Monday, March 12, 2012
“Oh God, it’s Pam. Hit “ignore.”
I am sure that is the internal dialogue of most my friends in the past year. Ever since joining the world of animal welfare with Kauai Humane Society, I’ve become the dealer of dogs, kittens, cats and the occasional rabbit.
“Shari, do you know anyone looking for a sweet 6 year-old Lab? What about an Airedale mix? She fetches, knows “sit,” “heel” and “huli.” She is a rock star when it comes to fetching and returning. What about two little red kittens? I’ve bottle fed them since they were a week old.” And on and on.
“Petaling,” is what my friend Kim calls it. I’m a “Petlar.” I can’t help it. It’s the hazard of working in a building filled with orphaned animals.
My friends are afraid to answer my calls. Even my family cringes from a distance. The other day my sister e-mailed me from Chicago concerned about our 82 year-old, wheel-chair bound, mother’s request for an ancient Chihuahua – my ancient Chihuahua.
I’d been laying on the couch talking to mom on the phone as I stroked the silky head of my 15 year-old rescue, Javali. We adopted her from the shelter in February 2010.
It wasn’t my idea.
I was doing a stellar job of ignoring the purple sweater clad, grayish-brown quiverer. Pleading, moist Chihuahua eyes are not my weakness; well, weren’t my weakness. That said, my husband Wes dropped by the shelter on his way to the South Shore to do a plumbing job. I wasn’t around so he made the grave mistake of taking a tour of the small dog room near the lobby.
When I returned later, one of our veterinarian technicians greeted me.
“Hey Pam, I saw this big, handsome guy flirting with an older woman in the kennels.”
Ellen recounted the scene: Wes, in work boots, jeans and a predictable neon orange t-shirt was crouched and peering into a kennel.
“Hi there,” he cooed. “That sweater looks really nice on you. You sure are pretty.”
When we met 16 years ago, a deal maker for me was Wes's innate kindness towards the elderly and animals.
When Ellen caught him on bended knee with Javali he blushed, saying, “I’ll only adopt her if she comes with the sweater.”
When I returned home that night from work I told Wes he’d been spotted. He smiled for a moment, then his expression changed.
“What’s that dog’s story? She’s ancient. Did someone actually leave her there?”
“Yep. And it happens all the time,” I said. “Her intake card said the reason for surrender was because she was old.”
A few weeks passed and then Wes asked about her again. We were in our bedroom and he was sitting on the edge of the bed looking slightly vulnerable, so naturally I took full advantage; I am the Petlar after all.
“Poor thing. She’s still there.”
“Really?” He said. “Will anyone ever adopt a dog that old?”
Pausing, I let his question ripen, then I moved in for the kill.
“Want me to bring her home?”
He said nothing.
In our marriage, silence is acceptance.
That was 13 months ago. Even Wes admits adopting Java was one of the best animal rescue missions we’ve made. At nine pounds and now 16 years-old, this crooked. stick-figure of a dog barely makes a ripple in our pond. The four cats each out weigh her by at least 4 pounds and she barely dents the pillow where she sleeps between our two other dogs.
I grew up in a house where small dogs were never part of the animal population. When I talk to my mom about Java, she gets slightly befuddled.
“Why would you want a dog that small,” she asks.” Aren’t they yappers?”
I have my legs stretched out on the couch with a pillow under my head. Java is on her back on my chest making gravelly, muttering snores through her gray lips. I describe the scene to my mom.
“Mom, she’s a little old lady looking for a warm lap to retire into, just like you.”
That’s when mom said, “I want her.”