As we drove North I could not believe it. He was standing there in a kennel in the back seat of my car and he was beyond beautiful. I had slipped in my best disc for the occasion – Music to Encourage Stress Relief. He did not look stressed, but there were hours of driving ahead of us and the temperatures had soared well above ninety by now. Still, he watched me patiently and at times tried to look out a side window where one of the blankets covering his kennel had slipped down. He looked as comfortable as I could have expected him to look.That was good. Because we had some important business to get down to.
A name is an important thing (duh). I had no idea what this guy’s name had originally been. And I did not care. I figured that he had no happy memories to associate with whatever that name had been. The ladies at the Raleigh shelter had called him Roosevelt. I found out later that he had been caught on a city street with that same name. As Roosevelt he had experienced the first love that he had probably ever felt in his violent, miserable life. Edwin really liked Roosevelt – he’s an American History buff. I liked Roosevelt too. He sort of looked like one what with those sad brown eyes and hang dog looks. But..
I have this saying I like. It goes ‘Start as you mean to go forward’. I am sure that some of my friends think that I run it into the ground. It can be hard to follow but I think it sets a clear precedence and saves unnecessary changes down the road. Roosevelt was a good name. I still love it and I am sure the folks who knew him by that name loved it too. I am equally sure that they would completely understand my need to change it. A new name for a new life. A name that would convey that he was loved, valued and protected. A name that would attest to his street – smarts and his courage. And finally, a name that could make us smile. We are, after all, people with a good sense of humor and we don’t take much of anything too seriously. I had harbored a name in my mind secretly as I have mentioned before. It was time to reveal it and I wanted him to hear it first from me; directly from my mouth to his ears.
We hit a long, straight, vacant stretch of highway. I slowed the car down, took my eyes off the road and turned to face him. His brown eyes were looking earnestly into my blue ones when I said out loud “Welcome to your life, Ca$h Money”.
I had not been worried about Washington Beltway and Baltimore traffic in vain. The Washington Beltway really delivered. We crawled along for hours with the air – conditioning blasting. I was a bit uncomfortable. Ca$h snoozed peacefully so I hoped that he was not. I decided to stop at the next rest area to assess the Potty Situation. As he became more active we reached a Maryland stop. The entire evolution was successful. Jump out, whizz, poop, leg stretch, cool drink and back on the road. I was posessed. Not far from home now. Minimal evening traffic in Baltimore. I was watching my speed, though. We did not need any outside interference from the State Troopers. My Bluetooth rang in. It was Edwin and he was surprised that we were not yet home. We determined that I would still get home before he did. That was fine. There was plenty left to do before my head hit my pillow that night. And before I knew it, we were approaching our final exit. I so had this. I had gone home from work this very way at least five days a week for the last eight years.
Last night I lie awake for quite some time thinking about this very writing. I was trying to go back to Friday, June 29th 2012 in my mind. Trying to remember what I might have said in my excitement to Ca$h while driving the last few blocks home. Did I point to Cool Springs Park six blocks from home and tell him about the walks we would take there? Did I show him the Reservoir one block closer to home and promise him we would run up those four flights of granite steps from the Park into the reservoir and share cool drinks on hot days from the water fountain? I must have told him about the rabbits that abound on the grounds of the Whist Club two blocks away, right? And what about Tilton Park, only one block from my front door? With its crabapple trees and childrens’ playground it was bound to become a favorite potty – spot!
And then it hit me. Hit me hard. No, I hadn’t told him about any of those places. I had not even thought a single one of those thoughts. Because on Friday, June 29th 2012 I had no idea that any of those places existed. During the eight years I had lived in my house, I had not once stepped outside and ventured even the one unfamiliar block needed on foot to get to Tilton Park. I had no idea that the Cool Springs area even had a reservoir ideal for jogging and dog walking. I knew the ten minute drive to work and back. I knew the five minute drive to the gym and back. I knew where the closest grocery store was and where the dreaded gas station was. On a real Gold Star Day I ran a mile and a half to Wood Drive, turned around and ran home. Eyes on the ground four feet in front of me and feigning intense preoccupation with something, anything, if anyone looked at or spoke to me. What I now guess a lot of folks must have thought was snobbery or a busier – than – thou attitude was what I knew was simply being shit scared. Please remember that the next time you feel ignored or dismissed by some stranger.
At the curb in front of my house I rallied the last of my fading concentration and energy. I gathered all of the bags, bowls, purses, maps and water jugs and dragged them up two sets of stairs to the front porch. I turned and looked back at the car. Ca$h was in his kennel staring out the side car window intently. At me. I have read a good bit lately about Animal Communicators and Telepathy. Truthfully, for me the jury is still out on those two subjects. But if Ca$h had rolled down the passenger window and hollered Dont leave me! I could not have heard him any more clearly. And I did not care what any neighbors who might have been within earshot thought when I called back down to him I will not leave you! I will be right back! I quickly unlocked and opened the front door and threw all that gear into the foyer. I did not even bother to close the door before I turned and ran back down the steps to him. I opened the car door and reached into the kennel and snapped on his leash. Ca$h was all about getting out of that car. We walked up the steps together and he walked, without hesitation, through the front door and into his new domain. I left the leash on him and walked with him as he started exploring each rug, each piece of furniture and each room downstairs. He eventually found the staircase and headed up. Upstairs he sniffed beds and more rugs. He was briefly entranced and I got to hear his beautiful voice for the first time when he caught a glimpse of himself in a full – length mirror. He stared without moving and then gave a deep but quiet, single ‘woof ‘. I had to smother my laugh. He kept on looking without so much as a muscle twitching. Then I heard a low, matter – of – fact ‘grrr‘. I let the laugh out, patted him and told him what a goofy boy he was. He looked up at me and wagged his tail. I swear his eyes were smiling. I think he knew the joke was on him. And that mirror has never fooled him since.
He put to rest any fears I might have had about being able to go down a flight of steps. Ours can be tricky because they are hardwood and narrow. But they presented no problem as he plowed straight down them. It ocurred to me that he exhibited no fear , only curiosity about his strange new surroundings. He was truly a brave and resilient soul. After exploring, we settled on a soft rug in the living room and enjoyed resting up from the long drive while we waited for Edwin.
And then, Edwin was home. I heard his steps on the front porch. Ca$h and I headed towards the door. This really was a monumental moment. Edwin would be the second most important person in Ca$h’s life I figured. I wanted everyone to make a good first impression. I heard Edwin’s keys jingle in the lock and slipped my hand through Ca$h’s collar. Before the doorknob turned I called out softly to Edwin to say something to Ca$h and to come in approaching him carefully and gently.
Funny. Edwin just told me a few seconds ago that he does not remember the moment in any detail. I believe that I will never forget it. Edwin stepped through the door and immediately spotted Ca$h who was looking back up at him. Edwin said something like Hey! Who is that in there waiting on me? And hearing that voice for the first time, Ca$h’s tail began to wag. He pinned his big ears back close to his massive head in what I have come to recognize and love as my favorite gesture of his happiness and sweet submission. No need to worry about first impressions – this was going to be a very special relationship.
The three of us spent some time relaxing, watching television and slowly getting to know each other. When it came time to call it a day Edwin and I headed towards the stairs. Ca$h watched us go alertly. His kennel was nestled in a quiet corner of the dining room by now. From it he could easily see either Edwin or me in the living room. But he had completely avoided it that evening. I did not know it at the time but he would never express any interest in crawling into that protective nest again. Just the opposite. He had been fine traveling in the kennel but strongly resisted going back into it once inside the house. I figured he had his reasons. Later I would find out that he did and was glad I had not forced the issue. Ca$h elected instead to crash on a fluffy white Autralian rug. He did not try to follow us up the stairs and we did not coax him. Conscious that Edwin was watching me I knelt beside the big Pit Bull anyway and whispered to him that if he became frightened or lonely at any time during the night, he could come on up and join us. There was plenty of room for everyone. I was whispering for a good reason – Edwin had rules about dogs in the bed and we did not see eye to eye on the subject. But there was plenty of time.
As I crawled in bed I realized I was exhausted. I still don’t think that I fell asleep quickly. I seldom do. I remember I woke up a few hours later. I felt my way through the dark, out the master bedroom door and stepped gingerly halfway down our creaky staircase. I sat on a step and peeked through the rails.
Friday, June 29th 2012. One of the longest days of the year literally and figuratively. And I had totally dominated it. The proof was my Grand Prize lying on the very rug that to date I had never allowed any shoes, no matter how expensive or how clean, to touch. Ca$h was snoring loudly and peacefully. I watched him for a while and then crept back up the steps and crawled back in bed with my long – suffering husband who I love more than anything in the world and who was also snoring pretty loudly himself. It did not take me long to fall asleep this time. And I stayed that way until the next morning.