All Words: 1882
My vision tunneled sharply, and I felt drawn to the end of the corridor. I heard nothing in this echo-chamber of a room even though it held a deafening cacophony of squeals, squeaks, growls, and barks. I didn’t realize until much later that my senses had dulled so greatly. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other headed somewhere definite but unknown, and then I saw her.
In that instant, I would have done anything for her. I loved her more than I thought reasonable. She fairly glowed with a spirit that was unlike anything, or anyone I had ever encountered. She was perfect. And on clearance? What the…?
I was in one of those stupid chain restaurants. One of the kinds with the massive wooden bar partitioned off from the rest of the place, effectively transforming the bar patrons into beasts in a pen. It was probably about 2 pm; I don’t remember. He was sitting next to me slurping soup like the animal he was. It was maddening, so was he. I was dating a loser; I was deep in the heart of a serious depression that left me drinking too much and taking too many chances. I was so sad that I had deemed this idiot acceptable just to keep myself from being inside my head. It works that way, you know, depression. It makes your mind a wildly inhospitable place where it is simultaneously scorchingly hot and icy cold. It’s stabby everywhere, and suffocating, like someone pressing a pillow full of knives over your face. Any distraction becomes a welcome one. Even the ones that you know will at worst, kill you, or at best, get you into hot water.
I picked up a newspaper to avoid talking to the human form of chaos next to me, and an article jumped off of the page at me.
Williamson County Animal Control is being forced to put down healthy dogs for lack of space available in its shelters.
“Did you see this?” I asked.
“Huh?” The simpleton replied, soup dribbling down his chin.
“They’re putting down healthy dogs in Williamson County, just because they don’t have enough space,” I was almost in tears at this point.
“So what?” He snorted. A real winner, this one. He waved the bartender over for another drink. A drink that I was paying for mind you.
“Jack and coke,” he said, no pleases or thank yous for this one. The a**hole was strong within him.
“And a check,” I added.
I was on a mission to rescue a dog; which was unfortunate for the walking-waste-of-space next to me as he had his day planned out. He was going to sit and drink until I couldn’t afford it anymore and then make me take him to the liquor store where he would suddenly have enough money for a handle of rot-gut to take home.
“What? We just got here,” he whined. So appealing, this guy, what a keeper.
“The article says that they are shipping dogs to the surrounding counties, that ANY adoption will make a difference. Any adoption, from any shelter. We’re going.” I paid the bill and started to get up.
“I’m not done yet.”
“I’m not sure I care,” I said breezily. “You can stay here or come with me, but I’m leaving. Now.”
He begrudgingly dragged himself out of his seat, and we were off. The first shelter we tried was not open on Mondays. I hadn’t even realized it was Monday. Dumba** started grinning.
“We can go to the…” he started.
“Don’t say bar, if you say bar, you’re getting out right here.”
It was pretty much a miracle that I was sober. I hadn’t spent much time that way in the last year or so. I was hurting, and no one seemed able to help so I did the best I could. It had resulted in one DUI at this point, with two more coming down the pipeline. I hate to say it, but I just didn’t care, about anything. Which made it all the more important to me to see this through. The only thing that I was able to do was to take care of the two basset hounds that I already had and hold down a job. A good work ethic doesn’t get erased very easily, I guess. So it was off to the Humane Society, across town. Someone complained the whole time. It wasn’t me.
She was sleek black, almost blue, and so shiny. Three of her four feet sported white toes, and her chest was glowing white. Those eyes, oh, those eyes! They were like two tiny pools of soft brown velvet. I saw not one other dog in the jam-packed shelter. I knew I was here for her. In a way, I knew she had called me here.
The placard on her kennel said
50% off Adoption
“Well,” I said to this spindly-legged puppy, “your name is clearly not Nancy.”
She wagged her tail fiercely and ran to the gate of the kennel.
“Come here, you beautiful thing,” I cooed at her.
She was obviously not into cooing. She trotted over and licked my face, returning immediately to the gate.
“She’s cute, aren’t you cute?” Mr. Moron said in a baby-talk voice.
She barely looked over her shoulder at him with what I can only call a look of disgust; before returning to me and then the gate.
“I don’t think she likes being patronized,” I told him with a glare. He had a way of speaking that I would someday learn to associate with addicts. It had a manipulative quality that was hard to pin down. It felt crunchy and inauthentic to my ear. Usually, I relented to his manipulation, regardless of how little sense it made just for the sake of ease. For some reason, today, I was in complete control of my faculties. Today something was honing my focus, and it seemed to grow sharper near this beautiful creature.
“I think I love you,” I whispered in the dog’s ear. I swear I’m not lying when I say that I heard a reply. The dog spoke back. Inside my head, I heard her reply. I know it sounds crazy, but it wasn’t the first time it had happened, this type of dog conversation. But this time it was funny.
“I know you do,” she said, “can you get me outside?” I laughed. She was cheeky and special. She was a tangible thing in this world that I had filled with protective illusions to shield myself from reality.
“Okay, okay,” I said, getting the leash off the cinderblock wall behind me.
We headed outside to the fenced ‘greeting area.’ This dog (I would not call her Nancy) burst to life. She did all of the normal dog things, sniffing, and, wagging, and peeing to her little heart’s content. I was almost surprised at her dog-like behavior, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. What made her so special? I had two dogs at home, one was just a dog, but the other one, Cash, was special. We had a ‘conversation’ on his first day with me too. But not like this girl, who made me see the world in technicolor. This sensitive, silly creature had, unbeknownst to me led me to the first step of recovery from depression. For the first time in a very long time, I wanted to live. It would be many years to come before I wanted a life.
I spoke to the volunteer at the desk and found out that she had been adopted out already. The couple had returned her because “she was too big” for their apartment. There is a special place in hell for people who are mean to animals. I don’t think these two will go there, but how do you return a dog? Like a piece of defective merchandise? I’m quite sure they knew how big their apartment was when they brought the dog home. Much later, I would realize that this girl was meant to be with me, and vice versa. The universe was righting itself in the couple returning her.
After filling out the requisite paperwork, a call to the vet who cared for my bassets, and a quick transfer of cash, I had adopted a new dog. She didn’t have a name. I started calling her Principessa. It was just one of the pet names that she has accumulated.
“I’m hungry,” someone who was not the pup whined. I was sure she could go for some food though too.
I relented, and we drove through a terrible fast food drive-through nearby. I paid for his meal, and he began to shove food in his face at remarkable a speed. I realized that he wasn’t quite sober, even yet. The skinny puppy stood and car-surfed the whole way home. I never once questioned my actions. I would start a new life with this miraculous little thing. We would be okay, somehow, someday. In the meantime, we would have each other.
It took roughly 30 minutes to get back to my side of town, and she had whined softly at times but seemed at ease for the most part. About a block from the house she began to cry loudly.
“It’s okay, Little Pretty, we’ll be home in a minute,” I said to her. She cried nervously.
She must have been more nervous than she let on because as I slowed to take the turn onto my street and she let out with a monstrous fart. I swear to you it shook the car.
“F***, man, that’s disgusting,” quipped the master of the obvious. It was disgusting though. A stench not unlike death swirled around the interior of the car. Rolling down the windows as I pulled up in front of my house, we both pitched ourselves out of the doors, almost before the car had come to a stop. I opened the back hatch, and suddenly it had all become clear.
My Principessa had had explosive diarrhea all over the back of the car. I had never seen a mess like that, nor did I have any idea how to clean it up. I put her shelter slip-leash on her, and she jumped out of the car. The look in her sweet brown eyes was all shame and apology. I would never see shame on that face again.
“I understand that you're going to take me back,” her downcast eyes seemed to say.
I hugged her tightly and answered her out loud, “It's you and me, Kid, against the world. You live here now.”
A fast and furiously loyal friendship was forged that day as I set out to clean out the back of my car. It killed me to have that idiot watch her while I got to work. I knew he wouldn't help. I had to remove the threshold and rip out the padding under the carpet. I didn't have much of a life at that point, but I suddenly had 24 magical lbs of hope and love. I had a true north, and she had a person who would never let her down. We had each other.