- The metabolism of a high school cross country star.
- My own coffee plantation.
- A black vintage ESP Explorer with a set neck and an ebony fingerboard, like the kind James Hetfield plays.
- A reasonable vegan bacon substitute.
- A book deal.
In the first week of August, these are all things that I would have liked to have. Please notice that "a new dog" is nowhere on that list.
This past March ushered in one of the most emotionally-pulverizing episodes of my adult life — the passing of my beautiful little rescue dog, Lola, who finally succumbed to cancer after a heroic two year battle. We said goodbye to each other in my home in San Diego's North County, as a warm breeze blew in through the back door, as if to ferry her beatific spirit back to the Universe that sent her to me. Hours later, I stared at her favorite spot on the floor, bleary-eyed and bereft as the ethereal apogee of Alcest's "Délivrance" gathered and rose to the ceiling. "It's going to be one hell of a long time before I even think about getting another dog," I thought. I concede that my resolution likely included profanity a bit more exotic than "hell," but we'll go with the PG version.
I wasn't remotely prepared for the dark shroud of grief that would envelop Cabo, my golden retriever — the happiest, bossiest, piggiest and most playful dog I had ever known. And yet, in the wake of Lola's passing, Cabo spent the next few days listlessly strewn across Lola's bed, eyes open and sighing bleakly. If Disneyland truly is the "happiest place on earth," then to find the two of us, you'd just have to move 180 degrees in the opposite direction. We were miserable, but my own personal abandon was sharply offset by my concern for Cabo and her unrelenting depression. I realized that as much as my snuggling, fawning and wanton treating alleviated some of her pain, she needed a new brother or sister, and with me about to start a new day job, we had to resolve this issue, stat.
Fast forward four months and Cabo, Abby and I were enjoying our first California summer together. Abby, a diminutive German Shepard mix, entered the picture two weeks after Lola's passing, courtesy of Animal Advocates of the US, a grass-roots rescue group that pulls homeless dogs off of the streets of Ensenada, Mexico, and finds them homes in Southern California. Abby proved uncommonly timid, even for a rescue dog, but she soon warmed up to Cabo, to the neighbors, to the guy down the street, to my friends, to the family next door and to pretty much every human being on planet Earth except for me. No matter how kindly and gently I treated her, she continued to recoil from me with a look that one typically sees on the faces of people in horror movies being chased through dark wooded areas by a chainsaw-waving psychopath. And yet, as August strolled in and knocked the dust off of its flip flops, Abby had begun to make progress with me. By "progress," I mean she didn't flee rooms in terror as soon as I walked in. Nonetheless, I felt like all we needed was a few drama-free months with no big changes, and we'd all be thick as thieves. At that time, I would have ranked the odds of getting a third dog as roughly the same as the odds of me sprouting billowy white wings and a horn in the center of my forehead.
A few weeks earlier, a good friend of mine had sent me the link to Brewster's video on Facebook, asking if I knew of any homes here in Southern California that might be interested in opening their doors to him. After viewing the video — in a very manly and non-emotional sort of way —I immediately re-posted it on my wall in the hopes that someone here might step in and adopt him. Soon thereafter, my friends at Thrive Animal Rescue jumped in and with Tim and Lorrie, began coordinating the process of placing Brewster in a home out here. I found myself following every update they posted and in short order I sent friend requests to Tim and Lorrie so I could stay connected to the story as it unfolded. As Tim posted photo after photo of him and Brewster making their way to California, it was impossible not to feel both hopeful for Brewster, while sad for Tim and Lorrie. What they were doing blew me away — amid a Facebook feed full of jagged political ranting, awkward selfies and jaw-droppingly detailed descriptions of salads, here was a couple making an unspeakably grueling sacrifice for their beautiful little dog. I was absorbed by their gesture and their utterly selfless commitment.
Fast forward to Friday, August 8. Brewster was still homeless and although the lionhearted people at Thrive Rescue had guaranteed that they would take him in, Tim and Lorrie were still hopeful that somebody might emerge to give him a shot. That was the morning that I finally realized that person was probably me. I took an unscientific Facebook poll to see if having three dogs placed me in the company of the cat hoarding denizens of reality television, although in truth, regardless of the feedback I received, I had already agreed to meet Brewster the next day. Regardless, the response was overwhelmingly pro-Brewster. I texted my friend Kerri to say that Tim, Lorrie and Brewster were coming over on Saturday afternoon and she replied, "You have three dogs. Just admit it now. NO chance you'll meet him and decline. Zero."
And she was right. Twenty four hours later, as Tim, Lorrie and I got acquainted, Brewster patrolled my house, sniffing the carpets, dog beds and floors. What little resolve I had left withered. I didn't even try to play it cool — I told Tim and Lorrie that I'd take him. That afternoon we all played in a spacious pasture behind a massive horse ranch, taking photos and letting Cabo and Brewster get to know each other a bit more. Abby already seemed OK with the new kid and Cabo was already all in from the get go. The next day Tim and Lorrie brought Brewster over and together we went through the heart-splitting hand-off. Lorrie gave me a meticulously-curated binder with Brewster's medical records, habits and other info; they dropped off his food, his favorite treats and a stuffed dinosaur toy. The goodbye was as emotional as one would imagine, although tempered by our shared knowledge that in this sun-splashed living room, the next chapter of Brewster's life had already begun.
Not to jinx anybody, but so far, so good. The three dogs have mixed easily and happily since the first day, and apart from some leash management issues, I've experienced very little difference between my two-dog and three-dog routines. That said, Cabo is 12 years old and doesn't have Brewster's stamina, or his love of car rides. Abby can take or leave long walks, so the past week has seen Brewster and I bonding over some one-on-one runs, a few extra walks and the odd car ride for no real reason. This morning he woke me up by pawing at my shoulder as if to point out that the alarm clock was in fact, ringing. The more I protested, the more playfully he persisted. I began to chuckle as I tried to wipe the sleep from my eyes and the more I laughed, the more he swatted at me with his tail waving furiously behind him. It was a fantastic way to begin my day.
I took this picture of Brewster just now, as I finished the last paragraph. This is his new post-dinner routine. We haven't had a drop of rain in two weeks. The other strange bit is that while writing this, I listened to that Alcest album (Shelter) from beginning-to-end for the first time since saying goodbye to Lola. It never seems to fail — those who rescue animals in need invariably end up getting the better part of the deal.