I’m here at Beagle Island Park almost every day, hoping to see my dog - technically he’s not my dog anymore. Actually, he never was Really my dog; We just went out in pairs when we both encountered rough spots in our lives. I would wake up under the eaves of a smoking shop and hear his faint snore on my face. He had the same eye colors as my Pops; Pop always said he would come back as a dog so I figured why not? Stranger things have happened.
I park my car right in front of the chain link fence and sit under a densely branched fig tree. I only look and hear. Those of us who live on the fringes of society are basically invisible, so people don’t worry about what they do or say in front of us. The only time I’ve ever been seen was when Pops was with me – and the watchers were always under six.
Blades of grass glistening with dew leave tiny droplets of moisture on the noses of curious terriers and a yellow laboratory. The Germans – Shepherd, Rottweiler, and Boxer – smell the parameters of the park and draw clear territorial boundaries while their people drink steaming cups of coffee.
This is a strange place where cars and canines are status markers. The men either stop in slim, elongated SUVs or in high-performance sports cars with testosterone drives. The women wear gaudy, hidden sun visors and like to boast of the impressive lineages of their canines.
I heard a woman Woman worry wartTell another woman that she traced her pug’s ancestors back to Empress Josephine’s infamous pug, who allegedly bitten Napoleon on their wedding night. Woman worry wart always dressed her pug according to the seasons. In cooler weather the dog came with a raincoat and galoshes; in the warmer months Woman worry wart followed her dog around the park with an umbrella, small battery operated fan, and water bottle!
I look around what I referred to as the “red light district” to see who is playing Mel, an AKC-registered Great Pyrenees, these days. Two rows of trees had been planted so close together that their branches formed an archway. Anyone taller than two meters (i.e. most adults) must crouch to avoid being slapped in the face by them. There were more than a few trysts in the area leading to mixed breed litters or an abortion ahead of the upcoming photo shoot for Boises Bowwow calendar.
This happens despite the citywide ban on intact dogs from visiting the park. However, the ban ceased to exist when a group of show dog owners sued the city for discrimination and won their lawsuit. Now the city is asking the guards to use “common sense”. They put a disclaimer on the entrance gate stating that the city is not financially liable if “unwanted pregnancies” occur. Kills me every time
Mel is known for his baritone bark and his lightning-fast movements. Its owners, Mama-Sees-No-Poop, and her husband, Dogs’ll-Be-Dogs-DudeAre not park favorites. When Mel took the inchworm scrunch position Mama-Sees-No-Poop She usually started digging in her pocket for something – anything that would keep her from seeing the giant tootsie buns snaking out of her dog’s massive ass. Then Mel, feeling a little lighter, happily kicked chunks of mud and grass with his hind legs while holding on to a poor little slut who was only there to chase a few balls.
Today it’s Jinxy, an agile Australian Shepherd, who is not a fan of Mel’s rape and escape maneuvers. When Mel mounts the Aussie, her heels come up and she bares her teeth. We all hear the menacing growl. Jinxy’s owner yells for Mel’s owners to hold him back – then Dogs’ll-Be-Dogs-Dude screams that the dogs are only playing; then he tells everyone like the town crier that Mel’s premium sperm is getting a pretty penny and that Jinxy should be so lucky! He brags that Mel is an AKC Grand Champion. Apparently he was a BOS, BOB and now finally a BIS. He had scored five points in his Division 9 last spring.
I don’t know what this all means, but I don’t want to know either – and I suspect no one else does either.
It doesn’t look like I’m going to see Pops today. I pull the handle of the cart and it doesn’t move. The left front wheel had been swallowed by a patch of mud. As I kneel to dig it out, I hear that familiar bark. I turn around and there he is.
It wasn’t that long ago that I had seen him, but he already seemed different. a little more food and a little less exercise looks pretty good on him. Pops have always been adventurous and never wanted to stay in one place for too long, but apparently he no longer has those itchy feet. He had collected more stories in his few years than most people in life. He was greeted enthusiastically by the locals as if he were a celebrity. I had to laugh. People only see what they want to see.
I wondered if Pops remembered the last time we’d communicated with each other.
Officer Engel gently kicked my foot with his boot – unlike most other cops who kicked me like I was a piece of trash with a contagion they didn’t want to catch. I didn’t open an eye until I heard Pop growl.
“Jesús, you have to move, man.”
I wiped the crust from the corner of my eye and sat up.
“It’s cold out here. There’s a church two blocks down. I asked them to keep a plate warm for you. If you go upstairs now, you can get there before they close.”
“They don’t allow me to bring Pops in so you know I can’t go.”
“This is another thing I need to talk to you about. You know our county passed a breed-specific bill that bans pit bull ownership.”
I replied, “Officer Engel, you might want to have your eyes checked. Pops here is a labradoodle. Smell his feet – they smell like corn chips. That’s why I know he’s a Labradoodle. “
“Besides, nobody owns Pops here. He’s his own man. “
Officer Engel then reached into his front pocket and took out what looked like jerky beef and fed it to Pops. “I’m sorry, Jesús, I really am, but they will crack down on you. And street dogs will be the first to be picked up.”
“What will you do then – go from house to house like a kind of Gestapo?”
“I’m not guessing, but I know Animal Control will be patrolling these parts until the end of the week. I can get Pops to the shelter for you. Give him a chance.”
“The chance slim or not at all? No thanks!”
“Then find him a home – a real home.”
“I’ll do it right.”
And I actually did it. I knew exactly who needed Pops. There used to be a couple –Mr. Bitrot and Woman kind eyes;; He was a technician and dressed as if his mother were still laying out his clothes for him. She was an attorney for PETA. They had a dog, Homer, who looked like Pop’s twin. They lived in the neighborhood and often went to the park with Homer during lunch breaks and on weekend mornings. Now it was just that Woman kind eyes. Apparently, Mr. Bitrot moved across the country for a new job, took the dog, but left her. Woman kind eyes, clearly broken heart, still came to the dog park.
I followed Woman kind eyes Home that day – but not in a creepy way. I tied Pop’s rope collar to her doorknob. I rang the doorbell, then hid behind the overgrown oleander bush of her duplex. (I left my car in the park and just hoped it would be there when I got back.)
When she opened the door, she was startled. I wondered if for a split second she thought her dog and boyfriend were back. Then she loosened it and read the note I had tucked under his collar: You’re better off without him. I will never leave you. If anyone asks, I’m a Labradoodle. And an emotional companion dog. I could see that she was moved by my gesture. She invited Pops to her house and that was it.
Now I watch them go to the dog park. Pops looks over at me and wags his tail, but doesn’t try to come towards me. I understand. He has a new home and a new partner.
I look at the angle of the sun in the sky. If I go now, I can probably make it to church in time for lunch.