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ralph robert moore
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sometimes you don't solve
february 1, 2014
Mary and I went out one recent Thursday for food. Hit all the usual supermarkets. And you do have to go to several markets, because no one market has everything we want. One market for our prescription drugs and canned goods. Another for beer and wine. A third for fresh produce. A fourth for meat and dairy products. We're fussy, in that regard. I remember Mary's dad, Joe, saying once that he loved watching us pick out vegetables whenever he visited us, that whereas most people would just put an avocado in their cart, we'd examine all the avocadoes to find the best one.
So when we got off the highway, headed home, we were tired.
It was a cold day. Texas, like a lot of America, has been experiencing a particularly severe Winter. Our temperature, on our drive home, was in the twenties. Below freezing. That's cold for Texas. Cold for anywhere.
As we turned off the street we were traveling, onto the road that would take us back to our warm home, wood in our garage ready for the fireplace, Mary on her knees, twisting on the gas jets, we saw a little white dog wandering along the curb, looking lost.
Mary put her hand on my shoulder. Told me to stop. There's no way the dog would survive the night. He'd end up freezing on the sidewalk, cars passing by the next morning on their way to work.
We have cats. Our cats don't like other cats, and they decidedly don't like dogs.
But what could we do?
I approached the little dog, his wagging tail. Good sign, I guess. I always heard that with a strange dog you should let it sniff your hand, so that it "knows" you. And won't bite you. Every time I've been bitten by a dog, it's always been a small dog. Take a look at my ankles. Take a look at my hands. Its black nose sniffed my fingers, tail wagging furiously, big black eyes looking up at me. Are you my new friend? It's freezing, there's no way in hell the cats would ever allow him in our household, and we do have a moral obligation to make sure their lives are happy, we're their owners; but again, we can't just leave an animal out in the cold, knowing it won't survive.
So I reached down, scooped the dog up in my arms. And you never know what a strange animal is going to do in that moment. So odd, to feel its writhing body in the crook of my elbows, against my chest, so much bigger than a cat. I walked it over to our car. Put it on the rear seat. We got back in, shut our front doors, drove the half-block to our home.
It was too cold to keep the dog in our garage, but we have a laundry room between our garage and our kitchen, kind of a buffer, it's heated, so we put him in there, with some towels on the floor. We didn't have any dog food, of course, but he gobbled up the cat food we gave hm.
The thing is, he was a sweet little dog, really affectionate. He looked like he had wandered out from a Hallmark card. Raising his front paws up Mary's pants, staring up at her, tongue panting, tail wagging. He obviously had a lot of love to give.
Mary pointed out he was well-groomed, which meant he probably had a home. I know very little about dogs, but Mary said he looked like a Pekinese.
I went upstairs, got the number off the Internet for our town's Animal Control, to let them know we found a dog. Called them, describing the dog, giving our contact information, in case someone called in to their Found Pets line. Animal Control will come to your home and pick up any animal you find, but we decided to keep him for the weekend, in case anyone called us, so he didn't have to go through the system.
Friday morning, Mary took some pictures of him. I created a poster with his picture, a description, and our phone number. We bundled up, went out around our neighborhood with our posters, stapling them to telephone poles along all the major roads, shivering in the wind, certain we'd get a call from his owners.
But we didn't.
Friday turned to Saturday.
As often happens in Texas, the weather changed dramatically. Whereas the past few days had been frigidly cold, Saturday was a beautiful, crisp sunny day, temperature in the sixties.
We were excited about letting him out into our backyard, so he could run around, like dogs are supposed to.
We checked various times during the morning, stepping off our back patio out into our paths, under the trees, to see if the sun had warmed things up enough, but it wasn't until three in the afternoon that the temperature was pleasant.
We got our largest cat carrier from the garage, put it on the floor in the laundry room, and to our surprise, he immediately went inside. How obedient! (Again enforcing the idea this dog had an owner.)
We hurried him through the kitchen to the patio outside, cracked open a couple of Dos Equus beers, and relocated to the rear of our property, under the trees, where we opened the front of our cat carrier. He snuffed his way out immediately, paws feeling dirt and grass, and began romping around the paths ecstatically, always looking over his shoulder to make sure we were still there.
Race back to us, tail going crazy, paws on our knees, for some petting.
After that initial sprint along the walkways, he went back to the patio, and hurrying from spot to spot towards us, zig-zagging, he kept lifting his leg, squirting some urine here and there, to mark his new territory while we watched. Except of course, it wasn't his new territory, we could only keep him another day or two. But we let him do his housekeeping anyway. "Ironic", as I guess people would nowadays say, or, actually, kind of sad.
Once he was finished marking his territory we gave him some more cat food. He ate half, snuffling, but then butted the white Styrofoam bowl with the side of his small face, eventually succeeding in toppling it, spilling the remaining dry cat food pellets, then burying the food, with the energy of his paws, under dead leaves.
We tried a different cat food, but same result. Why was he doing that?
While he romped around, chasing imaginary playmates, I loaded our birdfeeders with seed, which we have to do each day during the cold weather.
Mary turned the outdoor spigot on, carrying the green garden hose around to our different bird baths, filling them.
The dog ran over to the leafy ground under the spigot, lapping up the water that, leaking out of the spigot's connection to the hose, dribbled onto the ground.
Aha! He was knocking over the white Styrofoam bowl of food to tell us he needed a white Styrofoam bowl filled with water. Sort of like charades. So we filled a bowl from the hose, and he promptly gulped down all that cold water.
Sunday it was too cold to let him out. We did anyway, just for a few moments, so he could run around joyously, chasing leaves as they spiraled down. Like I said. Hallmark card.
We decided that if no one called to claim him, we'd contact Animal Control on Monday, to have him picked up. Much as we enjoyed having him, we knew it wasn't a fair life for him. With such cold temperatures, he'd have to spend most of the Winter in our small laundry room. And it seemed to us he was starting to be puzzled about why he wasn't allowed into our home proper, as he surely must have been with his prior owner.
No one called Sunday.
Monday morning, while Mary and I were having our coffee, both of us a bit glum, I said, "You know, we're just assuming the cats wouldn't like him, but who knows? Why don't we do a test?"
So we put him in the cat carrier again, and placed the carrier in the middle of our kitchen floor. Sitting at our breakfast nook table to observe what happened. Hopeful.
Our hopes were dashed almost immediately.
Thor, the male cat, ran out of the kitchen. Hid under our bed. Lady hissed, backing up. Retreated to another room.
We left him in the carrier for an hour or so, to see if the cats might come around, but they never did. And the dog himself, for the first time since I picked him up off the road that cold Thursday afternoon, started barking.
After breakfast, I went upstairs to call Animal Control, to tell them to come out and pick the dog up. "The dog." We never gave him a name. Because, you know. Sometimes you don't have to make yourself feel any sadder than you already feel.
And just as I was about to call, our phone rang. Which it normally doesn't. I looked at Caller ID. It was a local number.
Picked up the phone.
But it was a wrong number.
Funny how we get punked like that.
I called Animal Control. They'd be out sometime today. Went downstairs. Mary was sitting on the bed, red-faced and hopeful. I shook my head. "It was a wrong number." I sat next to her on the bed, held her while she cried. One of those quiet moments in a shared life.
The man from Animal Control showed up half an hour later. Ding-dong. He wore a uniform, like a cop. I never knew that. We led him outside, to our garage. Unlocked, rolled up the door. Walked along the side of our CRV, to the door in back.
Twisting the brass doorknob, I opened it inwards so he could see the little guy sitting on his towel. Wagging his tail to see Mary and me, his new owners, and not unfriendly towards the town worker.
The Animal Control man, probably early thirties, real friendly, caring, lifted the little white dog up in his hands, to his eye level. Grinned at him, crooned, scratching behind his large ears. Moment of jealousy, but it passed quickly, recognized as being unreasonable.
"He's going to be snapped up quick."
"Oh, yeah. We'll get him fixed, then put him on our site. Pekinese always get adopted quickly. They're a popular breed, and this little fella is obviously loving."
So Mary and I felt good. He'd find a new home.
After the Animal Control truck backed out of our driveway, I rolled down the garage door.
We thought, for a little while, a time that had some magic to it, I admit, that we'd be the end destination for another loving life.
It took us a weekend to realize that's not who we were, in this little play. We were actually helpers along the way. But that's okay. Sometimes, you don't solve. You just help.
Mary and I went back inside our home. Locked up. Our cats came over, to be petted.