Somewhere in the Fall of 2015, during a dark bout of being stuck inside myself, glued to nothing and everything at the same time, I stepped out of my warm house, into the front yard, and found my housemate, Elana holding a small, reasonably ugly dog in her arms.
“I found this dog wandering alone in the street and I have to go teach a yoga class, can you take care of him?”
I agreed to take the dog, and Elana sped away in her SUV.
My empty house, a grey sky, an un-extraordinary dog, and I made quite a team.
In the hours before Dog arrived, I lay in my bed, hiding between the covers, with no plans to evacuate.
Dog’s arrival flickered some of my old love for surprises and adventure. He also was a living reason for me to crawl out of bed. I let Dog walk around the backyard. There was nothing too special about him except for how his tongue always stuck out of the side of his mouth, lopsided and worn like a leather flap; it was just loose skin that was too big for his tiny mouth, stuck on such a small body. When I gave him water to drink, he lapped it up, struggling to control his wild, parched, brown tongue.
As it got darker, I went through the motions of cooking and eating dinner for myself. Dog seemed to be doing fine, but I figured that I should probably get him some food. I closed the doors and left Dog in the house, alone, and stepped into my car. I buckled up, turned the key in the ignition, twisted my lights on, and backed out of the driveway.
At Vons, I numbly padded over to the pet food section. I spent some time trying to find dog food with the appropriate nutritional benefits, flavor, and price for a dog with a lopsided tongue and small black eyes.
I came home and Dog seemed happy to see me, as if the twenty minutes of solitude had caused him significant anxiety and grief. I poured some Senior Dog Food into a bowl, and added water to it.
Of course, Dog, being the enigmatic little brat he was, refused to swallow any of the food that I had so carefully chosen for him.
Over the next several days, Dog and I continued our forced friendship. I took him on a few walks, collected his tiny poop in a plastic bag, and even let him ride in the passenger seat of my car.
Xannie let Dog sleep in her bed and Julia took him on a walk/drive with me. Olivia wanted nothing to do with him. Elana fed Dog scrambled eggs and I fed him tortillas. I tried a kibble of the food I had bought for him to be spontaneous and to see why he had rejected it. It was disgusting of course.
Dog would make a horrible hissing noise if I tried to pick him up and he had some sticky substances in the matted fur on his belly.
I took him to a vet to see if he had a microchip, posted on craigslist, stapled flyers to telephone poles around the neighborhood and made several phone calls. I hate phone calls.
I found Dog’s owner and returned him, in exchange for a hefty and unexpected cash reward, which I split with my housemates.
Once a week or so, when I’m looking out the front window of my house in the morning or evening, I’ll see Dog, Nicky as it turned out his name was. He’ll be tied to a leash with his owner. The two of them look quite alike.
Dog will stop to smell the stones and weeds at the edge of our garden, even step onto the footpath to sniff the concrete that we walk on. If he looks up from his activities, I’ll give him a little wink. I don’t know if he sees it or not.