My sisters often told me that being alone is not good for me. If I had a dog, he said, I would meet neighbors with their dogs, maybe a woman with the dog.
But I was not ready.
My wife had left me. I had to sell my business. Our kids went to college. So I rented a one-room cottage in Mar Vista, with no room for a dog or anything else.
As strange as it may sound, I didn’t think I’d live much longer. My father passed away at the age of 47. He died of a heart attack. I never felt whether I could outdo my father or not. I was in my 47th year then. I believed I would die at the same age my father did. But the day of his death came and went, and the shadow my father had cast on my life began to fade away.
I stopped smoking, made amends for my kids, bought a bike and took long rides by the sea. I climbed the mountains and planted my first garden, tomatoes and pole beans, yet I couldn’t find a dog.
I got a job making audiobooks. I directed radio plays for entertainment. I met a woman in one of those plays. We had an affair. She didn’t have a dog, but she did have a cat and a husband. Our romance was bumpy, but it opened my heart for the first time since my divorce. However, I still wasn’t ready to get a dog.
Instead I started dancing. When I was 13, I used to be my older sisters’ stand-in dancing partner. They needed a man to practice with before going out on dates. I remembered how fun it was to dance so I signed up for East Coast swing classes at the Pasadena Ballroom Dance Assn.
It was here that I saw Trish for the first time, although I could not dance with her. The boy she was with didn’t let her dance with anyone else. He left after six months, so I asked Trish to dance. He took my hand.
My sisters will be happy. I finally met a woman with a dog, two dogs in fact. Jesse and Sydney were Trish’s dogs, but they were nearing the end of their lives.
Sydney died first. He had Cushing’s disease. Four months later, his partner Jesse was diagnosed with head and neck cancer. He too could not be saved. I went with Trish when she last took Jesse to the animal hospital.
A vet assistant escorted us to a small room. She took the trembling little dog to get ready. When Jesse was brought back, a tube hung from his leg. The vet assistant placed a towel under Jesse and placed her on a metal table.
The vet came in. He inserted a needle into the tube. He looked at Trish and asked quietly, “Okay?”
Trish shook his head. The vet pushed the plunger of the needle. Jesse nodded, settled down, then closed his eyes. After a while his heart stopped. His body slipped and his intestines began to move.
The vet did this often enough to cry. Trish held back tears as she said goodbye to Jesse. We went to a nearby bar and Trish cried. Tears took away her pain, but grief was always a memory away.
“Without Jesse and Sydney the house feels empty,” Trish told me.
She missed how they barked in traffic in the morning, then ran down the stairs, how their dog tags held against their bowls. When Trish came home from work, Jesse and Sidney met her at the front door. Jesse danced at Trish’s feet, and Sydney happily ran up and down the hall.
After they left, Trish couldn’t bring herself to scatter his ashes. His leash still hangs in the closet.
A year later, however, Trish found herself scrolling through strange dog videos on the web. “I’m just looking at the dogs,” he told me. One day he clicked on a link and found himself at a dog rescue site.
A woman was holding a small dog in her lap. He rolled his way across her face and kissed her. He called her a little lover. As if at the signal, he kissed her again. The woman turned to the camera and said, “If you want more kisses in your life, this is the dog for you.” Trish asked me to watch the video.
“Do you want to adopt him?”
“I don’t think I can go through the pain of losing another dog,” Trish told me.
Nevertheless, she often used to watch videos of this little dog. She asked me the question she was asking herself.
“Why hasn’t anyone adopted this cute little dog?”
“Maybe he’s already adopted. They could have forgotten to take the video down,” I said.
Trish calls the Baldwin Park Animal Shelter to find out. The small dog was still available for adoption. The clerk said, “He’s been here for 19 days.”
Trish knew what that meant. County shelters were overcrowded and lacking. Dogs were often euthanized after 15 days.
Trish told me, “We’ll have to see him before it’s too late.”
So on a rainy winter night, we drove 20 miles for shelter. We didn’t talk about what we could do. we did not know.
the traffic was bad. Shelter closed at 7 pm When we reached there it was 6:50 pm. The door was open, but a man stopped us.
“We’re closing in five minutes. Come back tomorrow.”
Trish pleads with him. “We want to see the little dog you saw in one of your videos.”
“We have hundreds of dogs here. Their numbers are on the computer. But it’s turned off for the night.”
“I have his number.” Trish showed the man.
“Okay, but you only have five minutes,” he said.
A young volunteer took us to the dark kennel. The dogs started barking, begging. Not seen by some, his resignation is even more sad.
The little dog we had come to see was wrapped up in a dark cage with a Chihuahua.
“Can we see him in the light?” Trish asked.
“The lights are better when the dog runs,” said the volunteer.
It was just a pitched hallway. The lights weren’t working, but the little dog felt its freedom. He walked down the hallway and came back. Trish knelt down and held him. He gave her a big kiss.
“Do you want to adopt him?” the volunteer asked.
“Can we think about it?” Trish said.
I couldn’t take the chance. If we had not adopted this little dog properly, he could have been accidentally euthanized in the morning.
Words broke out from me.
“We’re taking this little dog home with us tonight.”
It was my vow to Trish, but the volunteer was worried.
“I’ll have to ask at the office if it’s okay. It’s time to shut down.”
Trish and I were waiting in the lobby. Then the manager called us to the counter. “So you’re the one who wants us to stay up late so you can adopt a dog.”
“We’ve come a long way,” Trish said.
“Credit card machine is closed. We don’t take cheques. Hope you got the cash. It’s Rs.80.”
We gave him the money, and he gave us a form. “Just your name and address, leave out the rest.”
“Do you know how old he is?” Trish asked.
The manager flipped through some papers. “Say almost a year here.”
“Do you know anything about him?”
“Dogcatchers picked him up on December 9. Someone called us. Missing dog reported. Was near fast-food places on the mission.”
“Did someone come looking for him?”
“Say no. Not guessing. But he has kennel cough. These antibiotics will clear it up.”
He gives Trish a pack of pills. “Get him back when he stops coughing. We’ll fix him for free.”
The volunteer brought the little dog inside from the kennel. Trish picks him up.
“He’s a lovely dog,” said the manager. “But if you don’t like that, we have a seven-day return policy, no questions asked.”
There is no sound in the fate of dogs. Our little rescue doodle was wandering on the streets; For how long no one knew. That he was cute made him adoptable so he was still alive. Their flirtatious antics have featured them in a rescue video, the new way for these abandoned dogs to find homes.
Trish and I took the loving steps we took. We have adopted this little dog. My sisters will be happy. I finally got a dog, but only because Trish opened my heart and I followed him. Love is productive. Two wants to be three, even for a couple that is beyond childbearing age.
The author is a three-time Grammy winner. He’s now working on a series of short pieces about living with and learning from a rescue doodle named Woody.
LA Affairs advances the pursuit of romantic love in the LA area in all its splendid expressions, and we want to hear your true story. We pay $300 for a published essay. Email [email protected] You can find submission guidelines here. You can find the previous column here.