Fifteen years ago. I had longer hair, skinnier features, and the same truck.
I saw him outside the Mexican restaurant. He was nosing behind the dumpster, looking for food. I’ve seen that look on a creature before. It was desperation.
He edged away from me, but not quickly. He didn’t know if he could trust me, and I couldn’t blame him. It’s a rough world out there.
He wasn’t wagging his tail, so I took the same posture my father used to take in the presence of feral animals. I squatted and held my hands outward.
It worked like a charm. The old boy came right to me.
I was thrilled. There is something about stray dogs that awakens the dog whisperer in me. I whisper; and they run like hailfire.
But this dog didn’t run. He was black, with white spots, he had a chunk missing from one ear. He was timid, but he had a sweet demeanor. He found a special place in my heart from the beginning.
I have always had a thing for strays. This probably goes back to the day my mother first brought home a chocolate Lab named Cody. She was a dog with a warm personality that could melt a block of ice.
Cody wore a purple collar and licked me raw upon our first meeting. She became my fast friend. She was not only beautiful, she was the luckiest dog I ever knew.
There was something about her. Once, she was bitten by a copperhead, and survived. Another time, she was poisoned by a farmer with a grudge. She was sick for days, but she survived.
There was the time she fell off a fishing boat without anyone knowing she was missing. She almost drowned. But she didn’t. Somehow she made it to shore. That dog must’ve swam five hundred yards.
Later in my life there was another stray I loved. A Cocker Spaniel—also found by my mother. She was black, and I could tell she was old when I first met her. She had white around her snout and stiffness in her joints.
She was soft, and sweet, and she would keep my feet warm at night as though this were her God-given duty. When she died, I almost did too.
Enough about me.
The stray behind the Mexican restaurant became a sort of buddy to me for one day and a half. I called him “Marcelle,” I don’t know why, I just liked that name, and he looked like a Marcelle to me.
I brought him home and gave him a bath. Dogs love baths, even though dogs would never admit this. Even though they pretend to hate them. They don’t. Once you finish washing them, they get crazy.
Marcelle was no exception. After I washed him, he was a brand new animal. Happy, energetic, and completely insane.
I fed him raw beef, potato chips, and various snacks that were probably against veterinary regulations.
I have a long history of feeding pets food items that are bad for them. Once, I fed Velveeta to a pomeranian and that poor baby couldn’t go to the bathroom for a week. A veterinarian friend threatened to send me to the electric chair for that.
One night, Marcelle was sitting on my front steps, I was reading a book, and an older couple walked by the house. They were out for a stroll.
I don’t know why, but Marcell leapt off the porch to join them, and that was all she wrote. He was gone. I guess there was something about these people that appealed to him. The woman showered him with affection and called him “Poochie.”
She brought him back to me, but I could tell that Marcelle and this woman were made for each other. So I let him go.
She and her husband took Marcelle home, and gave him a good life. And I have no idea why I am typing this story to you.
I sat down this evening to write something altogether different, but I was interrupted, mid-writing, by an email telling me that a dog I once knew had left this world.
And I just thought the old boy deserved a few words.