Dogs and the Man

2.19.2007

By Out.com Editors

I was in the foster-home system for two years. It was a very brutal time. I was beaten and starved, and went through a lot of abuse. There were no dogs in my life during those two years. Finally, my grandparents got legal custody of me when I was seven.

What I really wanted then was to have a normal family. And to me a normal family would include a dog. I would have these conversations with my grandmother and tell her I was getting a dog. There was never a 'yea or nay' response. I was one of those people who would stop along the side of a street when I saw an animal, and whether it had a tag on or not, I would kidnap it. Now I know that was a horrible thing to do. But I was so desperate for a dog's company. There were a couple instances where I grabbed a tagged dog that probably belonged to someone in the neighborhood, took it home with me, and fed it for a couple days. Sometimes the dog lasted a week. Sometimes it lasted a month. But my grandmother would call the pound to come pick up the dog, and I would come home, and the dog would be gone. I hope my grandparents didn't call the pound on any of those tagged dogs. Hopefully they just opened the door and let it find its way home.

If I ever asked my grandmother what happened to a dog, she would always pass it off as 'He (or she) just disappeared. I just came in the house and the dog wasn't there.'

I was careful with these dogs. I fed them, and walked them, and slept in bed with them, and when I left for school, I always made sure the dog was locked up safe in my bedroom. There was no way the dog would have gotten out on its own. Every day when I left for school, I would pray and hope that the dog would be home when I got back.

I went through many dogs that way. Probably ten during my childhood years. I got a Chow, around the time that I accidentally knocked three of my teeth out roller-skating in the swimming pool around the corner from my house. That Chow lasted about a
week. A mutt or two or three thrown in the mix. I got a precious little poodle when I was nineteen that was in the house for about a week and a half.

When I was ten, I had a dog named Boomer, after the TV show, Here's Boomer, about this cute little stray that traveled the country helping people with their problems. My Boomer was amazing. He would follow me everywhere. We met when I walked to our local park in the suburb of Houston where I grew up, and he followed me home. After that, he followed me everywhere. There was never a need for a leash.

It was very European of us. I love how, in Europe and Mexico and all these other places that I've been, these dogs can be so cool about walking in these big, urban areas with all these buses and cars and pedestrians going by, and they're right by their master.

What I really wanted, during those formative years, was to experience having a puppy, raising it and keeping it for a long period of time. But I never got that, because of my crazy grandmother. On many levels, the animals seemed saner than what was going on in my house. It was the stability factor that I got just by being with a dog in one room, the two of us, hugging each other in our own little world where there was no crazy family and no troubles.

I got so much affection from those dogs. I always let the dog lick me without making a face. I loved to let the dogs lick me on my cheeks, on my nose, on my lips, everywhere. They slept on my bed (and they still do now).

After the poodle at nineteen, I wised up. I left my grandparents' home when I was twenty-three, and there were no animals until I was twenty-four, living in New York City, with my own place. That was the first time that I got to have my own dog and have it stay with me.

My partner, David, initiated us getting what we thought for a long time was an Argentine Dogo by the name of Shiny. We've since learned that she's a mix of something, maybe half pit bull and half Dogo.

David is from Colombia. One day he got a frantic phone call from a friend of a friend from Bogot'. They were living in an apartment in New York temporarily, and had all of these puppies with them. Shiny had been born in Colombia and then flown to Miami and then flown to New York. This poor dog must have been so traumatized just by the air travel! Shiny was about six months old. It was the summer of '97.

All those puppies were beautiful, but Shiny made the most eye contact. And she seemed like the scapegoat. I think David and I empathized with that. There was something very heartwrenching about her, something that made her very special. The other ones seemed really macho. She's white with black freckles all over.

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