December 17, 2001



Dead Dog Walking

  37,000 feet this time. American Airlines Flight 760, LAS to DFW, a connection from American 1148 LAX to LAS. Fly to Dallas Monday, fly home Friday. Moo.

Last Friday's return home was fraught with drama. Beth had called me on the cell in a panic as I was on my way to the airport in Dallas - she'd come home from work to find the dogs missing. While this might sound like a bad thing on the surface, there's a little relevant history with me and these dogs, a few facts not in evidence that made the thought, "Hmm… Mixed blessing?" not entirely out of line. These two mutts and I haven't exactly enjoyed a peaceful co-existence. Billy is just too stupid to live sometimes and he barks at everything that moves -- and most things that don't. And Suki... Well. Long-time readers of the 'stake might recall my call to Akita Rescue when I reached my limit with her chewing the house down around our ears and spoke of chasing her around the backyard with a plastic coathanger in my hand and murder in my heart. How to phrase this delicately? The dogs... get on my nerves sometimes.

And then there's this little habit I have that I've never mentioned here: I try to give them away. Constantly. Every time we have a visitor at the house - dinner guests, relatives spending the night, solicitors at the front door, anyone and everyone - I try to give these mutts away. "Oh, these dogs are so friendly!" they'll say. "And Suki's so pretty!" And my response is always "Yeah? You want one? Take your pick. Hell, take both." I've been trying to pawn them off for quite awhile now, without much luck, obviously. So you can perhaps imagine my sense of loss when they turned up missing.

Well, all my tough guy talk aside, I really did kind of maybe feel bad when I found out they were gone. A little. Sort of. Maybe it was the not knowing where they were or what happened to them or if they'd been turned into traction yet, whatever it was I suddenly found myself a little tense over them being gone. I found myself, much to my surprise and chagrin, wanting to find them. I thought about them all through my flight home - trying to figure out how they might have gotten out, whether someone had let them out, where they were likely to go, what to do to find them, what pictures to put on the fliers we would inevitably make, etc. When my flight landed, the "Fasten Seatbelts" sign was barely dimming as I leapt for my cell phone to call Beth to ask if they had turned up yet. They hadn't. Damn.

When I got home, the house was like a 40's B movie set in deepest, darkest Africa: It was quiet. Too quiet. No barking, no chewing, no dogs underfoor, no yelling at them to "Move, damn it, move!" It was eerie. It was everything I've wanted for months, but in a bad way. Color me conflicted.

I went outside to investigate and found the broken part of the back fence where they'd probably escaped. I opened the back gate to look for I don't know what - spoor or something - and in barreled Suki. Well, dang, that was easy. One dog down, one to go. Billy? Not so easy.

First I went on a walkabout - I went up and down the residential streets in our neighborhood, 10:00 at night, calling "Billy… Here, stupid… Billllllyyyyyy." No Billy, and this walking business was too damned slow. Hop on the bicycle, go pedaling up and down the major streets bordering our neighborhood looking for… well, basically looking for Bill's dead body thrown under a parked car or up onto someone's lawn. No dead dog, and this riding the bike in the cold was, well, cold. I called it a night and planned to do the "Lost Dog" flier thing in the morning.

Long story short: after spending hours getting the computers on my home network talking to one another so I could share the scanner in one room and the printer in another with my computer upstairs (long story, nevermind) so I could make the flier, after driving all over the Valley dropping off my printer to have it repaired (see previous sentence) and hitting Kinko's to make copies of the flier, after going to the local animal shelter to give them a flier so they'd maybe keep an eye out for my dog and call me before they gas him… After all of that--

I just want to say here that "all of that" was a lot, quite a bit more than it sounds like when I lay it out here in Long Story Short form. It wasn't as minor as it sounds. I'm just saying.

Anyway, after all of that… At the pound I of course checked their inventory to see if my mutt was part of the population … and sure enough, he was. Right there, in the third cage that I checked, looking scared and very Dead Dog Walking: Billy.

Well, naturally I was glad I'd found him. You know, for Zoe's sake. Me, I was annoyed. I got him from the pound in the first place, after all; I'd saved his life and given him food and shelter and medical care and even gave him pets once in awhile. You'd think maybe that would mean something to him, maybe there's be some gratitude. But no, he had to run away and end up in the pound again. I had to wonder if this was where he really wanted to be, where he really belonged. I had to wonder if he was a career criminal canine. I had to wonder: Could Billy be scared straight?

So Billy and me, we had us a little talk there, me sitting on the ground outside his pen in glorious not-caught-by-animal-control freedom, him cringing away from the other dogs caged with him and looking like a down and out lifer. I pointed out to him that this was Strike Two, that he was costing me money (68 bucks to get him out, if you can believe that! For one night!) again (don't get me started on his vet bill from the time our neighbor's dog kicked his ass), that running away from a pretty cushy situation didn't show the proper attitude, and that he would have been landfill in a matter of hours if I hadn't found him. When I was done with my lecture, I asked what he had to say for himself, asked him to say something to convince me to bail him out. But he didn't say a word; he's a dog.

So… I bailed him out. Took him home, pet him and played with him for awhile, fed him an extra can of dog food (> $2, thankyewverymuch), scratched his belly and made him do that stupid joyful "Roooo…. Roooo-OOOO-oooo!" thing he does when I'm pretending like I like him. Stupid mutt. He's lucky I saved his ass. Again.

So Billy and Suki are safely home again. I guess I'm glad. You know, for Zoe. She'd miss them, not me. I couldn't care less.