I came out of my apartment the other morning to find a baby bulldog sitting on the steps. He was all alone and didn’t seem particularly disturbed by it whatsoever. Of course we couldn’t say the same about me.
One of my biggest fears is finding a dog without its owner.
As much as I love them I really can’t have one for a variety of reasons. The cost for one, and it’s more vet oriented than food. I see what my friends pay for their pets and it’s absolutely staggering. The biggest thing though is my not being home. I don’t think it’s fair leaving a dog by himself in a city apartment waiting for you to make it home. My work schedule is so unpredictable that I’d be eternally wracked with worry.
There’s no one else on the street but me and him. I knew it was a he since he was gregariously gracing himself like he had a hot date. He looked at me unconcerned and I noticed he wore no collar. Not good news for the thin girl.
I invite him in like a guy I had just met deciding he was my new problem. I happened to have a leash left over from a former neighbor’s dog I used to walk occasionally. The trouble was, I needed to attach it to something.
Who said a faux pearl choker would never come in handy. Fit him like a glove making him look a little Liberacesque which is what I started to call him. I pinned an old belt loop onto the choker and hooked it to the leash. We were now ready to go back out. I needed coffee, and he was coming too.
I gave him some water and a piece of smoked tofu which he ate in one gulp, and off we went.
My heart was pounding because now what. After my Tall French Roast in a Grande cup, I needed a plan. It was too early to call Jennifer, my friend that heads the rescue organization who would have told me exactly what to do, and frankly I hate to say it, but I was already falling in love.
Who wouldn’t have been?
Liberace was the cutest thing I had ever seen. Though he was still a puppy, he had jumped that fence into pre-adolescence so he had that poise a pup lacks. In other words, he already possessed swagger but that didn’t stop him however, from halting in the middle of the street to give himself a little lick. My sudden pride in his sweetness swelled like a case of mumps.
I immediately took myself aside and said, no Susannah, you can’t keep him. He belongs to somebody, even if they may not deserve him because where the hell are they? How did this happen…how did he get lost in the first place?
I’ve seen this many times. Ignorant owners leave their dogs tied up outside of stores and cafes tempting things to happen. They’re stolen, they get loose. Any dog who finds himself unrestrained will take off like a shot. It’s in their blood. Yippee, I’m free to run, eat and chase anything I want.
Can you blame them? They’re dogs, not West Point Cadets.
Liberace was no different. He was having a grand old time, and I’ll admit, so was I. He was positively adorable.
The first thing I did was call the local police precinct. Had anyone reported a missing bulldog. The cop at the desk, who wasn’t exactly thrilled to be bothered at 6 a.m. wasn’t much help. I’m not even sure she looked so I decided to put the police on the back burner for now.
I then looked around for signs posted: Missing dog…last seen..reward…etc. There were none.
I went to a deli to buy some Alpo for my new boy who kept looking at me as if to say, why can’t I just stay with you. I’m no trouble. I will get a little bigger, but I’ll try very hard to keep my weight down since we both know my breed can pack it on.
Was I in trouble. The longer I had him the harder it would be to let him go. The other sweetness he bestowed upon me was utter, absolute acceptance. We bonded faster than you can say…GET OFF THERE…NOW!
He loved my apartment. The first thing he did after drinking three gallons of water (smoked tofu can be very salty) was jump in the middle of my bed as if it were his. I had to laugh. When I was a kid I had a stuffed dog just like him. I called him Clarence.
After breakfast Liberace took a nap while I wrote. I kept looking up at him with a full heart happy that he was there. No Susannah, the answer is no. When 9 o’clock comes, you need to start making calls.
9 o’clock, 9:15, 9:45…10…I was still scribbling away while my boy snoozed. Shit, what am I going to do.
He suddenly woke up with a face that said, I know..how bout a snack.
Out came a little more tofu and some turkey breast I got from the deli. I took one look at that dog food and put it back in the can. I wouldn’t give that to someone I didn’t like let alone a beautiful boy as this.
We then went out for a walk. I knew he needed an ID, like any other American citizen and forgive my ignorance, but I knew nothing about acquiring dog tags. I’ve always had cats that, let’s face it, travel light.
I called the precinct again. This time I spoke to a nicer policeman. I told him the facts.
“A bulldog huh, bet he’s cute.”
“Yes, he sure is, and I’m getting more attached by the minute. Please tell me what I should do.”
He took down my number and told me to sit tight. He was going to make some inquiries. When one meets a fellow animal lover all bets are off. I now had a partner in all of this who I’ll call Officer Rodrigues who was more than willing to help.
Sadness was starting to set in. You need to be strong Susannah so snap out of it, like Cher says in the movie Moonstruck.
My cop calls back. “Where are you located,” he asks.
My Italian kicks in. “Why do you want to know…did you find his owner?”
“I want to come talk to you. May I?”
I agree to meet him on the street. Hey, I’m not my mother’s cagey daughter for nothing.
He was younger than I expected when he pulled up in his police car. I saw him look for the dog who I left upstairs. My maternal instincts were already in overdrive.
“Where is the little guy?” he asked with I have to say, great disappointment.
“Sleeping. He’s had a busy morning so far.”
He then began a whole rant over the irresponsibility of dog owners. He told me at least once a day an animal is lost due to the stupidity of who owns them.
I listened knowing that everything he said was true.
“What do you suggest we do Officer,” I asked, sincerely seeing that my suspicions of him may have been more than a little unwarranted.
I went up and got Liberace. It was love the second time that morning. I watched this guy light up like a torch in blue. Found out he was involved on 9/11, downtown that awful day. He also told me he suffers from lung disease because of the time he spent at Ground Zero during and after.
“Wouldn’t you think someone would be out looking for him right now?” He said more than a little miffed.
“I would think, unless he wasn’t lost here. Maybe they’re looking for him somewhere eles.” I couldn’t believe I was the one being so rational.
“I did a wide search,” he said, “nobody put out a call about a bulldog in any of the five boroughs in the past forty-eight hours.”
“What about calling the shelters. The ASPCA, The Humane Society. That might be a good idea.”
For the record, neither one of us grabbed our phones anytime soon.
We agreed to talk later to discuss our finds but I already knew the larceny and animal lover in the both of us were taking the lead, as it were.
Frankly, I was pissed on behalf of this little guy because for the first time since I found him it hit me, what could have happened to him. He could be in the Bronx right now being used as bait at a dog ring, or splattered on the street. Suddenly I was determined to see that he got a home and not necessarily with who originally had him.
We spent the afternoon together like lovers, me reading in bed with him nestled beside me his nose buried in the cuff of my shorts. I have to tell you, I was in doggie heaven. I loved how he snored like an old man sighing every once in a while as if he couldn’t believe his luck.
Then Officer R. called.
“I want-em,” he said. “I talked it over with my wife and she thinks it’s a great idea.”
Suddenly that damned Catholicism of mine reared its ugly head.
“Do you really think we should just pretend he never belonged to anybody? I mean, is that the right thing to do?” UGH, the inconvenience of sudden integrity.
“Look, I made calls. I give you my word I did…and no one, in how many hours has it been, has turned up. Let me ask you something, if this animal belonged to you and he was lost, what would you be doing?”
He had me there.
“Let me call you back.” I did what any other suspicious thin girl with a bulldog she was already smitten with would do…I had him checked out. I called a Sergeant I know that sometimes works for the neighborhood funeral parlor to see if he knew anything about Officer Joseph Rodrigues. Well, it was worse than I thought. He was a hero…decorated for bravery in regards to September 11, loved and respected by all. As my friend nobly put it…”You can do no better humanity wise than Joe Rodrigues.”
Later on that night my bell rang and two five-year old twin boys with Boston Red Sox caps came bounding up my stairs, their dad bringing up the rear.
Liberace knew something was up but held his ground on my bed.
They looked like little bookends when they walked through the door.
“Hi, I’m Susannah…nice to meet you.”
“What do you say,” cued Joe.
“I’m James and this is my brother Will, short for William.”
I shook both their hands even though they hardly noticed since all they saw was you know who.
“How come a coupla guys from Long Island have Boston Red Sox caps, that’s what I want to know.”
“Our Grampa lives in Boston…he’s a big fan,” James said, clearing the spokesman of the group.
I told them they could go sit on my bed. They were so sweet the way they didn’t lunge or try too hard. They let Liberace take his time coming to them. Reality was starting to set in knowing that my day having a four-legged pal was coming to an end.
After an hour or so of watching this family melt over this luckiest of pups, they began taking their eventual leave.
“Wait,” I said. “I bought him a few things at Petco this afternoon.”
I dragged out 150 dollars worth of affection I just thought my boy might need. Nothing fancy…just a bed, a blanket, a cat that said, I dare you, when you squeeze it. I wanted him to remember me. I know how stupid that sounds, but you do what you do and as long as you own it, there should be no shame.
I knelt down and hugged that little guy for all it was worth then watched him reluctantly waddle down the hall. To his credit, he turned and looked at me as if to say…there’s still time to change your mind. They’re nice and all, but so are you. If if weren’t for you Susannah I don’t know where I’d be. Are you really sure about this?
No Susannah…let him go be a with a family who will love him to pieces..let me run in a yard and allow him to enrich their lives. You’re looking at a hero remember and a hero’s progeny.
Your work is done here.
I quietly closed the door before going into the kitchen to empty Liberace’s water bowl.
I then threw myself right across the spot where he laid all afternoon that still had his doggie smell and cried my heart out.
Sometimes God puts a task in front of you that you so wish he gave to someone else.
But then you think…you would have done it better than me.
I purposely didn’t take pictures and asked not to be sent any thinking it best. Though I did get a late night text that said…
all is well in Massapequa.