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.


  1. Hi Sue:
    Awesome again! Happy Valentines Day to you and your dear family.
    Hope it is a good one for you all.
    Much Love
    Finney and The Shaws*******

  2. I think you should contact the human Tommy Lee Jones and have him do charity event for Pit Bulls. After all he has Tommy's expectations to live up to. Happy V-day.

  3. Hmm did Tommy really bite him or just hit him in the face really hard with his muzzle, Mesa does this and gives me fat lips


  4. It was a really foreign world. It's funny how we stumble into it, but I do like hearing everyone's story.

  5. Welcome to Oz...we have insurance and cookies.

    Poor Tommy and his enthusiasm. When we first moved to TX, Nyxie popped up at me hard enough to give me a black eye. Yes, a black eye. And 2 days later I had a job interview to go to.

  6. I can't wait for the next installment.

    Even in his old age, Boz can still hurt me just by banging his head into mine when we play. It's the pit in him, I'm sure. Or maybe it's just the dog.

  7. Poor Tommy. Poor you. Poor fellow at the store {I guess I have to sympathise with him, though part of me is peeved that he didn't take it better. It would be such an easy and accidental thing to happen with any boisterous dog, surely...}

    Happy Valentine's Day to you and Tommy, and I'm looking forward to hearing more of your unfolding love story!

  8. Poor Tommy. Just sprung from boarding and already in trouble.

  9. Happy V Day!

    Oh Tommy Boy...Didn't that guy get that it was just a love bite??!!


  10. Happy Valentine's Day to you and Tommy and the kitties! Tommy truly rocked your world and will continue to do so....

    Love ya,
    lynnie xoxo

  11. Thanks, Kristen. I hope you and your pack had a great Valentine’s Day.

    Terri, I’m not sure if Tommy Lee Jones is a dog lover but you’ve given me a great scene for the Hollywood version of My Life with Tommy.

    Kari, I love that you’re a skeptic.

    Two Pitties in the City, your story with Mr. B and Miss M is one of my favorites.

    ForPetsSake, I wonder if you got the job. I’ll keep reading your Nyxie story to find out.

    Petrea, large dogs, particularly the bully breeds (as sweet as they can be), don’t know their own strength.

    Shell, I felt terrible for the guy in the store too. It takes a true Tommy fan to offer a defense of his bad behavior. We (Tommy and I) love you for that.

    Jean, your comment made me laugh.

    thedogrescuers, well, it was Valentine’s Day but I’d be stretching the truth if I called that a love bite. (You can’t help but make excuses for your godson.)

    Lynnie, you’re so right: Tommy will be rocking my world ‘til our last days together.

  12. Whoa! Miss J's been bit breaking up dog fights but fortunately none of her dogs have bitten people. Miss J suspects Tommy felt threatened. She's glad things have eventually gotten better.

  13. I'm horrified right along with you. Horrified I tell you!

    Dog bites in California can come with some heavy legal action. Did Mr employee become one of those people who decides to bleed you? Gads I hope not. Guess I'll have to wait to find out.

    Oh yeah, happy belated V day. Nice cookie

  14. Miss J, I'm so glad your pooches don't have the issues Tommy did... Or should I say does? It's mostly in the past tense.

    PA, oh, I know. I think if that guy had been a customer instead of a pet store employee, I would've been in big trouble. I will tell you I have so far avoided a lawsuit.

    Glad you like the heart cookie/pendant.

  15. Tommy, Tommy, Tommy. What were you thinking? Scout busted her first crate; she was so eager to get out. We had to get this heavy metal indestructable one. And she pooped and peed all over the floor, and pulled the pillows off everything. She was wild in her neediness. It's hard being a homeless dog when you are so socially inclined. You have to read that Michael Vick book.

  16. Your Valentine's heart kinda looks like it was made from a watermelon! A sweet, tasty, juicy melon.

  17. Margaret, I'm afraid Tommy's impulses overpower his thinking. Thankfully he's gotten better. Poor Scout and her neediness. I'm so glad she can now relax in her happy home.

    So you're starting to wear me down with the Michael Vick book - but I'm not there yet.

  18. I love your picture, though after reading your story, I wondered if it was a cookie that the Petco employee was trying to eat after Tommy's love-lunge.

    I've just caught up with your Tommy instalments - what an adventure it's been.

  19. Sometimes it takes an incident like this one for us to realize we can either choose to be in control or choose to polish our apology skills for the next 15+ years. We struggled a lot with Téa's leash aggression when she first came to live with us - so embarrassing; she's just settling in; gosh I'm sorry.... The day she mistook my knee for the air in front of her face that she was trying to gnash to death was *it* for me. We had a trainer in by the end of the week and busted our rears to make sure we're all clear who's in charge now (and believe me, it's those of us with the opposable thumbs - no question). But it was a choice, not an accident. It was us learning to understand her better and showing her that we lead the pack in a way that she understands.

  20. Cafe, sorry, I didn't see your comment as it languished in limbo. So, a watermelon heart? You just can't wait for Primavera in Altadena, can you?

    Bellis, I sure hope that Petco employee was able to eat cookies after Tommy's "love-lunge" (a wonderful yet quite euphemistic term). Thanks so much for reading. I know we all have busy lives and I appreciate your taking the time to visit and comment. (Thanks to *everyone* who visits.)

    T2, oh how familiar I am with the work required to show a canine friend he (or "she" in Téa's case) is not top dog.

  21. Our Ranger is a rescue and he still has so many issues, in some situations I worry about him doing such things. In other ways and places he's a perfect gentleman. Sigh, love is so complicated. I'm back to blogging and I can't wait for the next episode.

  22. Paula, thanks for stopping by. Tommy has taught me a lot about love - and being vigilant so something like this never happens again. Glad to hear you're back to blogging. I'll stop by to see what's up with Ranger.