From the 1990s into the early 21st century we had two mutts, Lance and his sister Bear.
Had to euthanize the boy in 2010. He just aged out. Got down and couldn’t get back to his feet. And Bear, in the fall of 2012 – going on 17 – started to have trouble getting up and we all knew the inevitable was at hand. Nothing to do. Couldn’t stop the ravages of time.
But Brenda had had this stroke and she was having trouble dealing with Bear’s pain and could not face the prospects of putting her down.
So what was I to do?
went down to the dog pound, thinking it would soften the blow to have another dog on hand when our wonderful ol’ Bear had to take that last trip to the vet’s office. I know it was crazy, but I ask again, what was I goin’ to do?
I came across a little eight pound dog soon after I walked in the crowded, loud joint.
She was in a pen with some other dogs and we locked eyes and I swear carried on a conversation…. she said she was sick of this place, dog barking all the time. Food was like prison shit. And she said every once in a while they take these dogs away and they never come back, but she’d see smoke later coming out of a chimney there in the back….
She said she wasn’t sure exactly what was going on, she was just saying… some dogs went out the front, others went out the back, none of ‘um ever to be seen again.
Might have sounded like yapping to someone standing by, but I knew what she was saying.
So I told her that really, as far as I know, that she should try and go out the front, and I wished her the best in her search but that I myself couldn’t help because I was looking for a junk yard cur, something German Shepardish, or a Rhodesian boar-killerish, or something like that… big, not big-big, just semi big. An eight pound dog didn’t make weight.
Sorry I said, best of luck. And I continued down the line of dog pens. There were a hundred dogs at the pound that day… some rangy looking curs. Some hyper. Some ugly. Some stunk… sort of a picked-over lot.
I’m from the country and I know a good dog when I see one… weren’t none that I could see. That’s not entirely true, there were a couple of handsome dogs, but they were all 8 or 9 years old. But that don’t leave much tread, you know what I mean.
I walked purposely – a man on a mission – in my search of a strong, manly dog to help us through our pending crisis. Shopped from one end of the pound to the other… when I just happened to pass by the cage again where that little piece shit dog was, who had been talking to me early. And you know what… the damn dog recognized me. She did. I God damn promise you.
Other people were walking around and she didn’t give a flying rabbit. Didn’t give them the time of day. To me though she said hey, hey, welcome back big spender… and she’s jumping up and down, giving me a dog smile, her little tail trying to wag but instead she was slinging her hips from one side to the other.
So I stopped, and leaned down, was going to say sorry, don’t waste your energy on me, because you don’t fit the profile… when she said, I really was hoping you’d come back. Really. Really. You look like a guy named Jim, am I close? Huh? I think we’d be a pretty good team… I like you, Jim.
So I looked at the names there on cards on the wire fence… but I couldn’t tell which was which. One of the three dogs was a 2 years old Yorkie, but she wasn’t adoptable because someone had just brought her in. I didn’t know Yorkies from Ugandans. I called one of the prison guard volunteers – I’m not sure why – ’cause I wasn’t taking no little 8 pound waste of dog meat out in public, certainly not home. And sure enough the long necked volunteer said the little Yorkie was the dog that seemed to be pining away at me… but like the card said she wasn’t adoptable.
Well that solved my problem, so I leaned back down and told this little mutt that I was sorry, wasn’t in the cards… and she sort of swallowed hard and looked off to the side, said she had misjudged me… though I had some gumption… was a good man… could get things done… and she looked back at me, I reckon, I couldn’t see any eyes for all the hair she had on her face. But she set her jaw and the fang on the right side stuck out over the gum.
This no-eyed tiny dog with a lop sided fang was just sitting there, when… this big fat woman came along, saw her and said to someone with her, “Well just looka there. Ain’t that one cute… just so cute.” And my dog doesn’t change expression. Keeps that steady, sort of disappointed gaze on me with the lop sided fang sticking out the side…
I’m thinking I don’t know much, but I know for sure this weren’t no fat woman’s dog…
So anyway, Bella, that the name Brenda gave her, is at my feet now as I write. She’s actually 9 pounds, and we’ve got her washed up and trimmed and can see those beautiful, thoughtful eyes of hers.
We did lose Bear, lost control of her bowels and couldn’t get up and, with much love, we sent her to dog heaven through the vet’s office. But Bella did her duty just grand there at the most critical moment and Brenda took great comfort that her world had not come to a complete end, that she had that happy little mutt so that maybe it was bearable that the wonderful Miss Bear had to leave.
Only there was a problem.
Bella was a one person dog, and that person was me. She would sit in Brenda’s lap to be rubbed and cooed over, but if I moved, she was alert and if I left the room, she went with me. No amount of “stay” would deter her.
And at night she would curl up next to my belly.
It wasn’t that she ignored Brenda, she tolerated her, but she made it clear her loyalties lay with the big guy. Her greatest joy was going for a ride in a boat or a car with her guy at her side.
Brenda didn’t take offense necessarily, but she was a little hurt that she had no influence with the new dog.
Two months of trying unsuccessfully to get Bella to give an even amount of attention to us both, I was back at the dog pound.
No little dog spoke to me. And I gave them all a chance.
So I left. Came back the next week. Again no sparks, no magic with any of the new strays.
One reason was that I wasn’t exactly sure what I was looking for. Generally it was a canine care giver for Brenda. Some mutt to take her for his or her own. How do you find that? What do you look for?
Well you have to trust your gut.
One reason we live in Las Vegas is that I’m a poker player and I know the value of a gut reaction… it’s something you can’t put your finger on, some inter feeling, that smart men trust. Tells you to stay or flee. Hold ‘um or fold ‘um.
You have good rapport with your gut, it’ll tell who to help, who’s lying, what to choose.
Well, the gut hadn’t spoken to me in the pound in 3 or 4 trips looking at 200 plus dogs.
A month I made weekly trips to the pound, and then… there were two dogs the same day that caught my attention.
One was a Yorkie like Bella, but a hellion. Had powerful energy and was handsome beyond words. Question I asked was how did this particular classy looking lap dog end up in the dog pound? No one knew the answer. Also among his strong qualities was an ability to look deep in your eye. I mean we’re talking almost criminally cute. Hugable.
Then there was this other dog, an Australian Silky. Not sure how I spotted him. He was laying mostly hidden between two other dogs In a small end pen. He was shaking so bad the hair on his ears was vibrating. Made no eye contact. Volunteer person said there was a recidivism issue with particular 8 year old dog… wasn’t sure why, but some (several ?) people had taken him and then brought him back.
So I took him. The 8 year old over the knock-you-dead cute thing down the way.
Gut made the decision.
However, once back at his new home, he wouldn’t eat. Ignored food for two days, so I don’t know how he was able to crap all over the house. But that was one crapping little dog. And he peed on the rug at the foot of our bed.
And he had this cough that sounded like a death rattle.
And from the get-go he and Bella didn’t get along.
He had no idea how to use a doggie door and refused to be trained. And he snapped at me a couple of times… I mean he wasn’t fooling around either, he seriously tried to bite me. Twice.
Sure easy to understand why others brought that mutt back to the pound.
But you know what, Bentley – that’s what Brenda named him – was almost perfect for her.
He loved Brenda from the first time he set eyes on that woman, and was most happy when he was sitting in her lap in her wheel chair.
In fairly short order, he learned to use the doggie door, cleaned up his toilet habits, and spent his every waking moment close to Brenda. Either in her lap, or at her feet. At night when Brenda needed to go to the bathroom, she’d get up, get in her wheelchair and push down the little hallway to the master bath. Bentley’d go with her.
He’s civil with me and Bella, but he’ll still growl if he’s amind. And he’ll snap at me if I mess around with him or his woman. He doesn’t like that. He and Brenda are fantastically close.
Dogs are among God’s greatest things… they make our ordinary lives so much richer.
We are powerfully lucky to have Bella and Bentley… they’re more than we deserve.