Can you get me a dog to hang out with for a day that I can take drinking and grab some food with?
And just like that, a somewhat flippant text put a certain four-legged pit bull terrier/boxer mix in my charge two Saturdays ago. Asked by a publicist friend if I could write something to help promote Morris Animal Refuge, this was my solution for someone who writes mostly about food and music (and who usually stops listening once someone leads with promote).
This is the story of that day.
Walking in the door at Morris Animal Refuge, the giant Maine coon that I was told to look out for in their glass display was nowhere to be seen. Barking resounded from somewhere in the bowels of the building.
“She’s at an event,” the receptionist said of the missing feline.
I went to check out several incarcerated kitties while waiting for the director to come out.
The languid malaise read in one cat’s stare cued Sarah McLachlan.
There was a tortoise shell that reminded me of a cat my family had for nearly twenty years.
There was a plump, three-legged bluish gray cat.
I went back to Scratchy-Magee who was reaching out to me, her paw methodically curving inward as her claws slowly popped out.
It was one more room of cats before walking through a central room with a few small dogs and then up a ramp like the one Mr. Orange languished on in Reservoir Dogs.
“Go slowly—she’s afraid of men,” I was told of one of the dogs.
I was greeted by a frantic look and fierce barking by a medium sized black dog behind the first glass door.
“Heeeeey puppy,” I said futilely before moving on.
The next little cell was open and vacant. The other two held curious stares that made me feel a bit more like Randall Flagg in the moment when he came upon his eventual right-hand man, Llyod Henry, behind bars in Stephen King’s The Stand.
A massive pit bull stood outside in the courtyard, staring at me with its nose right against the glass door. It’s spotted, beige coat had it nearly resembling a hyena.
I check with the staff before opening the door.
Oh shit, as the dog goes rushing past me.
I stop him from pushing his way into the next room and he immediately turned to jump at the glass door standing between him and the dog in the third cell.
WHAT’S UP MUTHAFUCKA WHAT?! WHAT?! WHAT?! barked the dog behind the glass cell door, immediately going off as hyena dog launched forward.
I’M GONNA GET YOU I’M GONNA GET YOU I’M GONNA GET YOU, barked hyena dog.
Careful not to let hyena dog follow after me, I went back in the middle room.
“I did that,” to an employee who deftly handled it a second after disappearing through the doorway.
Just dogs being dogs for a second.
I went back to the front and Wendy Evans, Morris’s director of operations, gave me the low on my puppy’s situation.
Like many of the shelter’s cats and dogs, Princess Leia was surrendered by her adoptive family, meaning they gave up on things working out.
The reason? Among other “behavioral issues” she was a bit bitey, I was told. And, also common for a puppy, she was still learning her manners around people and other dogs. Evans related that being taken too early from her mother was the likely explanation and a common one behind behavioral issues that lead to pet surrender.
And then I met her. In a jamble of excitement, Princess Leia hurriedly scrambled toward me, with animal care attendant Chazz Van-damme Lopez following behind holding the leash that was to be turned over to me for the next 24 hours. Thankfully, Van-damme Lopez’s advice and insights on dog training lived up to his name (he was the employee who stopped gentle giant hyena dog from bringing the ruckus). After-all I couldn’t even clean my apartment beyond picking up a few ingestible things from my floor (I was given a crate for PL to sleep in over night).
And then, with a few chew toys and a wealth of dog poop bags, we were off.
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