Sunday, January 15, 2012
The Black Dog, Part 2
Last Sunday, one week ago, was when I first touched the black dog. That night, she slept on some old bath mats I tossed out on the ground by the back door. On Sunday night, I had borrowed some dog food from Jimmy, a neighbor, and Monday morning, when I found her curled in a ball like a puppy, sleeping, I went outside to feed her. She whimpered and licked my hand—then saw the food bowl and immediately sat, waiting. Someone had taught her to wait for her food. As soon as I put the bowl down, she frantically consumed every piece while I went back inside to get ready for work.
I thought about her all the way down the mountain. She’s a beautiful dog. How anyone could just leave her, I could not fathom.
I came almost straight home for work, stopping only to pick up a bag of dog food. No dog. I tried tapping the food bowl on the stones of the back deck. Nothing. Did something happen to her? Did someone on the trail decide she was a nice dog, nice enough to take home? I hated not knowing.
Just in case, I left a bowl of food out on the deck for her.
In the morning, there she was, curled in a ball on her make-shift bed. When I walked outside, she jumped around and whined as if I’d gone on a long vacation and just arrived home. I fed her again, left for work again. This time when I came home, there she was, wandering in the woods just above the cabin. She loped down to me when I called her. I gave her time to eat some food, then came back outside with an old nylon dog collar I had… a small vestige of hope that someday another dog would lie on the floor by my bed at night.
I told her to sit. She sat immediately, looking at me expectantly. I reached around her neck and snapped on the collar. She still sat.
“Let’s go for a walk,” I told her. Without leashing her, I simply headed up the road toward the waterfall. She raced ahead of me. But like any good dog, she stopped thirty yards above me and looked back. I knew what she was thinking: “Why in heaven’s name are you so slow?” I stopped and called her, just to see if she would return to my whistle. She did. And on we went.
We walked all the way to the falls in that pattern, me stopping every hundred yards or so to call her back to me, then rewarding her with praise and pats when she returned. She was nervous at the waterfall with other people around; she whimpered and stayed close, the fear rising in her again. So we turned around and headed back. She knew the way, but, like a good dog, still stopped to look back for me every so often.
On Wednesday evening I posted an ad on craigslist, explaining her situation and offering her for adoption to someone with a yard who would take her into the house and treat her like family. The next morning, there were five emails in response, two from dog lovers outraged at her abandonment, three from people who said, “I’ll take her!” All three flaked out within twenty-four hours.
By Friday afternoon, I was stressed out and so anxious I was having nightmares about her at night. I couldn’t bring her in; she seemed to want to chase anything small, and my little Sugar Plum was having her own anxiety attacks, hiding behind and atop furniture, growling every time she saw the dog outside. Snow was predicted in less than 36 hours. What would I do if she were outside in a snowstorm? Already the temperature had dropped so much at night, I’d pulled the comforter from the extra bed and dragged it outside for her to curl into.
As I was standing on the deck with her, stroking her soft puppy ears and wondering what to do, Jimmy came up. He told me that Pavel, a man of local fame in Mt Baldy for being big, colorful and an ardent hiker, had recently lost a dog that had died at 17 after a good long life. That dog was a lab mix… and Pavel and his three sons had been looking for a new dog.
I wish I’d thought to take a photo yesterday when Pavel’s boys were on the back deck, getting to know the black dog. They were patient and empathetic. And they immediately loved her. Who wouldn’t? The best photo opportunity would have been when they left—the dog in the back seat of Pavel’s car, her ears up, the tip of her pink tongue showing, flanked by a young boy on either side, their arms around her in an embrace of affection and hope.
To those of you whose hearts were breaking along with mine: She’s safe now. And trust me, she’ll never want for affection or attention. It cost me fifty bucks for a big bag of kibble, a leash, some chew toys and a food bowl. That moment, watching her drive away with her new family… absolutely priceless.