Two Dog Night

silly EmmaI first saw her running wild and alone down the middle of the street—a damsel in distress?  A femme fatale?  At that point I didn’t even know that her name was Emma, and I wouldn’t know it until the next morning… all I knew was that our paths were destined to cross…

I see clients on Saturdays, and then rush to Shawn’s 4:30 yoga class at Black Dog.  At 6pm, when I emerge sweaty and rejuvenated, my weekend truly begins.  Last Saturday, as I was driving home from yoga, I passed her going the other way—an English bulldog running full bore down the middle of Moorpark Avenue.  Although in the past I was never really a dog person, ever sincAgnese rescuing Agnes (our boxer-bulldog) a couple of years ago, things apparently had changed.

And so I looped a U-turn and caught up to a cluster of three other cars that had pulled over.  They had snagged the dog, which had no leash, collar or tags.  The first thing I noticed was that the dog had an exceptionally long tongue (the better to kiss you with, my dear?).  While no one wanted the dog to be hurt, no one really wanted to stop their Saturday evening to deal with this either.  Psychologists call this “diffusion of responsibility,” where in a group no single person feels personally tasked with stepping up, and in the end sometimes no one at all steps up.

When a woman said something about calling “animal services” I said, “no.”  A man lent me a leash from his car, and we looped it through its handle to create a makeshift collar.  I didn’t even realize at first how scared Emma was.  But despite petting and soothing as we drove, when she pooped in my car I knew where things stood.

Now my wife, Andy, is the true bulldog fan, mostly because you can’t look at one without smiling.  It also amuses her that they always seem to want to lick my balding head.  Emma pooped a little more on Andy, but she is a compassionate mom and she just got paper towels to clean up, and a poster board to make a sign.  We grabbed my younger son and drove back to the streets where we found her—but not a soul recognized her.  This seemed strange, as dog people tend to know the dogs in their neighborhood. 

After an hour with no luck, we took Emma to visit Jill and her sister who run Thumping Tails dog rescue, to see if they could foster her overnight because Agnes isn’t great with other dogs.  In fact, Agnes’ only dog-friend is Bubba, a pony-sized gem of a dog with six toes who diffidently allows Agnes to “play” by body-slamming him with eighty pounds of bulldog-love.  We feared this might be a bit overwhelming to the relatively petite orphan (Emma Twist?).  Jill’s sister is legally blind, however, and Jill was out of town, so there was no room at the inn for Emma.

Left with no choice, we took Emma back home and fed her.  She ate so ravenously that it made us wonder how long she’d been on the street, and how far she’d ran?  Bulldogs aren’t known for stamina, and even though the LA Marathon was slated for that weekend, we doubted she was in town for it.  We didn’t want to leave the two dogs home alone together, so we took Emma to a café where several kind people offered to adopt her.  But I was already falling in for Emma, and wondering how possible it might be for she and Agnes to get along (just in case we had to keep her).

Emma very much enjoyed sharing my salmon, and drank copiously from a cup, but wouldn’t drink from a bowl.  It was all a bit curious.  Back at home she would not leave my side and followed me around the house, probably because I had taken her in, and animals appreciate these things, and also because Agnes was perpetually up in Emma’s business.

Soon it was time for bed and we were all exhausted.  As it is said in P.D. Eastman’s Masterwork, Go!  Dog, Go!  “Now is the time for all dogs to go to sleep,” but alas, Emma was too excited.  Her breathing was like the A-train barreling though the night, and she shared Agnes’ propensity for pungent wind.  I was sleeping on the couch so that the dogs could be separated and Emma would still feel safe. 

She finally settled down, but soon awakened me at 2am.  She had to pee.  Waking me up was the good news—Agnes still tends to just let us sleep and pee on the kitchen floor.  The bad news was announced by Agnes’ toenails on the floor, coming to join us outside.  Since by then I was completely bonded with Emma, I sensed that there was no time like the present for Agnes and her to become friends.  And so for the next hour and a half there was much sniffing, testing, grumbling and then… playing—yes playing!  Agnes had made a friend.  And Emma was game to give as much as she got.  It was a successful play-date!!  I was so proud of Agnes and so happy for both of them that I didn’t care that it ended at 3:30a.m.

Agnes sleepyI checked my Craig’s List posting about the dog, where I had a couple of offers to adopt her if no one claimed her, but no word from her owners.  Full-bred bulldogs are expensive and I was at least as suspicious as I was heartened by the offers.  No, Emma was going to find her rightful home, or she was sticking with me.

As I tossed and turned, Emma panting beside me, my mind went back to the school fair some weeks back where Chuck Negron, of Three Dog Night, had told me that the name of the band came from an Aborigine saying about how the coldest night of the year was a “three dog night” because you needed that many dogs to stay warm.  It wasn’t very cold in late May in Los Angeles and yet, I thought, it had turned out to be a Two Dog Night, and that was plenty.

The next morning there was more play time.  By now Emma was so comfortable she was letting me rub her belly, a sure sign of trust.  I was starting to picture how having two dogs would play out in our lives while at the same time driving up and down Moorpark tacking more signs on telephone poles when my cell phone rang.  It was Emma’s owners.  I was so excited and happy that they’d found us that I didn’t notice the sirens and lights behind me.  After my ticket for talking on my cell phone without a bluetooth (which I totally agreed with, and never do except when I’m excitedly fielding calls from the owners of lost bulldogs), I had to ask the so-called “owner” a test question to be sure there was no trickery.  There was a distinct marking on one paw… which paw I asked?  The woman on the line said that it was really her parents’ dog but one thing she knew was that Emma had a very long tongue.  There was no doubt at that point, and we arranged to meet at my house as the caller relayed the message from her mom in the background that it was Emma’s left front paw that had the little scar.

Emma looking upThe mother and child reunion was truly something to behold, and Emma’s family turned out to be lovely.  The story was that Emma had been boarded while they were up in Santa Barbara for a wedding, but she escaped from that place at 6pm, which had then called them with the alarming news two hours later.  They were worried sick all night, and had been looking in the neighborhood since 6am.  That’s where they found our sign from the night before and called.

It's a family affairWe all hugged like long lost friends.  Emma and I said our good-byes and as I went back inside, I was both melancholy to separate from my new friend, but also very happy that she was back with her family.  I felt tired, but also warm in my heart that we had taken loving care of Emma during her potentially traumatic separation from her family.  And I was more appreciative than ever to have Agnes. 

My younger son said that I had really changed from the times when I didn’t care about dogs, and he thought I had learned a lot from loving Agnes.  He also thought that I should write about Emma in my blog—about how loving a dog opens your heart.  And so here I post…

If the privilege of parenting is to love the world and all its children, I would certainly include Agnes, Emma and all its animals in our circle of gratitude as well.

Namaste, Bruce

p.s. when I went to the post-office to mail the leash back to the guy who had lent it, I looked at the business card he had handed me with the leash and his company was called “Mum Network.”  It seemed as if the spirit of the Great Mother was winking at me, and when I Googled his company to send a thanks for the loan email, what came up were several parenting websites.


2 Responses to “Two Dog Night”

  1. Marvin Says:

    great story!

  2. Nancy Says:

    I enjoyed this lovely story. As a person whose love of dogs came late (we adopted a rescue puppy ten years ago, and Dotty is our sweet, loyal, consistently loving and present companion), we have found and reunited several dogs over the years. Each lost dog had an interesting story that has become part of our family chorus of shared stories. Emma won’t be forgotten in your family!

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