It was mid-December 1995 when we met Bob. It is a long story for another time why I was sitting in a car for eight hours on a Saturday with absolutely nothing to do other than read every single word of the Sunday Times. Normally it takes me about twenty minutes to wade through the Macy’s ads and coupons to finish reading the paper. But this day, I had nothing to distract me other than the embarrassingly inadequate Los Angeles Times.
It had been about four months since we lost Vinyldog, our sweet little black cocker who gave way to blindness, loss of hearing and senility. Vinyl used to sleep in her bed next to Billy’s side. Billy would lie in bed before lights out and stare at her. He’d turn to me and say, “She’s so fascinating.” One morning, at 6am, we heard a bony thump on the wood floor and we both woke up knowing what had happened. Our girl gave way. It tore our hearts apart as we drove her to a 24 hour emergency vet and said our goodbyes,
After four months of doggy silence in our house, although we didn’t know it yet, we were prepared to bring another four-legged child into our hearts. So there I am sitting in the car, combing the papers. I turned to the want ads because they had so many words to read it would eat up some time. I looked in the dog section and found a very small ad for an adoption fair being held the following day. I tore it out and stuck it in my pocket.
When I finally was released from my auto prison, I came home, got undressed and emptied my pockets. I was taking a shower when Billy popped in and said, “Hey what’s this?” He was waving the little ad at me as I peeked around the shower curtain. I told him I thought maybe we could just go and check it out. We didn’t have to actually come home with a dog; we could just look and see.
The adoption fair was at a pet store a couple of miles from our home. We got there around 11am and found dog pens surrounding the four walls. There were a few who were not holed up and lying on their blankets. The first dog was a large black lab with the name Bubba. We both bent down and stuck out our hands. He immediately put his big face into Billy’s outstretched palm.
We both knew instantly we wanted Bubba in our lives but to be fair to the others, we made a cursory circle to visit. We met Churchill, an older basset hound who was gruffly barking through his cage. He was cute but no cigar. There was eight-year-old Dexter, a German shepherd whose sad eyes begged for attention. We gave him some ear scratches and nose rubs then we looked back and saw Bubba watching us.
We turned around and went back to him. He was visibly grateful. Billy got down on the floor and was eye to eye with him. I sat there on the floor watching them and knowing we had found our boy. We looked around for whoever was running the show and filled out an application. We were told to call back in a few hours to further our adoption.
We went to a nearby Burger King to have some lunch then walked to the 99 Cent Store to shop. Billy loved bargains. He loved rummaging through rubble to find the prize. We bought some candy bars, a few glasses that had a fruit pattern reminiscent of the kind of glasses once offered in soapboxes and some other stuff I can’t remember. After leaving the store, we went to a nearby pay phone and called the number. I remember standing there, watching Billy as he listened and spoke. I could see how anxious he was to have this adoption happen. So was I.
An appointment was made for the following day for the adoption people to come over and inspect our home and yard. Our backyard has a tall fence surrounding it and the home is nice enough for an abandoned dog so we figured we were in good shape as parents. When Debbie came the next day, she was warm and seemed impressed we met all of the outward requirements to be approved.
Then she asked, “What happens if you two were to break up?” I stumbled for an answer, as I knew I was the one who would respond. Anger and outrage stirred up at such an ugly question, a question that would have never been asked of a married heterosexual couple. But diplomatically I answered, “First of all, we are not going to break up and honestly, have you ever asked that of a traditional couple?”
Debbie blushed a little and smiled, and I knew my response was assured enough for her to not only approve of us as the adoptive parents but also to question herself for asking. We made an appointment with her the next day to visit Bubba over at her house where he was being kept so we could get to know him better.
We both got home early the next evening from work and quickly ate so we could make our meeting with Debbie and Bubba. Leashed and ready to go, he trotted along as Billy held the lead. We went to a nearby schoolyard and sat on the ground for about an hour, petting him and firmly deciding “Bubba” was not going to work as his name.
“Bob!” Billy declared, “Bob Slobbers.”
“Why Slobbers?” I prodded because I knew the kind of response I was going to get.
“Because he slobbers!” he said definitively as if I just missed the obvious.
That was that. We walked him back to Debbie’s and said good night. The plan was to pick him up in two days. It was starting to rain and we went home and prepared for our new Bob. A few hours later, as the rain poured down, we got a call from Debbie asking us if we would mind taking Bob tonight because he was sleeping in an outside doghouse.
“We’ll be right over,” I hung up and we left. Bob seemed very happy to see us. We would later learn how much he hated rain. We brought him home, his new home, dried him off and brought him up on our bed. We didn’t even turn on the TV that night. We lay in bed and talked to him. We asked how his previous home was and what he liked to eat and what his favorite toys are. His eyes told us everything we needed to know.
For the first few weeks, every time we would leave the house with Bob left behind, we would come home and find a t-shirt or pair of underwear of Billy’s warmly snuggled underneath him. He would gather something from the laundry basket and keep it close. That something was always Billy’s.
It’s hard to explain to people when I say that Billy was a dog as well. I don’t mean it in a modern, Jerry Springer way of “Oh that man is a dog!” No. Billy had the purity of spirit and the soulful eyes that connected with other dogs. He would lie on the floor for hours, literally, with Bob and do nothing but look into his eyes and gently pet him.
To Bob, Billy was Daddy and I was Dad. Bob knew the difference too. Sometimes when we are in bed, Bob will suddenly look up and into the distance. I’ll say, “Is that your Daddy?” and he will let go of a guttural moan and I know, in that very instant, Bob and his Daddy are back together again.