It was early morning when Dad woke us up. Usually, when he tries to get me up on a weekend morning I tell him, “Leave me alone, go away, don’t bother me!”
Yesterday morning was different, getting up and dressed and being ready was easy. Finally we were going to the animal shelter to get the puppy I’ve been waiting for my entire life.
Jackie on the other hand was moving as slow as a snail. I stood at the door, tapping my shoe on the floor. Annoyed, I waited while Jackie had to have her morning bowl of cereal.
“Jackie let’s go, we’re late,” I plead with her to hurry.
“Christina shut up! I can’t hear the TV,” she replied.
“Dad Dad, Jackie is having cereal, tell her to leave it, I wanna go now,” I begged Dad.
Finally after a lot of yelling, we got in the van and left.
After we drove a while into the desert from town I saw the sign, County Animal Shelter. The arrow pointed up a long dirt road. At the end of the bumpy road was a dull gray building.
Around back was the kennel area. At this distance, the compound looked neat and tidy, with animal pens in neat rows. I could see some of the area where the dogs were kept. In the front were a few parked cars and a big front door with one window.
Loud sounds of barking dogs came from behind the building. No wonder they put this place way out in the middle of nowhere. But the closer we got, the noise got so loud it sounded like a fox hunt was going on in the back. And the building seemed to turn even grayer.
I was very nervous as I lead everyone across the stone parking lot. Jackie and Dad followed close behind me.
After knocking on the steel door, a man in black coveralls, hair slicked back, and parted down the middle, slowly opened the door. The barking got even louder and I was hit with a wave of the pungent smell of a dog pound. The older man with a kindhearted smile greeted us. My guess he’s the dogcatcher, his appearance and pale face made him look like Dracula, lacking only the makeup and cape.
“Looking for a pet?” he grinned.
“Yes,” I answer back.
“Right this way, you folks just look around,” Dracula said.
“Follow me,” I ordered.
I whispered to Jackie, “That guy looks like Dracula, look at his hair.”
We laughed as we walk through the hallway into the inner chamber.
Dad reminds me, “Christina remember we want a nice friendly, house-broken, and fully grown dog.”
“Poppy, Poppy, (I call Dad Poppy sometimes,) I heard what you said, now stop with the pressure okay,” Trying to get him to back off and leave me alone.
I wandered from side to side on the walkway between the large and small cages with big and small cats and dogs of all colors inside. Creeping through the maze, I looked left then right, checking each animal, yet pass one after another. Occasionally I hesitated for a moment to take a closer look, but continued my journey down the endless corridor of forlorn and cast-off pets. I was heartbroken looking at all the cats and dogs with no homes. Surplus animals, once loyal and loving pets, now no longer needed, discarded members of society wanting to be taken care of.
Dad whispered in my ear as if the animals were listening to him, “After sixteen weeks in the pound they will be put to sleep.”
“Put to sleep? What does that mean?” I blurt out loudly. Is he saying that they are to be killed or murdered?
“They have to be euthanized, destroyed.” He finished his thinking.
Instantly I became flush, my face red-hot. Each one of them needed a home, to be loved, before it’s too late. Gasping for air, I was horrified at the thought that any one of these animals would be destroyed.
Now my morning at the pound was no longer joyous and full of promise. It was more like a slow motion death walk in a horror movie. Frame after frame passing before me with animals being led to the gas chamber where they were to be taken care of all right.
The morning was slipping away, there seemed to be more and more animals, and choosing just one became more complicated. I wanted to save them all. Maybe even lead a jailbreak and set them all free.
Jackie followed me through the aisles of animals while Dad was left behind somewhere.
Nearing the end of death row, I became full of fear and anxiety. Animals jumped toward me as I passed their cages, wanting to be saved from their ultimate fate.
If I reached out to one, it lunged to the side of the cage, crashing into the wire wall trying to kiss my fingers. It was as if they knew their fate and knew that I was their savior. But nothing could save all of these animals.
Unexpectedly, I spied a little white puppy curled up in a ball with its littermates. It looked up at me with pointed ears too big for its head and a shining black nose. It was the cutest puppy I had ever seen. It jumped up on the side of the cage letting out a yelp, calling me.
This puppy was so pretty, a German shepherd looking girl. She had the deepest steal grey eyes and a long snout on its big head. Her tail curled up over her hind legs like a Husky as she stood on her back legs up against the cage, nibbling on my fingers with her pointed white teeth. She was so beautiful, and had such soft ivory fur. And those big floppy paws were too big for her body, just like her ears. I hope she doesn’t grow into those paws.
Jackie,” I shrieked, “here’s the one, here’s the one!” Feeling joy that I have not felt for as long, long time.
Just then Dad caught up to us. I petted her through the cage as she ran around my hand like it was a toy to tease and chew on.
“Can we take her home Dad?” I looked at him.
“Hey,” Dad moaned, “I thought we agreed on a grown dog, one that’s already trained and house broken.”
Jackie stooped down next to me and the puppy licked both our faces through the metal mesh. It was love at first sight for her too.
“Jackie you want this one right? Say yes,” I pleaded with her.
“Dad let’s get this one,” she agreed.
“Dad, I want this puppy, she will be a good watch dog and protect Jackie and me. Grown up or not, please Dad,” sounding like a beggar but not caring.
Dad was reluctant to commit, something about it being too much work, or some other reason. I didn’t know and didn’t care what he was thinking. A long pause followed. He seemed to be weighing his options.
I didn’t see it as a difficult choice. On the one hand he could disappoint us and spend the rest of his days in hell, or take the puppy and win the Greatest Dad of The Day Award.
“Okay, Okay,” he says as he steps up to the podium for the Best Dad Prize.
Jackie and I disagreed on almost everything. But not this, the puppy was coming home with us. This was the first thing we had agreed on all week, maybe all month.
Dad was surprised there was so little paper work to adopt our puppy. He only had to sign a release and the puppy was free to go.
Holding her in my arms, we headed for the exit when Dracula, the dogcatcher, came from his coffin to wish us well.
I stopped and looked at him, “Where did she come from?”
He replied as if he knew the origin of every animal in the pound. “That one came from the desert. Someone found the three of them roaming around and brought them in.
They had no mom or dad with them. Not much chance they would have made it to sunrise out there in the dessert. Something would have had them for dinner. I think your Shepard pup is a coy dog.”
“A coy dog? What’s a coy dog?” I inquired.
He answered, “A coy dog is half coyote and half dog.”
Stunned by his answer, I feel my face flush and my eyes blink rapidly. Did he say coyote? Did Dad hear what he said?
“Thank you,” I hastily turned heading for the door.
Running, I cradled her in my arms and dropped my face into her soft fur hoping no one else heard what the dogcatcher had said. They might want to take her away. I’ve never heard of a coy dog before, never knew such a thing existed. But the dogcatcher said it, so it must be true.
After that, I don’t remember very much, just holding my puppy and running for the car.
“Hurry Dad, drive, drive,” I shouted, “I don’t ever want to lose her.”
He answered, “Don’t worry Christina, no ones going to take her away from you.”
A few minutes later we were driving home. I keep thinking about the news of my puppy being only half dog. Even our drive though more desert wasteland doesn’t distract me from worrying about her. I’m so tired of this place, nothing but desert everywhere.
The desert is a dangerous place compared to the place we used to live. Back East there is little risk of being killed by a scorpion, rattlesnake, or a pack of coyotes. Nor is it likely you will die from starvation, thirst, or exposure if you get lost. But out here in the desert you can die from any of these.