Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine’s Day, Our Anniversary

I could not have told the following story until your deep and abiding affection for Tommy had been established. Otherwise your first impression would have been much less favorable.

Pendant by Eekazookie

After the failed attempt to leave Tommy at the shelter, I boarded him at Gateway Animal Hospital. Boarding at Gateway was cheap, and for good reason. Tommy lived in a cage. When I’d come by after work to walk him, he’d burst out of the building and bounce down Los Feliz Boulevard, while I self-consciously tried to assume some semblance of control.

I met a woman in the waiting room who knew the pit bull breed. She became enamored with Tommy when he smothered her with sloppy kisses (“You’re really lucky,” she said). Love bites went along with those kisses, and she advised me to be firm with him. “Pit bulls need a strong hand.” Then she told me to visit Julie at Wagville.

Wagville offers cage-free day care and boarding with a pet boutique storefront. While waiting for Julie, I realized since finding Tommy I’d opened a door to a foreign world previously unknown to me. Not unlike Dorothy landing in Oz, I’d stepped into the World of Dogs, inhabited by obsessed people who spent billions of dollars a year on, and whose entire lives revolved around, their dogs. In less than a week I’d become one of them.

Julie said I could board Tommy at Wagville at a reduced rate while I looked for a place to live but only after he was neutered.

I hated the thought of him recuperating in that cage, so I put out a plea to the Echo Park Animal Alliance. Jen Byrne replied within minutes, which is remarkable. Since joining the list three years ago, I’ve seen countless dogs needing help and countless pleas for fosters. Many times those pleas go unanswered. With Jen’s quick response, I felt as if Tommy had guardian angels watching out for him.

Tommy got neutered and, with a cone around his head, went to camp out at Jen’s in Atwater Village while I looked for a new place to live. Three weeks later I moved into the duplex in Pasadena and settled in with the cats.

There’s a lot to be said about those three weeks but I’ll save that story for another time, because this story is about Valentine’s Day, the day, three years ago, that I picked up Tommy at Jen’s to start our new life together.

On the way home I stopped at Petco in Glendale. Tommy sniffed the shelves with the enthusiasm of a 2-year-old boy let loose in a candy shop. An employee laughed at Tommy’s energy and asked how old he was. Before I could answer, Tommy popped up into his face. The employee stood before me with his hand to his lip and a look of horror on his face, which I returned.

“Oh my God, did he just bite you?”

He looked at his hand, revealing the blood on his lower lip.

“He just bit me.” Disbelief with disgust mingled in his voice.

“Oh my God, I’m sorry.”

I feebly said it over and over as he, pissed–and rightly so–turned toward the employees-only area to attend to his wound.

Overwhelmed, I left the store and drove the stray pit bull home. The honeymoon was over before it had even begun. And things got worse before they got better.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

No Guarantees

I should’ve brought Tommy to the nearest animal shelter after I picked him up at Beverly and Rampart, but all I knew about shelters at that time was that countless dogs, particularly pit bulls, were put to death, and I didn’t want to see that happen to him. But I wasn’t in a position to keep him so I had to do something.

The Lacey Street shelter was closed the day he woke up in my bed, so after walking him around the Franklin Hills, I brought him to my vet to board him. I returned the next day to take him to the shelter.

A cacophony of barking dogs, out of sight behind cement walls, greeted me as I stepped out of the car. Tommy was on high alert.

Inside I loitered around the reception area while a couple signed papers and talked to a shelter worker at the front desk. A few other people sat waiting. I walked down the hallway and checked out the bulletin board crowded with cards and flyers of lost dogs. I hung a FOUND DOG flyer with Tommy's picture.

Cages filled with cats were stacked along one wall. I didn’t see any dogs though they made their presence known. The barking was relentless. Tommy’s agitation grew so I stepped outside with him.

A woman led a medium-sized dog past us, exacerbating Tommy's excitement. He barked and whined and bucked up just as a shelter employee, a man in a navy blue jumpsuit, walked by. With a nod of his chin he said, “He’s aggressive, huh?”

I knelt down to calm Tommy. “No, he’s just excited.”

I told him I wanted to place first adoption rights on Tommy but I wasn't sure how it worked.

"So I leave him for 5 days and if no one has claimed him, I can take him home?"

The guy shook his head. "No guarantees," he said.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"No guarantees."

"But if I have first adoption rights and come back after 5 days..."

"You know how many pit bulls get put down here every day? No guarantee he’ll still be here when you come back."

I was horrified.

He shook his head. "If you want to save this dog, don't leave him here..."

And with that he sauntered through the glass doors into the shelter leaving Tommy's fate in my hands.

I walked to the car and drove back to the vet.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Meet Ponchito

Remember the Hahamongna Chihuahua?

I found him running alongside Hahamongna Watershed Park last August. Rita took him in, called him Ponchito the Fierce Warrior, and he’s been at Starcrest ever since. Apparently all the “girls” love him. That scruffy little guy is treated like a king, carried from his condo to the yard and back again. One morning I saw him from a distance and yelled out to the young woman coddling him, “Is that Ponchito?” She put him down and he wagged his tail at the sound of my voice. What do you know, he remembered me. 

Tommy and I explored Hahamongna last week with Petrea of Pasadena Daily Photo fame. Today's post is about L.A. County Department of Public Works' misguided sediment removal plan and what we can do to try and prevent Hahamongna's destruction. I'm honored Tommy gets to be Hahamongna poster child and photo of the day. Check him out.

I wish every dog could be as lucky as Ponchito. And as a lover of animals of all kinds, I hope the wild ones of Hahamongna can be saved.