Stopped at a red light, I could easily read the all-caps word beneath the license plate holder on the car in front of me. I couldn’t make out the smaller words at the top. Intrigued, I took my foot off the brake, let my car creep forward, and read, “My favorite breed is …”
I don’t know if “rescued” is my favorite, but it is the breed of my current canine companion, Tawny. I’ve lived with a broad range of dogs over the years, some with pricey pedigrees, others who strayed into my life, their parentage varied and vague.
Tawny is the proverbial Heinz 57 dog of many breeds and everything I never thought I wanted in a dog. For one thing, he’s a he. That perpetual lifting-of-the-leg on every piece of patio furniture and shrub — ach! Secondly, he’s a short-haired shedder, depositing clouds of golden fluff everywhere and on everyone. I keep an adhesive lint removal roller near the front door for guests who arrive wearing black and leave wearing Tawny.
Some six years ago, he showed up at my door as a tiny pup in the arms of a friend. He’d been playfully chasing her while she roller bladed in the park near me.
“I’ve already got two dogs!” she pleaded. I had but one, Daphne, an elderly black lab mix. I like to overlap my dogs — acquire a young one before the inevitable happens with the older one. I never want to be without a dog. I called the animal control officer, explaining that we’d found this puppy in the park — in case anybody called looking for him.
“Nobody’s gonna call,” he responded. Yeah, I already knew that.
I chose Tawny’s name based on the color of his fur. I imagined him growing up to be an elegant, dignified dog — there was a hint of golden retriever in his appearance. I should have named him “Coyote,” based on the trickster character of Native American mythology. His wide grin reveals his penchant for playful pranks.
At about age four, he began to bully Daphne, whom he’d all along acknowledged as alpha dog. As the bullying became rougher, I decided to find Tawny a new home. I was reminded, as I filled out the four-page application to turn him over to the Humane Society, what a smart dog he is. He would surely be a good companion for someone. The application process was interrupted because Daphne required immediate attention. She had a sore and swollen paw that turned out to be an operable cancer. After it was removed, Tawny returned to normal behavior. I like to think that he was not bullying Daphne, but the cancer.
Daphne’s eventual, inevitable demise was quick. A sympathetic vet ushered her painlessly out of this life last May, just short of her thirteenth birthday. Tawny mourned with me, for a while less frisky and playful. But we worked — both of us — to establish a new, even more loving relationship.
I’m not looking for an “overlap” dog, not yet. But I am pondering a basic question: when a dog strays into my life, which one of us is “Rescued”?