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Style & Culture | AL MARTINEZ

Looking for love in all the right places

August 21, 2006|AL MARTINEZ

I took my two grandsons to a movie Friday and met a dog. I gave a speech in Oxnard on Saturday and met a car. I took them both home. Allow me, as Desi Arnaz used to say, to 'splain.

The movie was "The Ant Bully," one of those animated films with big-time stars doing the voices, and I suppose if you were 3 years old you might find it fun. Jeffrey, who is 13, found it dull, and Joshua, who is 5, was pretty unexcited about it too.

Afterward, walking around the mall, we stopped by an SPCA animal rescue center filled with dogs and cats waiting to be adopted. There we met Sophie.

A puppy's look is like the beguiling stare of a vampire: One cannot resist the lure of a little dog's sweetness. I made the sign of the cross with my arms and tried to turn away, but Sophie's yap forced my gaze back to hers and I was doomed.

Attachment is an instant reaction. One can look at any number of women or, if you're a woman, any number of men, or, if you're gay, any number of men, or if you're bisexual, any number of either and not be attracted. (I think I lost myself in that sentence, but you get the idea.)

But when the attraction is real, lightning strikes, thunder rolls, the surf pounds, stars blink, and you're in love.

That's what happened when I saw a 2007 desert tan hybrid Camry at Oxnard Toyota. I looked at it. It looked at me. I heard distant violins. I heard angel voices.

"I'll take the dog," I said.

"I'll take the car," I said.

"You what?" my wife said of the dog.

"You what?" she said of the car.

"It was love at first sight," I explained. "In both cases."

"Don't ever look into the big brown eyes of a giraffe," she said.

You don't actually buy a dog from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. After filling out a form and after they check you out, you are accepted as a potential owner for a $125 donation, plus all of the toys, leashes, collars, bells and bowls you can afford.

You do actually buy a car. After filling out forms and answering lists of questions, and after they confirm your ability to pay, you are accepted as a potential owner for a mere $30,000 and all of the extras and warranties you can afford.

The dog attendant was a woman named Joanne. She was a cheerful, animal-loving person with the gentle manner of a nun. I trusted her. She made it seem right, perhaps even providential, that I should own Sophie.

The Toyota salesman was Ted Williams, who had a country boy attitude and a desk full of thank you cards from those who had received his advice, his love and the cars he had agreed to sell them if they proved to be worthy. I trusted him too.

"You'll love it," I said of the car when I reached Cinelli by phone. I guess I said that about the dog too.

When she mentioned the cost of the Camry, I pointed out that it was OK because I had been paid to give a speech that same day. "You made $200 on the speech and are spending $30,000 for the car," she said. "Doesn't that seem a little out of balance to you?" "We'll work it out," I said.

She likes the car. She loves the dog.

Sophie is a pointer mix, 4 months old, and flies around the room like a toy helicopter, chewing up everything but the stove and the refrigerator, which are too large for her mouth. She shreds every paper within reach. No one will ever access our personal information by stealing it from the trash. It is in small and soggy pieces.

Her introduction to our house was not what the SPCA would have preferred. The dog stepped through the doorway and the cat flew into his face. It was like a science-fiction movie in which an alien creature leaps from the darkness of a spaceship and attaches itself to the startled human's face, gradually eating her head.

We jerked Ernie, which is the cat's name, off of Sophie and put him in his room behind a glass door, where he looked out and glared at the dog, who whimpered and stared back in surprise and terror. Like the Jews and the Arabs, it's going to take some time before true detente is achieved.

The Camry is almost as sweet as the puppy, but unlike the puppy, it responds to commands and doesn't leave a mess in the middle of the room. However, dogs are not high tech, and thick manuals are not required to own one. The fact that I was able to start the Camry and turn on the radio was high achievement.

It's like a whole new world has begun for us with a whole new set of rules. We are driving from the Garden of Eden in our new hybrid car with our new hybrid puppy in the back seat, and who knows where this will take us? I'll check the Camry's computerized navigational system. It will know.

*

Al Martinez's column appears Mondays and Fridays. He can be reached at al.martinez@latimes.com.

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