dark cage.
“Can we see him in the light?” Trish asked.
“The light is better on dog runs,” said the volunteer.
It was just a fenced corridor. The light did not work, but the dog felt his freedom. He rushed down the hall and walked back. Trish dropped to her knees and caught him. He gave her a big kiss.
“Do you want to adopt him?” Asked the volunteer.
“Can we think about that?” Said Trish.
I couldn’t take the risk. If we hadn’t taken this little dog right away, we could have mistakenly put him to sleep in the morning.
The words came out of me.
“We’ll take this little dog home tonight.”
It was my oath to Trish, but the volunteer was worried.
“I have to ask the office if everything is okay. The closing time has passed. “
Trish and I waited in the lobby. Then the manager called us to the counter. “So you’re the people who want us to stay up late so you can take the dog.”
“We drove a long time,” Trish said.
“The credit card machine does not work. We do not take checks. Hope you have cash. That’s 80 bucks. “
We gave him the money and he handed us the form. “Just your names and address, skip the rest.”
“Do you know how old he is?” Trish asked.
The manager flipped through some papers. “It’s about the year.”
“Do you know anything about him?”
“The dog owners took him away on December 9. Someone called us. Reported about a lost dog. He was near the fast food snacks at the Mission. “
“Did anyone come looking for him?”
“I do not say. I guess not. But he has a cough in the nursery. These antibiotics will clean everything up. ”
He gave Trish a pack of pills. “Bring him back when he stops coughing. We will fix it for free. “
The volunteer brought the dog from the kennel. Trish picked him up.
“He’s a cute dog,” the manager said. “But if you don’t like it, we have a seven-day return policy, no questions asked.”
Dogs have no voice in their destiny. Our little rescue doodle was wandering the streets; no one knew for how long. The fact that he was likable made him acceptable, so he was still alive. His antics with a kiss made him show him in a rescue video, a new way to find homes for these abandoned dogs.
Trish and I took a step that invites us to make love. We took this dog. My sisters would be happy. I finally got a dog, but only because Trish opened my heart and I followed her. Love begets. Two want to be three, even for a couple who has not reached the age of birth.
The author is a three-time Grammy winner. He is currently working on a series of short works about life and training in a rescue doodle that he and his wife Trish named Woody.
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