By Steve Lopez, writer for the Los Angeles Times
When I had dogs as a kid, and later as a young adult, there didn’t seem to be anything difficult about finding the right canine or taking care of it. But things seem to have gotten a lot more complicated since then.
First of all, unless you want a rescue dog, you face the withering judgment of do-gooders who have devoted their lives to saving pups from the boneyard.
I live in Silver Lake, not far from a sprawling dog park. And if an abandoned infant were spotted on the curb of that busy corner, across the street from a dog with a thorn in its paw, I guarantee you dozens of people with porkpie hats and tattooed peace signs would rush to the aid of the dog instead of the child.
“Rescued from a high-kill shelter” is a description often used by dog relocation agencies in Southern California. To get one, though, you’ve got to fill out forms and answer lots of questions. As I recall, applying for a mortgage wasn’t quite as involved. And many of the agencies insist on a home inspection, as well as a donation fee of up to $450.
Be that as it may, my wife and I had been delaying the inevitable for years, telling our daughter she wasn’t yet old enough to handle the responsibility of dog ownership. But she’s 9 now, and it was time.
Our weeks-long search led us on a recent Saturday to Tailwaggers pet store in Hollywood, across from the Scientology Celebrity Centre, where adoption fairs are hosted by a group that calls itself Dogs Without Borders.
No, Toto, we’re definitely not in Kansas.
The dog that caught our eye was a 3-year-old Corgi mix named Hannah, who was described as “a very timid, shy and fearful little girl” in need of “a home where she can blossom!”
Maybe we should have taken that as a warning. But Hannah was cute, and when a volunteer took us to lead the dog on a walk, Hannah turned to make sure my daughter was following.
Can there be any doubt that dogs are smarter than humans? With one look, Hannah had seduced us into agreeing to foster her for a week.
When we got home, Hannah — renamed Ginger by our daughter — cowered. Tail between her legs, she stood still as a statue, her eyes vacant. She refused to walk on a leash, or walk at all, or do anything, so I carried her down to the bottom of our driveway and did exactly what she wanted me to do.
I unhooked the leash.
Why? OK, it wasn’t the best idea I ever had, but I was trying to signal that she could trust us not to keep her in bondage. We were standing right there, after all, and she didn’t seem interested in moving.
Or so I thought.
Ginger bolted instantly, running like an escaped convict, with me and my daughter in her wake. She rocketed around the corner and out of sight. I ran back home — on two artificial knees — to get the car, determined to re-rescue our rescue dog.
My daughter had waited five years for this pup, and I’d lost her in five minutes.
My wife called the adoption agency to tell them we had a situation on our hands, thinking someone might find Ginger and see the Dogs Without Borders number on her tags.
“That was idiotic!” the adoption person scolded.
I must admit, they had told us rescue dogs can be runners, and that we shouldn’t let them off the leash. On the other hand, if you’re going to call yourself Dogs Without Borders (was the name Free Range Dogs already taken?), what message are you sending?
We put a photo of Ginger on Craigslist and posted fliers in the neighborhood. The idiot in question then drove for miles, through the day and into the night, with my daughter on lookout in the back seat, crying so hard she became dehydrated.
We returned home defeated, but resumed the hunt the next morning. On Sunday afternoon, neighbors called to report that Ginger was two blocks from our house. We raced over and, with the help of several deputized adults, tried to get Ginger back on the leash. But she had something wild in her eyes as she squirted and scooted, eluding us and disappearing once more.
A couple of hours later, we spotted her hiding on a neighbor’s patio. This time, my daughter approached slowly, leashed her, and we all went home with a great sense of relief.
End of story?
“You’re not going to believe what happened,” my wife said when I got home from work the next day.
Our daughter had taken Ginger for a walk, and the dog had jerked suddenly on the leash and escaped again. We searched for hours without luck and returned home wrung out physically and emotionally.
I guess this is why the rescue agencies don’t release dogs to just anybody.
If we found her again, my wife and I agreed, we should take her back. Maybe she’d been abused, but it seemed unlikely she’d ever be the warm and cuddly family pet we wanted our daughter to have.
The next morning, I was awakened at 6 a.m. by a noise out front. I went to the door, heard a scratch, and opened it.
In walked Ginger, her leash still attached.
“We’re keeping this dog,” I said.
But even then, I suppose I knew that Ginger would be the one to decide that.
To be continued.