Monday, April 17, 2017
The first time I lost a dog I was just out of college. I had left New York State for the first time and was living on the roof of a fraternity house at UCLA.
That's right, the roof.
They didn't have rooms for rent, so for a hundred bucks a month they rented me a mattress on the roof and let me use the kitchen, the bathroom and the telephone facilities (hint, this was before cellphones.)
My mother called and said our German Shepherd, the one I grew up with, had passed. I burst out crying. And because I was a young man and didn't want anyone to see me crying, it was a blessing to have that whole rooftop to myself.
I'm older now and really don't care if someone sees me crying.
In fact if I were to go old school and write this out on a typewriter, there's a good chance there'd be plenty of tears on the white bond paper.
Yesterday, we had to let go of our sweet retriever mix, Nellie.
Rather than reliving the painful way our paths uncrossed let me tell you of a happier time when she entered our lives.
My wife and I had been taking our young daughters to the local rescue pounds, brimming with all kinds of sharp-toothed pit bulls. I know some of you love your pitties, but they scared the living bejesus out of my kids.
We finally stumbled on this fat, white fluffy puppy, appropriately named Snowball, at the Santa Monica pound. The girls fell in love with Snowball right away. And so did half the population of the entire Westside. The pound literally had to lottery off this lucky dog.
We did NOT win.
If you've ever driven with two heartbroken little girls you know you'd do anything to make it stop. And so, on the way home, we passed Centinela Pet Feed & Supply. In the parking lot, they were having a pop up mini-rescue. They had three dogs up for adoption, including a tiny, orange 3 month old that was barely the size of a small watermelon.
"Pumpkin", my oldest daughter shrieked as she read the name tag on the pup's collar.
The emotional 180 had been executed. And as I spied another family with small children pulling into the lot, I quickly turned to the woman running the rescue and said, "We'll take her."
My girls loved Pumpkin, but they hated her name, so she quickly became Nellie.
Pumpkin/Nellie had been found in the hard streets of Compton, CA, where apparently she had been beaten and abused. Perhaps that's why she was so grateful to be taken in. And given an entirely different life, one filled with love, her own styrofoam bed and the occasional chunk of thick applewood bacon.
Though we had 15 years with Nellie, the last two were particularly special.
My daughters had shipped off to college. My wife would go to work at her office. And I would do my freelance work here at home.
It was just the two of us. And though she did little more than sleep and shuffle back and forth between her bed and the big oversized chair she hijacked in the living room, she filled the house with a warm, comforting energy.
When I wasn't writing End of Year Sales Events, I was rubbing her belly.
When I wasn't creating banner ads for a local bank, I was scratching her ears.
And when I wasn't concepting page takeovers for a new mobile app nobody wanted, I was taking Nellie for a walk around the park and the opportunity to smell the butts on other dogs.
As folks in the neighborhood will tell you, we were inseparable.
I made the mistake of loving that dog.
I won't do that again.