Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Million Times Over

Tommy came barreling into my life with the force of a freight train. My mom, who suffers from memory loss but remains an animal lover down to the deepest core of her being, tells the story this way, “He followed her home!” I don’t correct her anymore; I like her version. But the truth is I followed him, right into the parking lot of the Original Tommy’s Hamburgers.

When I coaxed him into my car with the help of a hamburger and one of the girls who grilled them, I didn’t consider what was next. I lived in a Los Feliz studio apartment with my two cats, so I didn't intend to keep him. As I drove and waited for someone to respond to my crazy voicemail—you know, the one about the pit bull in the back seat of my car—the weight of what I'd just done began to dawn on me. I checked him out in the rear view mirror. He looked concerned, as if wondering where we were headed. I wondered the same thing.

Things moved quickly. That week I brought him to the shelter (long story saved for another time), posted signs in the neighborhood to find an owner, and placed an ad on petfinder, all to no avail.

Tommy the first day I found him
I learned about the Echo Park Animal Alliance, an incredible community of people committed to animal rescue, and I posted a plea for a foster while I searched for a new place to live. Within 30 minutes Jen Byrne responded saying she could do it.

Jen became one of my heroes. She’s saved hundreds of dogs, just like my neighbor, Veronica, transforming sick or fearful animals into loving, happy, adoptable pets.

She also became one of Tommy's earliest and biggest fans (Tommy adored her) and one of my stalwart supporters. When I expressed my gratitude, she said it takes a village, and it certainly has with Tommy.

I love my cats but the impact that Tommy has had on my life has been far more dramatic. He spun my world off its axis and repositioned it in a new direction. It’s been a rough ride, wrought with many challenges. At one point I tried to rehome him, posting an ad on a pet adoption site that said in part:

“I need a strong, assertive leader to give me structure and lots of exercise. In return, I will lick your feet in gratitude while you brush your teeth, and as you sit on the couch I will put my chin on your lap and groan with satisfaction.”

When I brought him home to my Pasadena duplex, I realized I was in over my head. I wasn’t an experienced dog owner and Tommy had some major issues. In a crisis of faith, I sent a message to Jen, who encouraged me to hang in there, saying she thought it was amazing I'd changed my life to keep him. Then she said, "He'll repay you a million times over."

And truly he has. I'm glad I stuck it out.

Karin Bugge recently spread the word about Pepe, and he got adopted. Hooray for Pepe! Her next article on Altadena Patch will feature pet adoption stories from local and not-so-local bloggers.


  1. Transformation is the word for you and Tommy. You have transformed each others' lives--or, I should say, you transformed your life to include him in yours. That's amazing, Susan.

    My Boz story goes up Saturday. Margaret's Scout story is up today. Rescuing animals is life-enhancing on a small scale or large (Jen, Veronica)...and living with these animals brings such joy.

  2. Susan, I pale in comparison to your efforts. To everyone's efforts, really. I'm inspired by your story, and absolutely love your simple lovely words over on Patch. Piece goes up tomorrow, Tommy's is the featured photo.

  3. Thank you both so much. It's wonderful to connect with other animal lovers in this way. I'm honored to participate in the Patch article and can't wait to read the other pieces. And I love that Tommy's mug is the featured photo! That makes my day.

  4. Boz is a bit hurt that he's not the featured photo, but I told him, "let the hot young dude sell it!" Tommy's gorgeous mug will tell people they can get themselves a beautiful pet, too.

  5. Tell Boz neither of my dogs made the cut for tomorrow's piece at all. (They're on my editing room floor. Next to the turkey bones.)

  6. Its amazing what you did in order to keep Tommy. I couldn't imagine my life without a pit bull in it :)


  7. Kari, you know as well as I do how entertaining our pit bull companions are.

  8. What a great piece. What a great story. You and Tommy are both lucky. (P.S: I didn't even tell Scout that she was not featured photo. It would have been too hard on her as she is very vain.)

  9. Thanks, Margaret. Tommy is vain, too. His head has grown even larger since the Patch featured photo.

  10. Sue,
    Tommy and Sue a formidable force in the pet adoption crusade. You guys are lucky to have each other!

    love you,
    lynnie xoxo

  11. Sniff, sniff. {Blows nose vigorously and inelegantly.} This is a beautiful story, Susan. And though all of these adorable warm fuzzies would have made fine feature pics, Tommy sure is a hottie poster boy.

  12. It was those ears that got to you, wasn't it? How could anyone resist a dog with ears like that? I think Tommy has his own dog blog in which he writes about finding just the right person to go home with. And he's grateful you've stuck with him through challenging times.

  13. Susan ~
    i'm glad I was able to help !
    My boy Dave (a dog)had just passed away and there was space in the Inn -- I'm so happy that I was able to help TLJ get into your heart (and under you skin!)
    I would do it again in a flash -- I am still a big fan of his (even though it's been a loooooong time since i've seen the rockstar)

  14. Lynnie, Tommy and I do what we can for the team.

    Shell, you're such a sensitive soul. It means a lot to hear such lovely words from you. But I'm not going to tell Tommy about your poster boy comment. This photo op has swelled his already big head quite enough.

    Bellis, Tommy's ears are irresistible, I'll admit. I'm sure Tommy is grateful in the same way Teddy (and Abby) is grateful for you. Your Teddy story in the Patch comments tore my heart out. You're a good soul.

    Jen, the woman of the hour! Thanks for dropping by. I just dug up our email exchange from three years ago when you mention Dave had just passed away. And I said, Tommy Lee Jones will help you heal! I couldn't have done it without you. Let's go for a hike in December. TLJ will be beside himself with joy to see you again.

  15. Daisy is the love of my life, and over the years I have found and kept so many strays. Sprocket (RIP) was dumped in the canyon, Roscoe I found running in traffic on Rsoce BLvd and now Mouse living in the bushes at the Soccer field at APU just a clock from my office. He has a good home now. You are a rescuer too! Tommy has a loving family and he will bring you so much joy each day.

  16. As you know, Walter and Henry are not rescue dogs but still needed a loving home and I am sure glad they found their way to ours. Mac, my cat was rescued by me from a horrible fate and has been with me almost 19 years. Pets are pure love, plain and simple. A million times over? You betcha - and even more! So glad fate kept you and Tommy together. And he sure does look handsome as the Poster Boy. :)

  17. Daisy Dog, you have such a great pack. I'm absolutely in love with Daisy. Is Mouse the chihuahua you just found? I love the recent before and after photos of that dog. Talk about a transformation!

    Liz, you have a wonderful pack too. I love all your animals. I hope I get to see more of them next year.

  18. Dear Sue,
    Thank you for telling us again how you came to know TLJ & the trials and tribulations of being a human rescue-angel. A lovely Thanksgiving story. I like your Mom's version as well!

    Happy & Healthy, Love Cindy

  19. So he gets his name from the location he was found at? hysterical. I'm curious as to how you managed to get Tommy and the kitty girls to adjust to one another

    a future post maybe?

  20. It was a bold move. I'm glad it's worked out. Those ears are special.

  21. I know just how you feel. Before we even brought Toni home, the shelter called to say she had expressed fear of traffic while being walked in Chicago's busy downtown; were we sure we still wanted her? I was shocked that they would ask - who would commit to a dog and then change their minds because something scary scared her? It turns out that traffic is just the tip of her fear iceberg. We've worked incredibly hard over the last few years to help her feel as confident and strong as she looks. There were a few nights when I sat on the curb at midnight crying as she shook like a leaf next to me because she was too freaked out to wee, for sure. But I wouldn't exchange a minute with Toni for a "normal" dog. I can't wait to read more of your blog!

  22. Poor Toni. She must have had a horrific time before you took her in. I don't have experience with dogs with fear issues. Tommy is fearless! I can only imagine the challenges and the heartbreak you must face. You're a beautiful soul for caring for her the way you do.