Adopting a dog after meeting my wife changed me
My sisters often told me that living alone was not good for me. If I had a dog, they said, I would meet neighbors walking their dogs, maybe even a woman with a dog.
But I was not ready.
My wife had left me. I had to sell our business. Our children went to college. So I rented a one-room cottage in Mar Vista, with no space for a dog or anyone else.
Strange as it may seem, I didn’t think I would live any longer. My father died at 47. A heart attack killed him. I never thought I could or should outlive my father. I was then in my 47th year. I thought I would die at the same age as my father. But the date of his death came and went, and the shadow my father had cast over my life began to fade.
I quit smoking, made amends with my kids, bought a bike, and took long rides by the ocean. I hiked in the mountains and planted my first garden, tomatoes and green beans, but still haven’t had a dog.
I found work producing audiobooks. I was directing radio plays for fun. I met a woman at one of these plays. We had an affair. She didn’t have a dog, but she had a cat and a husband. Our love story has been bumpy, but it opened my heart for the first time since my divorce. However, I still wasn’t ready to have a dog.
Instead, I started dancing. When I was 13, I was my older sisters’ backup dance partner. They needed a man to practice with before going out with them. I remembered how much fun dancing had been, so I signed up for East Coast Swing classes at the Pasadena Ballroom Dance Assn.
That’s where I first saw Trish, even though I couldn’t dance with her. The guy she was with wouldn’t let her dance with anyone else. Six months later he was gone, so I asked Trish to dance. She took my hand.
My sisters would have been delighted. I had finally met a woman with a dog, two dogs in fact. Jessie and Sydney were Trish’s dogs, but they were near the end of their lives.
Sydney died first. He had Cushing’s disease. Four months later, her littermate, Jessie, was diagnosed with head and neck cancer. She couldn’t be saved either. I went with Trish when she took Jessie to the vet hospital for the last time.
A veterinary assistant led us into a small room. She carried the trembling little dog away to prepare it. A tube was hanging from Jessie’s leg when she brought her back. The vet assistant put a towel under Jessie and laid her on a metal table.
The vet came in. She inserted a needle into the tube. She looked at Trish and quietly asked, “OK?”
Trish nodded. The vet pushed the plunger of the needle. Jessie shivered, settled down, then closed her eyes. Her heart stopped a moment later. His body slumped and his intestines gave out.
The vet had done this too many times to cry. Trish held back tears as she kissed Jessie goodbye. We went to a nearby bar and Trish cried. The tears eased his pain, but the grief was still a memory of him.
“The house feels empty without Jessie and Sydney,” Trish told me.
She regretted the way they barked at traffic in the morning and then raced down the stairs, how their dog tags rang against their bowls. When Trish came home from work, Jessie and Sydney met her at the front door. Jessie danced at Trish’s feet, and Sydney ran down the hall with joy.
After they left, Trish couldn’t bring herself to scatter their ashes. Their leashes were still hanging in the closet.
A year later, however, Trish found herself scrolling through funny dog videos on the web. “I just watch dogs,” she told me. One day, she clicked on a link and ended up on a dog rescue site.
A woman held a small dog in her arms. He made his way to her face and kissed her. She called him a little lover. As if on cue, he kissed her again. The woman turned to the camera and said, “If you want more kisses in your life, this is the dog for you.” Trish asked me to watch the video.
“Do you want to adopt him?”
“I don’t think I can take the pain of losing another dog,” Trish told me.
Yet she often watched the video of this little dog. She asked me the question she was asking herself.
“Why hasn’t anyone adopted this cute little dog?”
“Maybe he’s already been adopted. They could have forgotten to take the video down,” I said.
Trish called Baldwin Park Animal Shelter to find out. The little dog was still available for adoption. The clerk added: “He’s been here 19 days.”
Trish knew what that meant. County shelters were overcrowded and underfunded. Dogs were often euthanized after 15 days.
“We need to see it before it’s too late,” Trish told me.
So, on a rainy winter night, we hiked 20 miles to the shelter. We didn’t talk about what we could do. We did not know.
Traffic was bad. The shelter closed at 7 p.m. It was 6:50 p.m. when we arrived. The door was open, but a man stopped us.
“We close in five minutes. Come back tomorrow.
Trish begged him. “We just want to see the little dog we saw in one of your videos.”
“We have hundreds of dogs here. Their numbers are in the computer. But it’s off for the night.
“I have his number.” Trish showed it to the man.
“Okay, but you only have five minutes,” he said.
A young volunteer led us into the dark kennels. The dogs began to bark, begging for attention. A few did not look up, their resignation is even sadder.
The little dog we had come to see was curled up with a Chihuahua in a dark cage.
“Can we see it in the light?” Trish asked.
“The light is better at the dog run,” the volunteer said.
It was just a fenced hallway. The lights weren’t working, but the little dog felt his freedom. He charged down the hallway and bounded back. Trish knelt down and caught him. He gave her a big licking kiss.
“Do you want to adopt him?” asked the volunteer.
“Can we think about it? Trish said.
I couldn’t take the risk. If we don’t adopt this little dog right away, he could be euthanized in the morning by mistake.
The words sprang from me.
“We are taking this little dog home with us tonight.”
It was my wish to Trish, but the volunteer was worried.
“I’ll have to ask the office if you’re okay. Closing time has passed.
Trish and I waited in the lobby. Then the manager called us to the counter. “So you’re the people who want us to stay late so you can adopt a dog.”
“We’ve come a long way,” Trish said.
“The credit card machine is down. We don’t take checks. Hope you have some cash. It’s $80.
We gave him the money and he gave us a form. “Just your name and address, skip the rest.”
“Do you know how old he is? Trish asked.
The director leafed through some papers. “Said here about a year.”
“Do you know anything about him?”
“The dog hunters picked him up on December 9. Someone called us. Report a lost dog. Was near fast food joints in Mission.
“Has anyone come looking for him?”
” Do not say. I do not think so. But he has kennel cough. These antibiotics will clear it up.
He gave Trish a pack of pills. “Bring him back when he’s stopped coughing. We will fix it for free.
The volunteer brought the little dog back from the kennel. Trish picked it up.
“He’s a cute dog,” the manager said. “But if you don’t love it, we have a seven-day, no questions asked return policy.”
Dogs have no voice in their destiny. Our little rescue doodle had been wandering the streets; no one knew how long. The fact that he was cute made him adoptable so he was still alive. His kiss-faced antics landed him in a rescue video, the new way to find homes for these abandoned dogs.
Trish and I have taken the step that love asks us to take. We adopted this little dog. My sisters would be delighted. I finally got a dog, but only because Trish opened my heart and I followed hers. Love is generative. Two means three, even for a couple well past the age of having babies.
The author is a three-time Grammy winner. He is currently working on a series of short articles about life and learning the rescue doodle with his wife, Trish, named Woody.
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