Monday, October 15, 2007

Pet Project

I’m no fool; I know how the universe works in my life. Things will be going along, as they are wont to do, and I will notice that, while certainly full and bristling with activities, my life is fairly orderly and calm. I will mention this fact out loud. Hell, I’ll even think this thought and the universe will look up from watching “I Love New York: Season 2” and say, “Oh, it’s drama you want…”, and we’re off to the races.

By the seventy-eighth time this happened, I learned; never recognize my own lack of insanity. I treat a fairly predictable life the way I treat the sun; it’s up there, it’s important, but looking at it is detrimental to my health. The universe, thwarted in her desire to constantly increase my degree of difficulty, has created a new system. Variables will no longer come when things are calm. Now, the change-up will occur whenever it amuses the universe to do it.

Daughter and I were pulling into the driveway two Saturdays ago when I noticed our neighbor Daphne out walking her dog. I looked again, and realized it wasn’t her dog, a large and rather grumpy Rhodesian Ridgeback named Betty, but a smaller dog. I even mused out loud about why Daphne was walking someone else’s dog when Daphne, upon seeing my car, started trotting over to the house. At that point any sensible person, knowing my life’s history, would have snuck into the house, drawn the curtains and refused to answer the phone. I, however, parked the car, walked out of the garage and asked the fateful question, “Whose dog is that?”

“I don’t know,” Daphne said, scratching his ears, “I found him running down the street when I was walking Betty. He followed us home, even though Betty kept trying to bite him. Does he look familiar to you?”

I looked at him. He was a purebred, of a sort usually favored by families in Dick and Jane books and little old ladies. He had a haircut, but he was dirty. He had no collar. His tail never stopped thumping. He licked my hand. “I think so,” I said after a close examination of his face, “I just don’t remember where he lives.”

His whole situation seemed blindingly clear to me. He was a coddled house-dog of one of the grandmothers who had been living in our neighborhood for fifty years. These women have noisy, excitable grandchildren who visit on the weekends, who spend most of their visit slamming in and out of the front doors and playing soccer in the front yards. I guessed that during one of those visits, our little friend here took the opportunity to get a look-see at the surrounding blocks. Someone was undoubtedly in a panic, looking for him. I looked down at him again; he and Daughter were leaning against each other in delight. Mutual hair-braiding was about to break out.

Daphne and I plotted. She worked as a bartender, which meant she’d be gone until three in the morning. In the seven hours she’d be gone, Betty would have eaten this dog. I offered to let him stay in my back yard. In the morning, we’d start looking for the inevitable “Lost Dog” signs. If they weren’t up, which seemed inconceivable for an affectionate purebred, we’d move to Plan B; I had no idea what Plan B would be. Daughter, upon hearing he’d be staying with us for the night, shrieked in delight and started planning his new life with us. I said warningly, “The night, he’s with us for the night. He’s someone’s dog.” She whispered something in his ear, and he looked knowingly at her; animated hearts flew between them.

I think it’s fair to say that I’ve had more than my fair share of overnight canine house-guests in my back yard, and he was the best behaved one ever, mostly for what he didn’t do, rather than what he did. He didn’t dig a bomb crater in the lawn. He didn’t set up a howl which made people in San Diego look up and say “Did you hear that?”. He didn’t claw forty years of lead-based paint off the back door. He sat mutely by the back door, nose pressed in the door-jamb, waiting for anyone to come out. If I came out to pet him or check on him, he would flop on to my feet with a deep sigh, and then try to dart into the house. “No way, little man,” I would say firmly, picking him up and putting him back outside, his short legs still walking mid-air,” You’re not meeting the cat.” The odds of him being a cat-killer were small but possible. The odds of him having his nose removed by Lulabelle were all but certain. I created a bed out of blankets for him. I put out a bowl of the Betty’s food that Daphne had donated. Eventually, he made use of both. Consort came home late that night, after already having been warned of a yard-guest; when he came in, he told me the dog trotted up to him, licked his hand, and went back to bed. “He seems very happy here,” Consort said absently, checking email. “Only proves how much he’s loved in his real home,” I answered stubbornly.

The next morning, while waiting for Daphne to wake up, I took him with me and Daughter to brunch. His genial disposition was unchanged by multiple dog-meetings, countless friendly hands and general restaurant clatter. He was fairly adamant that my breakfast was his breakfast, but that only strengthened my suspicion he belonged to some nice old lady who gave him buttered toast every morning. I came home, expecting to see large and tear-stained “LOST DOG” signs up. There were none. Consort, on his way out, leaned over and scratched the dog’s head, who fairly swooned. Consort glanced at me and said, “You know, if this one stays around, that would be okay.”

“Thanks, but he has a home. Someone loves him.” I said firmly.

Daphne came by. We checked out the one house we thought might have a dog of this kind, and they did, but theirs was at home, grinning at us through the gate. At a loss, I made a decision for the both of us. “Take him to the shelter and get him checked for an ID chip,” I said to Daphne, “He won’t have one, but let’s just confirm that, and then we’ll decide what to do next. I’ll go with you, but I’d rather not, because I’m the only one home with the kid today. And taking her to a place where you can adopt animals, well…”

“Of course, of course,” Daphne said quickly, “I’m just so glad you could take him last night and this morning. Just hang out; I’ll call you as soon as we get back in the car.”

Feeling a stab of guilt that I was making her do the heavy lifting, I heard myself say, “I’ll get some writing done while you’re gone. You know, on the book.”

Readers, I am a horrible person. I didn’t write, nor did I actually think I was going to get some writing done. I am just the kind of weasel who uses her book contract to get out of doing things.

So, did I clean? No, I did not.

Did I catch up on QuickBooks? No, I did not.

Did I clean out my athletic clothing and determine which sports bras have lost all structural integrity? Yeah…no.

Readers, I napped. It was Sunday afternoon, and Daughter was doing some sort of Barbie UN in her room, and the sheets looked incredibly inviting, and I napped. I must admit this because it will weigh on me that if only I hadn’t suddenly been overcome with the cell-deep need to shut my eyes for just a minute, I would have taken the kid and we would have gone with her, and the next part might have gone completely differently.

(Part two: Unexpected things happen.)


Blogger Suzanne said...

Noooooooo, a cliffhanger Quinn post. Ohmystars, that the next part might have gone completely differently has the little hairs at the base of my neck standing up and I'm hearing a 'rut roh' from a very worried inner voice that is usually shouting 'danger will robinson'.

Waiting for Part Two to make its ways into the tubes.

5:12 PM  
Blogger Valerie said...

you can tell we both live in So. Cal...we love cliffhangers.

can't wait for part two!

7:13 PM  
Blogger cathy said...

i just hate it when you do this!!
do you have new dog or not? my guess, yes!

8:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



Either you do post tomorrow, (and please, God, let it be good news) or I'll...well, in reality I don't know what I'll do, but I'll think thoughts.

8:57 PM  
Blogger Judy said...

Okay. If something TERRIBLE happened to this dog, please notify me before I return here to read about it.

Like, did this dog belong to Paris Hilton or Britney Spears? And, they took it back?

Or, was it not really a dog at all, but a giant rat from Mexico?

7:45 AM  
Blogger Jan said...

ugh! I hate a cliffhanger! Animated hearts are not flying your way right now, Quinn.

(please tell us the dog is okay. please.)

10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with Judy here. If I come back here and read how the dog was accidentally put to sleep by an overzealous shelter employee or anything equally horrible, I will be scarred for life.

Seriously, I am a 38 year old woman who still can't read the end of Where the Red Fern Grows. Or watch the end of Old Yeller.

So if you could give the overly sensitive among us a little heads up, that would be awesome.

9:39 AM  

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