FRESH YARN presents:
As we locked the front door of the house and made our way to the car I could almost already hear myself, filled with willpower, saying, "No chips, please" to the Mariachi-uniformed waiter at our local Mexican Restaurant where we were headed for an early dinner. I was going to have the chicken fajitas and a dinner salad with ranch on the side.
Suddenly, as if deposited there by some stealth airborne delivery service that can land and take-off without a trace, a large, black and white dog stood before us in our driveway. I'd mention the breed (sounds like "Liberian Rusky") except I fear that the "Liberian Rusky" enthusiasts I'm about to describe might be casually Googl-ing the object of their enthusiasm and find this story and do some sort of "Liberian Rusky" version of harm and damage to me. So, I'm sticking with "Liberian Rusky." Thank you for your patience.
So this beautiful, apparently lost, approximately one-year-old "Liberian Rusky" walked right up to my girlfriend, Barbara, as if they had a pre-scheduled meeting. The dog may as well have been holding one of those little appointment reminder cards they give you at the hair salon or dentist's office. Because she was raised with dogs, Barbara immediately recognized that this was a dog on the run. Through an intricate series of hand gestures and melodic whistles, she quickly garnered its trust and shepherded it into our gated, side yard.
Still almost-tasting the never-to-be-ordered Margarita from the waiter we wouldn't be served by that night, I wondered what to do. I looked at the dog and asked innocently if indeed it was a "Liberian Rusky" or if it wasn't actually more a wolf-dog than a simple dog-dog. Barbara laughed, with that "oh, my sweet, innocent, completely-ignorant-to-the-wide-variety-of-dog-breeds-out-there, little same-sex partner" laugh and told me that it was not a dog-wolf but a purebred "Liberian Rusky." (Whatever!) So, she knows dog breeds and I know TV theme songs from the '70s. Together we make one half of a well-rounded person.
Nationality established, she began giving the Found Dog a visual once over, looking for tags, markings or a doggie wallet. I began pacing, worried that its owner might wander by in the midst of what he thought was a casual late-afternoon walk with his "Liberian Rusky" and seeing us, accuse us of dognapping. I imagined us wrongly charged, handcuffed and thrown into the back of two separate police cars that would have pulled up all willy-nilly into our driveway. With emergency lights still flashing and casting a red and blue shadow on our garage door, our neighbors would gather near the black and white cruisers and speculate in hushed tones about what might be going on with the lesbians.
No owner wandered up even as I loudly cleared my throat in the hopes of attracting one. I even went so far as to walk down the street calling out, "Hello? Is anyone missing a dog?" in an attempt to draw attention to our plight.
The found "Liberian Rusky" was ID-less and very thirsty, so we quickly threw together a makeshift drinking situation which involved water and a beautiful, formerly for-show-only ceramic Bauer bowl (look it up on eBay, it's nice stuff). The dog lapped up that water the way a quality paper towel (say, Bounty) would absorb a nasty spill (e.g. cranberry juice). We refilled the Bauer bowl and watched in amazement as the dog drained it once more. This no-longer-collectible bowl would now become one of those items that has been tainted and is no longer kept on display or in circulation. Another member of this exclusive "club of shamed containers" is a formerly pristine stainless steel bowl that was forced to double as a receptacle for human urine during an unfortunate debilitating back injury in the Winter of 2000 (you'll have to guess whose, 'cause I aint naming names).
I'll interject at this point that unlike Barbara, I did not grow up with a huge fondness for dogs. My family had several dogs over the years, but they were usually small to medium sized Collie-types with strange Russian names who would appear suddenly, observe us for a week or two, then mysteriously disappear when they realized that life on the street (or wherever) was probably cleaner and safer than life in our chaos-filled household. During those same impressionable childhood years, an incident occurred, which we call "the time I was dragged down the street by a big dog" incident, in which I was accidentally dragged by a big dog down the street, until an adult approached, untangled me from the big dog and took me home, scraped, bleeding, and forever with a not-so-soft spot in my heart for big dogs. Or dog leashes. I would, from that point on, avoid big dogs the way someone who eats bad Clams will forever avoid women wearing pearls, or using the phrase "I just clammed up" in describing their inability to speak.
"Signs! We must put up signs!" Barbara said, and ran into the house, grabbed a sheet of paper and a sharpie and urgently wrote -- "LIBERIAN RUSKY FOUND." Call (XXX) XXX-XXXX (not our real phone number). We hurriedly made crude copies on our home copy machine and raced around our immediate neighborhood, posting them.
As we drove around, Barbara suddenly remembered a particular series of lost dog signs plastered throughout a local canyon; we had been passing these for weeks, and she seemed to remember they were for a "Liberian Rusky." Could this be that dog? Surely this dog was too clean to have been on the streets for the several weeks the signs had been up, but it was our only lead, so we drove toward that canyon.
We arrived at one of the "Beautiful Lost Dog" signs, but upon closer examination of the accompanying photo, we realized the "Beautiful Lost Dog" in all the signs was not our Found Dog. Just to be sure, we called the distraught owner of the "Beautiful Lost Dog," and he described in great detail his four-year-old dog. Barbara could tell our dog was less than a year. We kept the "Beautiful Lost Dog" owner's phone number anyway, just in case it turned out we were wrong, and our dog's youthful appearance was due to its having been the subject of a recent Extreme Makeover: Canine Edition on the ABC Family channel.
We stopped at our local grocery store and picked up a bag of dry dog food, a plastic squeeze toy in the shape of a bone, and a real bone in the shape of a bone. We pulled up to the house and headed toward the backyard where we had previously secured the dog using a long leash, and where we'd left the formerly-collectible Bauer bowl filled with water, a plate of cat food (it was all we had) and a Danielle Steel novel (my idea, in case it got bored).
We were greeted at the side gate by the dog with four inches of its freshly chewed-thru leash hanging from its collar, its mouth forming an "I could have run away if I'd wanted to, but I like you" smile. This is similar to the "I could have slit your throat while you slept, but you're sweet and quirky" grin that you might receive from a friendly stranger the morning after you invited them home from a local bar on a lonesome, drunken night.
We would need to take additional security measures while we looked for its owner but hiring an armed guard and electrifying the fence were not within our means, so instead we quickly dog-proofed the garage. Then we arranged a plate of the newly purchased dry dog food and tossed the plastic squeeze toy in the shape of a bone in front of the Found Dog. She sniffed the food, and looked at us with a "Are you kidding me with this? Dry food?" look and pushed the toy bone aside like a seasoned gambler who'd been dealt a lousy hand.
Just then the phone rang. With glee I raced to get it, but it was not the Found Dog's owner. It was, however, an answer to an un-uttered prayer. It was a close friend, co-owner of two dogs. She was calling on an important, unrelated matter ("who wants frozen yogurt?"), but when she heard of our plight, she raced over with an extra leash, dog bed, wet food, fiber-filled chew toys that included squeaky sound effects, and lots of advice.
the Found Dog in the garage (or "The G" as we began to call
our improvised, canine version of The Oakwood apartments) we quickly made
up our second batch of "Found Dog" fliers, this time on the
computer, using a large display font (Helvetica, 72 point). This we copied
onto bright orange paper. We plastered them all over, extending our target
area to include several major cross streets, as well as two local dog
parks. Then we went home and waited, watching local investigative reporter
Joel Grover report on dirty bathrooms in fancy restaurants on NBC 4 LA,
as late afternoon became evening.
morning, the cell phone started to ring with leads. Bad leads. Everyone
called and reported in their best "good Samaritan" voices that
they knew who Found Dog belonged to, and then each and every one of these
fifteen callers directed us to that distraught lost dog owner who put
up all the "Beautiful Lost Dog" posters in that local canyon
Another day, night, and one half of one small tablet of Benadryl passed with still no solid leads. We took pictures of the Found Dog (think: Rolling Stone magazine cover shoot) and created version #3 of our FOUND DOG poster, this time including a large photo with the words "FOUND DOG, " now in HELVETICA 96 point, and a few details plus our phone number. We printed this set on bright green cardstock, plastered them on any poles and walls we had previously missed, then took a trip to three local Humane Society/Dog Pounds to place fliers in the appropriate places.
A lovely, hygienically-challenged volunteer at Pound #2 told us that if we brought the Found Dog into the pound, they would photograph it and put it up on their website. This, of course, meant we would have to actually bring the Found Dog to the pound and leave it there for several days. We could pay a fee and they would call us if no owner appeared. But what if there was a mix-up with the paperwork, and they accidentally didn't call, and instead, they, you know, sent it to its final resting place? We couldn't bring ourselves to do this. Even I, a person who finds herself somewhat challenged in the "perfect-love and enthusiastic-admiration of dogs" department couldn't imagine leaving the Found Dog there.
We reasoned that if we had been the owners of this dog, this wonderful one-year-old "Liberian Rusky," we wouldn't just check the website of the local pound, but we'd get up off our fat asses (obviously the owner was a bit lazy because, come on, it'd been two days already) and come down to the pound and look for the dog and look through the found dog posters. Plus, if the actual owner were looking on websites, then he'd see our numerous postings all over the previously mentioned lost pet sites. We felt we had it covered, and we were not going to put our Found Dog in any of these dirty, sad animal prisons.
Just as we
were returning from the cleanest, happiest of the three dirty, sad animal
prisons, we received a phone call from a local dog walker. She was sure
she'd seen signs in the last few days all over Los Feliz about a LOST
"Liberian Rusky" and she'd seen our FOUND signs and she was
positive it was the same dog. We questioned her about the "other"
lost dog signs, the ones from the local canyon area, but she assured us
she was talking about a different set of signs and these surely were of
our Found Dog.
Whistling a happy tune, we raced to Los Feliz but couldn't find a single "Lost Dog" sign. Who was this dog walker? Did she suffer from a crazy version of "Lost Animal Munchausen-by-proxy?" We left her a voicemail, then continued searching every post-able area in Los Feliz. We came across many signs posted by members of the local community: a lavender sign whose owner was looking for a lost parrot, an oatmeal-colored sign for a missing pot-bellied pig, several signs advertising the previous weekends' garage sales and one small, poorly-executed white sign with a postage stamp-sized picture of an elderly woman headlined with: "Lost Grandmother, wandered off, uses walker, has problems with her memory." I wanted to call them and offer to make them a better sign, but we were in the midst of our own search, so I silently wished them well, and we continued on. We posted our FOUND DOG signs everywhere. The dog walker never returned our calls.
Back home we were greeted once again with an angry silence by the quietest victims of this whole debacle: our cats, Lucy and Buddy. Their lifestyle had been turned upside down. Normally, they would have frolicked in the yard during "supervised yard time," but now they were forced to watch the world from inside (think: John Travolta in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble) because the backyard had become the temporary playground for the Found Dog. Normally, too, they garnered loads of extra attention from Barbara, but now they had to settle for only an occasional "Hey Lucy" or "Hiya Buddy" instead of regular teeth cleanings, combings and "follow the red laser beam on the wall" or "chase the long feather-like-string with a furry mouse attached" human-on-cat play sessions. Lucy and Buddy walked the lonely halls, waiting for the Found Dog to go away, marking the passage of time with long, pain-filled scratches near their litter box (in roman numeral form) displaying the fact that three days had now passed since the Found Dog's appearance.
I'd seen too many "Hallmark Hall of Fame/Lifetime Television For Women" movies that start or end with the touching scenario of a lost pet and its empty-leash-holding owner reunited by a selfless do-gooder played by Joanna Kerns or Meredith Baxter Birney to believe the situation was hopeless, but Day Four came and went. We cruised around looking for any lost dog signs, but found none. We purchased more toys, spent more time playing and walking, and more drooling transpired. We felt the slight stirrings of a bond forming. This could not happen. We already owned two slightly jealous cats (who I'm sure were devising a plan to offer the dog cash and a one-way plane ticket to Vegas); we could not keep this dog. People began offering to help place the dog, and we began considering it. We had been thinking of that poor, devastated "other owner," the one who had plastered his "Beautiful Lost Dog" signs in that local canyon area. We phoned him and told him that no owner had contacted us for the "Found Dog," and we wondered if he'd like to meet this dog. He arrived an hour later.
This man was, in essence, "several blades of grass short of a dog park." He handled our Found Dog much the way a lonely man might treat his "Mail Order Russian Bride" upon her arrival at LAX. I began to think that this distraught owner's "Beautiful Lost Dog" ran away and never would be found because she is now in a safe place and no longer wants to be distraught owner's "Beautiful Dog-Wife."
We sent him away, wishing we had not introduced him to Found Dog, not let him practice slow dancing with her or hanging out in "the G" with us. We thought about reporting him, but we had no proof of a crime, only a creepy feeling, after he looked deeply into the Found Dog's eyes and reported to us that his dog had a much, much longer tongue. That's all I'll say about that.
Day five, an angel delivered the answer and solution (okay, not really an angel; it was our personal trainer, but close enough.) She had a man-friend who was looking for a new dog after the death of his dog two years earlier. He had been without an animal companion for a long time and was finally ready for a fresh start. He came over, met Found Dog, they fell in love (in an acceptable way) and they rode off into the sunset, with Found Dog in the back of his dusty Range Rover, her tail wildly wagging.
That night we went to bed knowing we'd done the best we could, but for a second I wondered if the Found Dog would be able to fall asleep; I worried that she might have developed a dependency on that one half of one small tablet of Benadryl. I briefly obsessed about this until I fell asleep, then dreamed about the Found Dog walking the aisles of the local Petco on a shopping spree with her new owner, in their own doggie version of Pretty Woman. In part two of that same dream, in that same Petco store, I spied our cats, Lucy and Buddy, purchasing a "NO DOGS ALLOWED" sign and a roll of yellow and black CAUTION tape.
The next evening, in celebration of a rescue and placement job well done, we finally took our delayed trip to dinner at our local Mexican restaurant, and in honor of the Found Dog, I threw caution to the wind and ate the chips. As we sat there and reflected we came up with the following recap:
a) People in the community put up lots of signs on poles for lost things. Some are sad, some are funny. Most contain at least one spelling error.
b) Animals sometimes need our help, and ask us for that help by destroying things. "Please let me out so I can chase an imaginary squirrel" is communicated by chewing the tires on your new, sort-of pricey Bicycle.
c) It's a good idea to put a "micro chip" in your pet if they might run off and find a way to remove their tags (dogs apparently learn how to remove their tags by watching old episodes of Scooby Doo backwards, which subliminally gives them the instructions)
d) Not all dogs want to drag you by your ankle down the street and cause you bodily harm. Most of them just want to lick your face, sniff your crotch and be your friend.
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