Monday, July 4, 2011

Runaway Dog

Since the weekend before the actual move was a holiday weekend, I took advantage of the time to bring over all my stuff for the shed, which before had been in my bedroom closet, and get the bathrooms set up and decorated thanks to Jaclyn Smith and her coordinated accessories. I also thought it would be a good idea to bring Esmeralda out one day to see our new home.

This isn’t the first time I have moved with a dog. Serena moved twice with me. When she was one, we moved from eighty degrees in West Palm Beach to thirteen degrees in Washington over Martin Luther King Day weekend in 1997. She adjusted quite well after two days in my Plymouth Colt with all our remaining belongings. Sure, she shivered, but once inside, she was cozy and warm, especially with Christian’s pug, Yoshi, who fell in love with her immediately. Whenever I was in the room with them, I felt as if I was intruding. Thank God, they were both spayed and neutered.

The second move with Serena was to Rockville. By then, she was thirteen, deaf, blind in one eye and losing what little sight she had in the other eye. I brought her up after the furniture arrived. She didn’t care once she found her food, but she did sleep in the closet the first couple of nights with her head on one of my shoes. She did adjust well, but six months later, she died. She hated Rockville more than I did, do, still do, done, did. Whatever.

I guess for Serena it was easy because I had held her when she was one day old. I babysat her mother, Venus, while she was still nursing Serena and Muchy (pronounced mooocheee), her brother. She had no abandonment issues. 

Serena was a toy parti-poodle (two color poodle) and as such a rescue, since up until recently, breeders would kill them because they could not be registered and were considered part of a bad gene (ironically all breeding poodles give birth to one parti-poodle at some point). Venus was pregnant when my friend John rescued her. When Serena was born, he saw she was two colored and said I could have her if I didn’t say who gave her to me. I kept my word until the AKC recognized parti-poodles as a breed. Serena was a tuxedo parti-poodle with black face and back, white feet and a bow-tie pattern on her chest in white, perfectly symmetrical. She would have been a champion show dog. She was beautiful, and she knew it. I never saw a dog pose for the camera the way she did.

Esmeralda is a different story. Four months after Serena died, I was delivering items to the Washington Animal Rescue League our car club, the Straight Eights (yes, with a name like that it is a gay car club), collected and feeling a bit lonely, so I strolled down the hallway of this fantastic no-kill facility and spotted a Jack Russell Terrier who looked as if he would make a good pet, but he was a bit needy. Sharing the room with him was an aloof beagle, who looked as if she had given birth non-stop for years. She was a bit skinny and did not make any effort to get my attention. She had given up on being adopted. The sign said she was eight years old, and the name they gave her was Lulabell.

Always the guy who likes the special needs and underdogs (Serena had luxating patella, canine IBS, and an alpha personality that scared pit bulls), I asked for more information on Lulabell. It turns out she spent her first seven or so years in a puppy mill as the “breeding bitch,” in a cage and possibly gave birth three times a year for her entire life there. Her front teeth wore worn down from chewing on the cage. From the puppy mill, she was “rescued” by a well intentioned but psychologically challenged women in Mississippi who had a bit of a hoarding situation. She had over three hundred dogs living on her property and in her – brace yourselves – mobile home.

The Washington Animal Rescue League along with several other rescue organizations rescued her and the other dogs. Lulabell, who was very beta, had been attacked (a very small piece of one ear is missing, and she has bite marks on her snout), and she was food shy. She would only eat if no other dog was around for fear of being bitten again. She was and still is scared of any barking dogs, except other beagles. 

Lulabell was also considered a challenge because of her appearance. She is a beautiful tri-color beagle, but her nipples and belly are distended due to multiple births. This apparently grossed out some potential parents. What did I care? At forty-eight, you should see my nipples.

She also sneezed a lot due to her allergies.

I couldn’t help myself. I adopted her, and because she sneezed as much as I do, I named her Esmeralda, after Alice Ghostley’s character on Bewitched who would sneeze and the thought nearest to her cerebellum would materialize. Or was it her cerebral cortex?

Esmeralda was her first real name (Lulabell was a rescue leage designation), and I was her first human. I often say, Serena thought she was a person, and Esmeralda thinks I am a dog.

For six months, Esmeralda would not eat until I went to sleep. For the first few weeks, she lived under the premise that I would take her back at any time. She had been fostered a few times before I got her. We were like strangers in the same home. Slowly she came around, and the first real sign was at the Straight Eights annual meeting when she insisted on sitting on a chair next to mine. She is not one to snuggle, but she showed her loyalty in other ways.

The reason I am telling you all this is because I should have known better than to take Esmeralda to my new home before the furniture and the rest of our stuff arrived. I thought it would be good for her to see where we would be moving.

What is amazing is that I am the self proclaimed expert on everything, so how could I be so dumb?

When we arrived at the house, I took her inside, and she freaked. I went out to the car to get a load of stuff, and when I opened the front door, she bolted out and ran under the car. I called her, and she came out, then I grabbed her quickly and took her back inside.

It was obvious she thought I was going to leave her in this house, especially since it was a mobile home (how could she tell?). I stayed inside with her and acted as if all was normal, putting this and that away and even doing a load of laundry. But, she continued to whine and follow me everywhere as if I were going to leave her.

Then, I wanted to try the keys I had copied in the back door. So I slowly opened the door and blocked it, so she couldn’t get out … or so I thought.

She leaped over my leg onto the back porch and into the woods. I hollered after her and dropped my keys. I screamed, “Esmeralda, come here! Come here now!” She took one look and off she went. I chased after her until I could no longer hear movement. I screamed her name over and over.

I then looked around. I was in the woods. I never go into the woods. I am a Gay Jew, I don’t even hike. I was scratched and bitten, and I thought I was covered in spiders. I was wondering if I now had Lyme Disease. I tripped on vines and my shoes were filthy. I am known for my clean Chuck Taylors, and my white Chucks were filthy. What was I doing?

I exited the woods realizing it was getting me nowhere. A lady drove by and asked if I lost my cat since she heard me yelling. I told her about Esmeralda, and she was so nice (as everyone in these parts is) and looked to see if Esmeralda was wandering the neighborhood. I called my brother who assured me she would come back because this is what beagles do. He has one named Charlie.

I got in my car and drove around to see where the woods ended. Fortunately, there was a fence on the other side some two or three acres away, so I returned home in case she decided to come home. By now, forty minutes had gone by with no sign or sound from Esmeralda.

Then, I did something I rarely do. I prayed. The last time I prayed was during a violent allergy attack when I prayed for death. This time I asked God to bring back my dog. I mean how stupid could I be? I buy a house and lose my dog in the same week. I needed God's help. 

Surprisingly, I was not in a panic. When I am in a panic, I get diarrhea. I did have to pee, but I always have to pee.

I sat down on the back porch and waited. I had never had this happen before, so I didn’t know how long one should wait before calling the … whom do you call when your dog runs away? I felt assured someone would find her. She has a microchip and her tag has my number on it (that reminded me, I needed to order a new tag). But what if she never showed up and ended up spending the night in the woods? What if I never see her again?

By now, it had been an hour, and I started to panic even though in the back of my mind, I knew she would come back. But when?

I had one trick left up my sleeve, so I thought I would give it a try. In my loudest but calmest voice I yelled, “Bye Esmeralda. I’m leaving now. Want to go for a ride in the car?”

Less than a minute later, I heard a jingling behind me. I looked around front to the driveway, and guess who was sitting by the passenger side of the car as if nothing had happened?

I slowly walked up to her and said quietly, “Come here, Esmeralda.” She wagged her tail and walked over to me, and I scooped her up. She was wet, muddy, dirty, and covered in sand. Sand? Where in the hell did she find a beach in Jessup?

I called my brother, and he jokingly asked if I was going to beat her. I didn’t even yell at her. I was so glad to see her. All I said was, “Where have you been? As soon as we get back to the apartment, you are getting a bath!”

I carried her inside, and she drank some water and ate a Milk Bone as if the prior hour had not even occurred.

Let this be a lesson to anyone. Don’t take your dog to your new home until it looks like your new home with all your old furniture … unless all your old furniture is crap.

I still want to know where the beach is in Jessup.

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