August 28th, 2005


Speed doggy dating

One of the first things I wanted to do when I returned home to Venice was get a dog. I missed the comforts only found with canines, and the house was forebodingly empty, emptier than I’d even known it. I signed up at a few rescue sites; one approved me when they came to visit my home, and the other, aptly named The Bill Foundation, gave a thumbs up without so much as a house inspection.

Once word spread that I was a worthy candidate, I started receiving phone calls and emails from foster parents looking to lighten some of their load. I visited a few dogs, but we just didn’t seem to click. I know that Bob, just like Springsteen, is an impossible act to follow––he was perfect in his manor, look, and affection. He was smart, smarter than me I used to tell people, and it was true.

I drove down to Torrance yesterday in blazing heat along the crawl of the 405 to visit Sparky. I hadn’t wanted to go because I hated his name, he had a curled up tail, and his face was less than friendly in the photo, but I went because I said I would. Plus, going to Torrance is, in LA-speak, so below the airport. The last email from Donna, his caregiver, said, “Be sure to bring your checkbook and a leash.” Donna didn’t lack confidence.

The pale lime green stucco house didn’t look like a teeming den of dogs from the outside, but once Donna opened the door, the barking was deafening, and in the middle of all of it was Sparky, who I instantly saw as someone who just takes a bad picture. The living room was filled with cages of dogs, each one yelping for attention. Donna’s glasses overpowered her sixty-something face even though she had the hair of Cousin It.

I sat in a tufted chair with stains, and called Sparky over. He immediately put my face between my legs. Hell-o-o-o-o-o, Sparky. This internet dog dating was turning out to be fun. Donna urged me to take him for a walk, and Sparky and I had some good one-on-one time. He stopped at curbs before crossing, and although he pulled on his leash too hard, there was something sweet about his lumbering hip wiggle when he walked.

We returned. I explained to Donna that I wasn’t going to take Sparky with me, that I had a few other dogs I wanted to see. I thanked her for her hard work and dedication. “Beats working for a living,” she chortled, and I realized she pays her rent through the three hundred dollar fee that’s charged for each dog adopted.

By the time I got home, an email from Donna was on my Blackberry. “Another family just called me from the airport. They’ve seen Sparky’s photo and want to take him home. If you want him, you better come back and get him.” I thumbed back a nice reply that if Sparky likes the family, he should go with them. This morning her email was more insistent. “Please give me an answer. I don’t have time to wait.”

The truth is Sparky was a fine dog; he just wasn’t Bob. More importantly, I think I need to settle in first and figure out my routine before I introduce it to an incoming family member. I’m going to take my time. I believe the right dog will find me. In the meantime, though, I like this internet approach. After all, how often do you meet someone who immediately puts their face in your lap?