Now, with that said, I can begin the tragic tale of (insert ominous music here) Deadly Lampshade.
It started off innocently enough. Our dog, a Cocker Spaniel named Chewbacca, needed some surgery. Chewie (as he's affectionately known) seemed to be popping out with giant lumps all over his body. The main cause of concern was a large one (about 4 - 5 inches in diameter) on his back, but there were several other smaller lumps that his vet didn't like the looks of.
The vet is obviously used to dealing with people who don't particularly want to spend money on medical treatment for their pets other than the legally mandated shots and so forth. He had almost a pleading look in his eyes when he told me that, while some of the lumps were almost certainly just fatty tumors or benign lipomas that were no problem, there were several of the lumps that seemed potentially dangerous, and that I really should consider having them removed.
Now, Chewie is our first dog. That is, the first dog that my husband and I got just as soon as we were in a place that allowed dogs. He was a stray who just started following me around one day as I did various on-campus errands for my job at the university. (The dog, not my husband.) There I was, minding my own business, when these two little bedraggled dogs came up to me and started following me.
They were wet, and muddy, coughing and sneezing.
They had on brand new collars, no tags, and big pieces of thornbushes matted in the fur of their little tummies so that they could barely even lie down without whimpering.
When I sat down for a minute on one of the benches near my building, they jumped up next to me, shivering, and trying to lick my face.
Let me tell you: it just about killed me. I mean, here were the nicest, sweetest dogs, maybe a year old if that, and someone had let them get in this state.
I petted them for a few minutes, and called out to various passersby, "Are these your dogs?" (They weren't ... to any of them.) After awhile, though, I had to continue my errands. I bade farewell, and walked across campus to the Personnel office where I had some papers to deliver.
The dogs followed cheerfully, even trying to go with me into the building.
"No. Stay," I told them.
Well, they didn't particularly listen, so I had to sort of squeeze through the door to keep them outside. I was in the building for a few minutes, not expecting them to be there when I emerged, but there they were, waiting for me.
I petted them again for a bit, then headed back towards my office.
Once again, they stuck to me like furry glue. They really wanted to come into the building with me. I sat down on one of the benches again, and the little black one jumped up into my lap, while the brown one jumped up next to me and sat there, quite dignified, his big brown eyes saying, "Pet me! Pet me!"
I think I sat there with them for about 15 minutes, and I really had to get back to work. I couldn't bear to leave them, and I felt I had to do something with them, if nothing more than take them to the local pound.
For some reason, I didn't have my car that day, and I certainly couldn't take them into the office with me. (Cue the old "No dogs allowed" song from the Snoopy cartoons here.) At the same time, I didn't want to just leave them there. Luckily, the office manager in the Dean's office was an even bigger sucker for animals than I was. I got to talking to her about the dogs, and she immediately said, "You take my car and get them to the Humane Society!"
Now, understand that she had a brand new car. I don't know what kind of car it was, exactly (Cadillac or Buick or somesuch), but I do know that it was absolutely pristine. Mint condition, so to speak. Leather interior -- WHITE leather interior, as I recall -- and all the luxury items. If a speck of dust dared to show up anywhere inside that vehicle, it was braver than Rambo with a loaded M-60 and 20,000 rounds of ammo. Said speck of dust was not long for this world if it showed up in that car, which is why I think most of the local specks didn't bother. That car was Mint, with a capital "M."
I hemmed and hawed a bit, trying to explain to her the condition of the dogs, making sure to emphasize "Muddy" and "sandy" and "wet," but she wouldn't hear of it, and pushed her keys on me.
"You take those poor little things to the Humane Society," she declared in a no-nonsense kind of voice, the kind of voice that would brook no refusal. "A little dirt is nothing to the health of a living being!" As a sort of emphasis, she produced a set of two dog leashes from her purse. "Now, go get those poor little things!"
Well, I quite agreed, so I took the keys. And the leashes. Besides, I figured maybe the car's interior would frighten the mud and sand into just staying on the dogs where they'd be safe.
"Maybe they won't even be there when I go back out," I said, partly to reassure her and partly to reassure myself.
When I left the office building, I didn't really think they'd still be there. After all, they were free. No leashes, no ties. Lots of people wandering around on campus for them to befriend. When I got to the door, though, much to my surprise, they were both sitting there, their little noses up against the glass, as though they were waiting for me. When I walked out, they ran over to me, their little tail stubs wagging so hard I thought their butts would fly off.
Stupid dogs. Break my heart, why don't you?
I hooked them up to the leashes, and managed to get them into the car. I was a bit worried about how the drive to the Humane Society would go, but they both seemed to know what to do. They lay down on the spotless white interior, gave a little sigh, and closed their eyes.
The drive seemed to take forever. I kept glancing over at them, but they were quiet, and seemed to be content.
At the Humane Society, the lady at the desk gave me a suspicious look, making me feel as though I had put them in that muddy, coughing, bedraggled state.
"Um ... I found these guys wandering around campus, and they didn't seem to belong to anyone, so I thought ... um ... I should bring them here," I explained.
I had an elementary school teacher once who used to look at me in a certain way when I hadn't done my homework. This lady must have been related, because she certainly had That Look down pat.
"No tags?" she asked crisply.
"No, but they have these brand new collars on."
"Well, we'll get them settled," she replied.
"Hey, they're kind of coughing and shivering. Can you give them something for that or have a vet look at them or something," I asked.
I was feeling really less and less anxious to leave them, but showing up at home with two dogs without prior warning to the husband would be ... well ... probably not exactly a good idea.
"Yes, they'll be fine," she said. The Look was fading a bit, perhaps because of my obvious concern for the strays.
"And ... they have all these long stickers matted into their stomachs here," I went on. At this point, I was actually starting to choke up a little, just thinking about what these guys had been through. "Is there any way maybe someone could trim them out or something? If you have some scissors, I can try to do it now if you want ... I mean ... they can barely lie down and they're so cold and tired and ..." I trailed off, not sure how to go on without my voice cracking. Damn, I had fallen in love with those guys! How the hell did that happen?
The Look softened completely, as did her voice. "Sure, honey. We'll have somebody get those out for 'em."
She came around the desk to replace the current leashes with the ones provided by the office there, and patted me on the shoulder. "They'll be okay, really."
"Do you think I should put an ad in the paper, in case someone lost them? They do have those new collars and all." The idea had just occurred to me.
"Yeah, that would be great if you could do that," she said.
"Well ... okay, then. You'll take ... good care of them? They're really the nicest dogs ..." I was choking up again. Dammit!
"Yes, honey, they'll be fine."
I took the next few minutes to say a semi-tearful farewell to my two new friends, and watched as the lady took them away to the kennels. I would have been fine, I think, but as they reached the door, both dogs stopped, turned back, and looked at me gravely with their big brown eyes, as though resigned to the fact that I was leaving them but wanting to get one last look at their new friend.
For some reason, that just killed me. I had to sit in the car for a few minutes taking deep breaths to regain my composure. I didn't know what it was that had caught me up so quickly, but these guys had really wiggled (and shivered, and coughed, and whimpered) their way into my heart.
(As a side note, it turned out that I was right about the car. There was barely a damp spot on the seats from the wet and muddy puppies. Dirt must FEAR the interior of that car.)
I stopped by the Dean's office to drop off the keys and leashes, and say thanks to the office manager, who let me in on another tidbit of knowledge.
"You know that if no one claims them in 3 days, you can claim them yourself," she confided.
Hmm. The thought was in the back of my head for the rest of the day, until I got home that night.
"Honey," I said to my husband after dinner, "You know how you've been wanting a dog?"
He looked at me with more than a bit of surprise, given that I'd been pretty resistant to the whole dog idea thus far.
To be continued ...