Posted by admin at April 26th, 2010
Many of you know that I am an M.Ed candidate with Lesley University from Boston, MA. Here is a “Re-memory” we had to write with an emphasis on dialog and sensory writing. Enjoy
That Doggy In The Window
A Re-Memory by Randy *******
“AGCCHH” pierced the night as the small blur of fur ran to my bedside.
“What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” I shouted as I sat up and looked around dazed and confused.
“He’s choking on something.” Chuck said in a panicky groan.
I quickly turned on the light by the night stand, jumped out of bed, picked up the white, fluffy dog and set him on the bed. Upon closer inspection, Diego, our new ward, had a brand new color in his muzzle, the color of chocolate. Streaks of the brown gooey confection were caught in the wispy strands of his luxurious white fur. He was a candidate for the role of “Augustus Gloop” in Charlie And The Chocolate Factory.
As I looked closer for clues as to his choking and coughing, I noticed specks of silver, red and green foil interspersed between the streaks of chocolate. It was foil but where did it come from?
“Found it!” Chuck bellowed from the living room. “He got into the Hershey’s Kisses.”
I rounded the corner from the hallway into the living room and found the living room floor decorated in bits of brilliant Christmas colored foil, randomly scattered in between small bites of unconsumed chocolate. Jackson Pollock had nothing compared to this dog. When I say dead Hershey’s Kisses were scattered all over the living floor, I mean ALL OVER THE LIVING ROOM FLOOR! Apparently, Diego had climbed onto the couch, balanced himself on the arm of the couch and onto a small tea table next to the arm, knocked the bowl of Hershey’s Kisses to ground and the rest, as they say, is history.
I called the dog over to his water dish and he began to lap water from his newly purchased doggy table settings. The coughing and hacking subsided and now he gave us the signal for wanting to go outside to take care of some personal business. Diego came fully loaded from the San Diego Humane Society the day before and so when he wanted to go outside, he simply licked the main entry’s door. Enough said!
And so began the first morning with this small creature. Choking on chocolate kisses, a panicky run to the “new guys” for help and a brisk but very early walk at 2 a.m. was the small beginning to the larger story of how “The Blur of Fur” or “That Doggy In The Window” came to live with Chuck and me.
And because I have no boundaries, for two weeks from that date, Diego’s poop always arrived decorated with silver, red and green bits of foil. How nice! How pretty!
What had we gotten ourselves into?
As always, these types of stories begin with, “Once upon a time…”
January 2008 in San Diego arrived without incident. The boxes of Christmas decorations had been stowed away. I was back to school and Chuck’s client load picked up right where the holidays had left them.
We began that Sunday with the usual over the top breakfast of Chuck’s banana pancakes, crispy bacon, and freshly brewed coffee. A Sunday edition of the New York Times was just delivered to our doorstep and Chuck was busy on the couch with the crossword puzzle (in pen, of course) and I was gazing at through “Arts & Leisure” bemoaning the fact that “South Pacific” and “Gypsy” were opening on Broadway that season.
“Why can’t we live in New York?” I asked.
“Because it’s cold, it’s trashy and the people dress in black.” Chuck shot back.
I looked out of the corner of my eye and on the shelf above the hutch was a picture of Chuck’s former dog, the beloved Pongo. Pongo and Chuck had been together for a very long time, 12 years as a matter of fact. They survived his stint in Lome, Togo with the U.S. Department of State, an arduous journey from West Africa to the University of Idaho Law School (Moscow, ID) and eventually going from his first law job in Monterey, CA, to San Diego, CA. Pongo had even seen Chuck through a very nasty case of prostate cancer. So when Chuck and I met in 2005, Pongo did not like this one bit and let me know every single step of the way that I was trudging on his territory.
But as these stories go, Pongo was also suffering from old age and his advanced arthritis and immobility turned into spinal cancer. We all know that a good puppy never fades away, but goes to the great puppy park in the sky. Chuck, being the humanitarian that he is, couldn’t stand seeing his longtime companion suffer for days on end and time came to make that tough decision. In July 2006, Pongo of Lome, Togo went on to a better place.
I took a bite of my banana pancakes. “You know,” I reminded him, “we had discussed getting another dog.”
“I know.” Chuck said. “Let me think about it.”
“Can we think and look? The North County Animal Shelter has an updated facility in Carlsbad.”
“OK. But let’s remember that all we’re doing is looking and that’s all.” Chuck said.
The NY Times was quickly folded, the crossword puzzle was put on hold, the dishes were assembled and classified in the dishwasher ready for a sincere soak and wash. But best of all Chuck and I were on our way to look for a furry, new friend, but also to take our relationship to a new level.
A dog, in Gayspeak, translates to “children” and for many gay male couples in our tribe, taking on the responsibility of a pet was the same as birthing your own child. Since legal marriage isn’t an option for many gay couples, domesticity usually includes at least one, “kid”.
“Now remember,” Chuck said as we drove along Palomar Airport Road, “we are on a fact finding mission. We are not going to make any decisions today. We are just looking.”
“Of course, we’re just looking,” I replied, “we haven’t even bought any fashionable doggy eating accoutrements.”
“Randolph….” and his voice trailed up.
I knew at that moment that Chuck meant business so I agreed that we were just looking for the day.
We arrived at the newly remodeled North County Animal Control Shelter. I hadn’t been to this facility in many, many years and so when we first approached, I noticed that the façade had an updated look. There were was a new garden pathway and many new sculptures portraying the loyalty between humankind and animals. They looked smooth and refined. The stone felt like glass under my fingers and the faces on both humans and animals had kind benevolent features.
“Wow!” I said.
“Wow is right.” Chuck agreed. “So this is what taxpayer money is spent on, huh? Dog sculptures?”
“Hello, cynical, party of one, please report to the front desk,” I chirped, “cynical, part of one please.”
“Alright,” said Chuck, “I’ll feign excitement.”
“Yes,” I said, “behave yourself. You’re in public.”
The stink eye was returned to me with a robust volley.
As we entered the new facility, the waiting area was abuzz with people and pets making acquaintances, saying goodbyes, forging new bonds and breaking bonds that were never forged in the first placed. We toured the different pens and found all nature of dog. Our verbal checklist we made in the car indicated that we needed a small dog, no more than 25 pounds and one that wouldn’t exacerbate Randy’s pet dander allergies.
The kennel area met my expectations in terms of sight, sound and smell. The yellow lights hanging from the ceilings reminded me of prison interrogation lights. The bars on the viewing pens had me imagining dogs singing out choruses of “Jailhouse Rock” complete with striped pajamas. The sound of clacking doors, water being sprayed on floors, barking dogs and the squeals of excited children filled all the viewing areas. Unfortunately, the smell of doggy was all around us too. The sharp smell of piddle and the overpowering scent of waste forced me to hold my breath and speak only in short gasps.
We happened upon one pen of an Australian Cattle Dog named Blue. He was sitting watching all the activity and it felt like he had found our eyes and magically reeled us in with his gaze. He put his nose against the cage door and was very attentive. He even wagged his tail at us.
“What do you think?” asked Chuck, “shall we at least say hello?”
I nodded in agreement and shortly the kind attendant on duty instructed us to meet Blue outside in greeting area #2. We followed the signs for the greeting area and were eagerly awaiting our first experience with an Australian Cattle Dog.
Now, let’s all think back to our dating years. Have you ever had one of those dates where the person you’re with pays no attention to you but rambles on and on about everything else around you? Well that was our experience with Blue. He was running about the greeting area playing with all the toys, never once acknowledging me, Chuck or his handler.
The handler began. “Blue suffers from severe separation anxiety. He doesn’t pay attention to any humans at all and basically ignores all type of human interaction. If you adopt this dog, you probably need to take him to an animal behavior specialist to fix the separation anxiety issues.”
Chuck tried calling him.
I tried calling him.
Chuck tried throwing his toy.
I tried throwing his toy.
The handler sat to the side and quietly observed.
“Thank you for your time.” I told the handler. “He’s a beautiful dog, too. It’s a shame he has some severe issues.”
“It’s OK.” she said. “You’re not the first ones he’s ignored. Thank you. Will that be it for the day? Are there any other dogs you want to meet?”
“No,” said Chuck, “thank you.”
“Let’s get outta here.” he muttered.
Our first day didn’t end like we hoped. I just had to keep reminding myself that we were just looking and we, eventually, would find the perfect dog. I was a little dejected. The ride home was spent in silence.
In March 2008, Chuck’s work meetings included meetings with the San Diego Humane Society which is located in the city proper. We were out and about making his birthday purchases and he asked me if I’d ever toured the new SD Humane Society facility.
“It’s very nice!” he said.
“Dear God in heaven. It’s not going to be like that experience we had at the North County facility, is it?” I asked.
“Well, turn here and we’ll see.”
We turned onto Gaines Street. I was beginning to suspect that I was being set up.
We pulled up to the parking lot and I immediately noticed the same types of sculptures of dogs and cats. The animal and human sculptures had that same simpering look on their faces. There was a three-tiered fountain that ran the length of the entrance. It meandered about and the gentle lapping of the water reminded me of a Zen garden. I began to notice the pillars of the entrance were shiny. On each pillar leading up the entrance, dog tags and cat tags were solemnly and respectfully displayed in special shadow boxes. I looked closely at the tags. Each tag was a mini-memorial giving tribute to a dog or cat patrons had lost. The sentimental me fought back the tears.
“C’mon.” Chuck said. “Let’s look inside.”
If the North County facility was Sing-Sing, this facility was luxury condos. I immediately noticed that each dog on display had its own specially designed condo or room. These weren’t just holding pens. These were full on rooms the size of regular hotel room. Each room was decorated and lit with a matching theme including blankets, dog bed and furniture. After checking in, the animal care specialists (as they were called) explained that if we wanted to meet a dog, all we had to do is tell them which one and that they could arrange a meeting.
“You see,” she explained, “you are the ones who go and meet the dog in their own room. It’s not the other way around like in most facilities.”
“Oh!” We both exclaimed. “We’ll just look around.”
“I’m getting a really good vibe from this place.” Chuck said. He turned to me and looked me straight in the eye and said, “I think I’m ready. I think I’m ready for a new dog. I loved Pongo and I will always love him but I’m ready for a new dog.”
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Oh, I’m sure.” He kissed me quickly, smiled back at me and thus began our earnest search for the perfect dog.
As things go when the two of us are together browsing, we will occasionally wander away from each other, meet up somewhere soon after and report back on what we saw. I was on the east side of the building and Chuck came scurrying toward me with a very excited look on his face.
“Don’t round the corner. Don’t look. Don’t even look at him,” he said. He was walking backwards trying to shield me from view of the next condo.
“What are you talking about?” I asked. “Get out of the way so I can see.”
“You’ll be sorry,” he said.
“Sorry about what?” I shot back.
I turned the corner and heaven opened its doors, beaming white lights shot down from the wings, and the strains of the “Hallelujah Chorus” went off in my head.
There before my eyes, looking at me eagerly with big brown eyes and tail wagging non-stop was the most perfect creature I had ever witnessed. What was so jarring was that as I made my way around the glass to his condo, he was following my every move, sizing up my countenance, checking my credit rating and running an FBI background check all in one fell swoop. He was fluffy white with little streaks of brown all over which meant he had hair and not fur. “Dog hair” was better for me as that didn’t create a severe dander issue. We say yes to that. He weighed less than 20 pounds. We say yes to that. He had an energy and a vibrancy that was quite charming. We say yes to that. He was neutered. We say yes to that. He was completely housebroken or “fully loaded”. And we say a most enthusiastic yes to that.
I was sunk and if love at first site exists, this experience with “Diego” was fool proof evidence (and the experience with Chuck counts too, of course).
His curriculum vitae stated that Diego was a Maltese mix.
“Diego is a high energy dog that needs to have long walks and likes to exercise. He’s about a year old and was placed here at the SD Humane Society due to a home foreclosure.”
Chuck had read my mind because no sooner had I turned to him to request an animal care specialist, there was one right there with keys to Diego’s condo in hand, opening the door to what has become one of the best decisions the two of us have made. It was a lucky thing too, as Diego had only been on display for one day and there was a well-intentioned soccer mom with her 12-year old Brittany Spears “wanna be”, I-Pod=totting daughter in tow trying to get her French tipped, manicured nails into our little ball of sweetness.
During our time with Diego, he jumped on our laps, brought us his chew toys and coaxed us into playing a fetch the squeaky toy game with him. We noticed that he sneezed a lot, over 9-10 times while we were in the condo with him.
“That’s his attention getting sneeze,” indicated our animal care specialist. “That’s one of his ways that he gets your attention.”
Chuck pulled out his Blackberry, did a quick “Google” search and sure enough, sneezing is a way some breeds get attention.
Meanwhile, Mom and Britanny were tapping on the glass outside of the condo. The claws were retracted and ready to strike.
“We’ll take him!” We said in unison.
“Good.” And our animal care specialist turned Diego’s ID card on the door from “Needs a Good Home” to “Adopted”.
Since that time, we have learned to put chocolate goodness out of his reach. We have learned to spray the spines of books with Bitter Apple so he won’t chew them, and we have gotten used to stepping on assorted rawhides and squeaky toys at night when we need a drink and are too lazy to turn on the lights.
Diego is the darling of both families and has a Grandpa Chet, Grandma Lucy and Grandma Virgie who all spoil him to death. He goes on vacation with us to Pismo Beach every summer. He continues to sneeze to get our attention and over Spring Break 2010, he finally learned to “shake”. He likes looking out over the deck to see the comings and goings of our slice of Escondido. We have had to put a 10 pound barbell on the “dog proof” trash can because he figured out how to lift the “dog proof” lid.
But most importantly, Diego witnessed our wedding vows in the summer of 2008. He even helped out with the “Say No to Proposition 8” campaign by lifting his leg on signs that weren’t to his liking. Our “Doggy in the Window” is truly a part of our family.
I couldn’t imagine life without him.