Sunday, January 30, 2011

That First Night

It was a little over three years ago that I coaxed the stray dog into my car with a couple of burgers and drove away with him in the back seat. Customers watched as if I were crazy.

Aimless, I found my way to Catts & Doggs, where the salesclerk gave me a donated leash and harness and came out to help put it on "Butch," which is what I first called him, inspired by his playful, macho energy.

The clerk approached gingerly. Who knew how a stray pit bull would react? But Butch just smothered the guy in sloppy kisses.

The harness was snug but it would do. I picked up a friend in Silver Lake, and we returned to Beverly and Rampart to try to find Butch's human. We walked around a 'hood I would have avoided had it not been for the pit bull by my side. Only one person recognized him. Apparently he'd been wandering the streets for days when some guy took him in. The apartment manager wouldn’t have it, so he turned the dog loose on the street again. That’s the only clue to his past I ever learned.

By now it was late afternoon. I had plans for a belated birthday dinner with a few friends. I didn't want to cancel my own celebration, but I was still stuck with the pit bull. My coworker and friend Kim, an animal lover, agreed to watch him, so I drove to her place in Pasadena. As I waited outside with Butch, I saw in a flash he looked like Tommy Lee Jones. I mentioned it to Kim, who reacted the way everyone has since: she laughed, took a second look, and then exclaimed, "He really does look like Tommy Lee Jones!" The name stuck, re-enforced by the place where I picked him up a couple of hours ago:  Original Tommy's Hamburgers.

Cuidad (now Border Grill) was lovely, but I worried about what to do with Tommy. I secretly hoped Kim would keep him for the night, but, though Tommy and Buddy played relentlessly, Kim was concerned for the cats. I called a sister on the East Coast, and we discussed my options. I could keep him in my car overnight, but what if he tore the interior to shreds? I could sleep with him in the car, but how much sleep would I get? I could get a room at the Vagabond Inn, a dog-friendly hotel, but $100/night was a splurge. I decided on my last best option: sneak him into my apartment.

When I opened the car door, Tommy jumped right in as if he belonged with me. No hesitation like he'd displayed earlier in the day, no hamburgers required to coax him in.

I pulled into the apartment parking garage at midnight. Fortunately no one was around, and I managed to get to my 3rd-floor studio without being seen.

Tommy explored the apartment with gusto, sniffing every square inch. He went up to Ramona, who arched her back and hissed so he backed off. I thought it safest to separate him so I locked him in the bathroom on a makeshift bed, but he whined until I gave up and let him out. He then jumped on the bed, curled up in a tight ball in the middle of it, and fell asleep. I crawled into bed with him. Across the room, Ramona kept a watchful eye from her perch on the couch. Frieda, still young and naïve, joined us on the bed. Curious, she placed her front paws on me and peeked over my body to get a good look at the pit bull on the other side. Poor girl. She had no idea he would soon be the bane of her existence.

Tommy didn’t leave me much room. In my cramped spot, I reflected on the day: WTF?! I was in bed with a stray dog who’d been living on the streets. What had I done?!

I had a fitful night’s sleep exacerbated by Tommy’s masculine snores.

My eyes popped open when my alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. Tommy lazily got out of bed, stretched into the perfect downward-facing dog, and licked me good morning.

We snuck down to the garage and I drove a few blocks and parked. In the early morning light, I walked Tommy along the windy streets of the Franklin Hills neighborhood and planned my next step.

A few weeks later I relayed the Tommy story to a coworker. She asked what I did with him that first night and when I told her we both laughed at how funny it sounded.

Yep, we slept together that first night, but it was to be no one-night stand.


  1. Maybe if you hadn't slept with him you wouldn't have fallen in love with him. Now that your life has changed completely, we'll never know. And it seems the feeling's mutual.

  2. I love this story. And that Tommy knew the score before you did.

    WV: Entry

  3. Petrea, your comment made me laugh! That would've been a perfect ending to this tale.

    Hiker, I'm so glad you liked the story. And you're so right: he did know the score before I did, with his dramatic "entry" into my life. Such a sly pup.

  4. Petra - "Maybe if you hadn't slept with him you wouldn't have fallen in love with him." Great advice. Maybe that is why I am still single.

    Susan- Never really knew the whole story of my God son. I can just picture him in the middle of the bed snoring and you sleeping in the very edge, trying not to fall off. Too funny. Tommy knew a good thing when he saw it. Such a lucky boy. XOX

  5. Oh, yeah, Tommy had your number! Cute girl feeding him hamburgers and inviting him home and into her bed? Are you kidding? He had you at "Woof"! Way to go, Tommy!

  6. Sweet, sweet, sweet. I'm just glad you two found each other. Although i do feel a bit for Frieda. Now that you're a pit bull lover, you should read The Lost Dogs: The Story of the Michael Vick dogs. Sad, but also beautiful because of how resilient those dogs were--are.

  7. Tommy Lee Jones, really? Your Tommy's a charmer.

  8. That is a great story. Ive slept with all three of mine on the first night too :)


  9. Hey Sue, a burger, a bed, and a babe. Tommy's no slouch!
    I must say he has good taste!!

    Love you,
    Lynnie xoxo

  10. thedogrescuers, your Godson is a bed hog who snores. I'm sure you're not surprised to learn that.

    Liz, you are writing lines for the as yet untitled Tommy screenplay!

    Margaret, Frieda will be much happier in the new house as there is much more Tommy-free space. Oh, but I can't read The Lost Dogs. I can barely get through an article about those poor pitties. And don't get me started on Michael Vick.

    Jean, that he is.

    Kari, you've got some lucky dogs in your house.

    Lynnie, awww... thank you. Okay, I admit it: Tommy is a lucky dog too.

  11. Hi Sue!
    This is a fantastic entry. Your Tommy stories they get more suspenseful with time. The story grows and grows, love it. I am sorry if I have slipped on commenting, but my computer was down for a week. Look at you and Tommy together for three years and how happy everybody is! Do you think that our animals help us grow somehow? Keep the positive energy coming our way.
    Happy New Year to you and all of your adorable kitty cats!
    With Love and Sincerely,
    Kristen and Brady and Finney

  12. Thanks, Kristen. Happy New Year! Glad you like the story. No worries. Life is busy, I know.

  13. Some great tory telling here. I can see you sneaking Tommy up to your itty bitty studio apartment, your head doing flip flops as you try to figure out your next move. Would this be a completely different story without cell phones?

    there's a sucker born every day and Tommy found his (I mean that in the nicest way, ask Peoples)

  14. Now If this were a cat story, well 4get even a 1 nite stand. More like a 1 min stand! And you wood've never heard from him again!

  15. What a lovely story! Tommy knew right away you were the one for him, didn't he? He's a very smart dog, and I'm looking forward to meeting him.

  16. Thanks, guys. I'm glad you like the story of my first night with Tommy.

    PA, yep, I had sucker written all over me.

    Cafe, my cats are very loyal, although they're both girls.

    Bellis, I hope we get to hike with you in Hahamongna one of these days.