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Jack Smith

Another doggone problem: One more four-legged miracle in search of a name

September 04, 1985|Jack Smith

Some neighbor of ours, probably a little girl, has tried once too often to make a soft touch of me.

I have my sentimental side, but I am not a saint, and not a pushover.

This person has left a puppy in our dog yard. The dog yard, which actually is a pen within our larger yard, has not been occupied since Fleetwood Pugsley died a year or two ago.

Our other dog, Fluff, has the run of the yard, and is never kept in the dog yard, either as punishment or restraint.

When Pugsley died I said I would never have another dog. I doubted that I would outlive another dog, for one thing, and there is no use in leaving a dog orphan.

Then my daughter-in-law Jacqueline brought Samantha home from our house in Baja and put me to the test. Samantha had been bitten by a rattlesnake in front of my daughter-in-law's eyes, but had miraculously recovered overnight. Jacqueline and the four young women she was with had brought the dog back to Los Angeles, first stopping in Ensenada at a veterinary to have her vaccinated against rabies. They didn't think they could get her past U.S. Customs without a rabies certificate.

Because of her miraculous recovery, they had named the dog Miracle, but were afraid the customs agent would be suspicious of that name and wonder what miracle the dog had experienced. Then they would have to tell him about the snakebite, and they were afraid he wouldn't allow a snake-bitten dog into the country.

So the dog's real name was Miracle, but to get her past customs they told the vet her name was Samantha, and that was what was printed on the certificate.

That is Byzantine thinking in the extreme, but of course they were all young women, without experience in the ways of the world, and in a foreign country.

In any case, my daughter-in-law wound up with the dog, though her husband was furious that she would add another potentially large dog to their yard, in which she already had two rambunctious Dalmatians.

When they took a two-week vacation, she asked me to take care of Samantha. I agreed, with the understanding that it was strictly temporary. Of course I fell in love with the dog. She used to follow me from one end of the pool to the other when I took my daily swim. No one else had ever done that--dog or human.

Then she got under the fence and ran away. Despite an ad in the paper, daily checks with the pound, and a general alarm in the neighborhood, I never saw her again.

I don't want another experience like that.

I was watching the Raiders and the Browns on TV the other afternoon when my wife called me with some urgency to the kitchen door.

"Look at this one," she said.

A small tan puppy was clowning around on the step. Whining and chewing at her shoe. A bad sign. The Airedale had virtually destroyed our furniture.

"Where did she come from?" I asked.

"How do you know it's a she?"

The question seemed irrelevant and discursive. The question was, where had the damn dog come from. Our backyard is completely fenced.

"It was in the dog yard."

"That's impossible," I said. "It couldn't get in there."

"That's the point. Somebody put it in there. Remember Fluff?"

She was right. That's how we had got Fluff. We had found her in the dog yard when she was a puppy. Someone had obviously put her there, obviously hoping we would take her in.

We'd had the little nitwit ever since.

"She's cute, isn't she?" my wife said of the new foundling.

"All puppies are cute," I said. "It will grow up to be a dog."

It would have to be fed every day, and taken care of when we went away; it would have to be suffered through the chewing stage and the barking stage, and it would have to be spayed.

"It just isn't worth it," I said. "I don't care how cute it is."

It was a very light brown--almost the color of a golden retriever. But it wasn't a golden retriever. It's black muzzle and flop ears suggested the German shepherd.

I say I think it was probably put in the dog yard by a girl because girls go through a period when they love all mammals. Boys may be bonded to a particular pet, most likely a dog, but girls love every living thing. Feminists may say there is no difference between boys and girls in this respect, but I happen to know there is. Ask any horse owner about young girls' affinity for horses.

So some girl put it in our dog yard like a mother leaving her fatherless child on the church steps.

"Shall I feed it?" my wife asked.

"Of course, feed it," I said. "You can't just turn her out on the streets. We don't want her killed by a car."

"You can take it to the animal shelter tomorrow," she said.

"Yes," I said, feeling like a man on a sinking ship.

We simply can't be patsies for every kid in the neighborhood whose dog has puppies and whose father makes the kid get rid of them.

We have our own lives to live.

I'm taking it to the animal shelter tomorrow.

Meanwhile, my wife wants to know what we're going to call it.

I wonder who she thinks she's kidding.

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