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Kay and the Wrong Dog Day 

March 23, 2010

Out driving today I met the ugliest dog I’ve ever seen and a dog whisperer who made me cry. This dog, he was the product of some back alley bad gene pool with a DNA strand longer than the Riemann hypothesis; a mashed face, half-tailed bundle of too-many-daddy parts about five inches high and twelve inches long, with way out of proportion ears the size and shape of two handheld fish nets. Seriously, if you lost cable in my neighborhood this afternoon, this dog walked by your house and interfered with your signal. 

It was raining, and there was a Jeep Cherokee stopped where a car would not be stopped unless something was wrong, and in this case a small animal beneath it was the wrong thing. It was sort of hop-dragging itself from one side of the undercarriage to the other. My heart wrenched because, unless you are breeding in my crawl space, I cannot bear suffering. I couldn’t tell what it was, but it crossed my mind that it might be first a possum, then a house cat, or an extra-large ferret. A miserable-looking girl stood on the curb opposite the Jeep. I pulled over and got out of the car.

“It came out of the bushes to my car! It won’t leave!” The Jeep owner, a young girl who looked to have been standing in the rain awhile, was shaken. I hunkered down in the middle of the street and still couldn’t organize the parts into a recognizable animal. 

“What is it?”

“I think it's a dog.”

Hm. I crawled up closer for a better look and got an earful. If there had been a helium tank nearby I’d have sworn this dog had just sucked up a lungful before barking at me. It was a confusing sound, all echoing back and forth between its ears the way it was. You can't get near this dog, but you can't leave it. What to do?

So cars are backed up because our two lanes are now one lane and I'll only let them through one by one so this wrong dog doesn't get himself completely dead. It's kind of miserable and wet and confusing to look at, it's still a dog. One of the cars stop, concerned citizens, and this guy gets out, pops his trunk and pulls out a blanket. 

"He's not going to let you near him," I say. "He's hurt and scared."

But this guy, he walks up to the Jeep, bends down, lays the blanket out, puts out his hand and starts murmuring words we can't hear, and the dog sticks his ears out. Jeep Owner and I have the best view. Passers-by are gawking as the face leans towards the offered hand. No barking. 

And then, the money shot: Wrong Dog, all shivering and helpless, gives the hand a lick. Hearts melt, lumps in throats, tears in eyes all over the street. And then he crawls out onto the blanket, lets the man wrap him up and he's no longer a genetic mystery; he's a terrified bundle of hideous cute with ears you want to scratch.

Wrong dog and the Dog Whisperer drove away in the rain, the rest of us wet and shivering animals swiping at our faces and streaming eyes that were not all due to the weather. We smiled self-consciously at one another and went our separate ways thinking somehow we've been involved in something special, and that we'll have better reception tonight. 

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