Monday, March 28, 2016

It's Jesus


He had been hanging around in the Santa Cruz wash, a big, brown dog, stick thin with black grease smeared around his neck and bib indicating he had been tethered on a chain likely salvaged from a wrecking yard. 

She was the fund-raiser for a project to build a new church and she was there for the entire day, attending each mass, talking to the parishioners about the project.

Between masses, she relaxed in a shaded area. The dog came to her and laid his head in her lap; heavy. You need to take me with you.

Sister Guadeloupe concurred; the dog needed to go with her. “It’s Jesus,” the Sister said; he was the manifestation of need.

At days end, he followed her to her car. He paused when she opened the door, riding in a car was not part of his life experience. This could be her out, but Sister’s eyes stabbed her in the back.

I can take him to the animal shelter in Tucson, she promised herself.

She had to use some body language to get him in the car, but once inside, he flopped on the seat and slept like a hobo who had been on the road too long.

At the immigration checkpoint on the highway, the sign sternly warned, ‘control any animals in your vehicle.’ This is it, she thought, a stray with no collar and no leash is not going to get past here.

He never lifted his head.

She phoned the humane society as soon as she got home, but they did not do intakes on Sundays. They did leave her with a plethora of ominous warnings about ‘a dog like that.’

On the after dinner walk, she ran into one of her neighbors.

What’s his name?

He doesn’t have one.

Despite her pleadings not to do it, the neighbor christened him. He was named Palmer, an un-dogly name. It was a spin-off from the name of their condo complex.

A dog with a name is hard to take to the shelter. She made a bargain with herself; she would keep him until …until he turned the garbage over, until he chewed the leg of the coffee table, until… 

He was the perfect gentleman in the house.

It was getting harder.

She took him to the vet for a check-up.  He was not neutered. In addition, the vet found some worms that were going to be expensive to eradicate. All in, with vaccinations and micro chipping, it was going to be about $1200, much more money than she had to spend on a dog she didn’t need.

Hearing her story about this dog formerly called Jesus, the vet enrolled her on his “Dogs in Need” program: free vet care for a whole year. Her vet was Catholic.

Palmer gained weight and his coat turned a glistening toffee color.  He friended everyone and delighted in children. He didn’t chase cats. At the dog park, he was accepted by the pack without the usual initiation swarm they put on newcomers. He found the biggest dog and laid a tackle on him. The other dog loved it.

Some months later, she had to return to the church by the Santa Cruz wash. It would be a full day so she took Palmer, but along the way, a thought struck her. Would Palmer feel pulled to his former life running free in the Santa Cruz wash?

Palmer stuck like glue all day. Was he attending to her anxiety, or did he have his own fears of this place?

He did not pause when she opened the car door to leave.