Leroy, my precious street-dog, is on the decline & my heart feels like it is breaking into tiny little bits, like a crumbling cookie. People always say, “oh how wonderful that you rescued that dog!” But really, it’s how wonderful that he rescued me. When I found him wandering on the streets of Los Feliz, I lassoed him with my H & M shrug and brought him home. Because what else could I do? He saved me from an unhappy marriage. He brought joy into my life and into the life of my beloved Corgi, little Quinny. The two of them were inseparable rascals, always up to some backyard shenanigans. When Quinny became very sick and I had to put her down, Leroy and I mourned her death. We were partners in sadness.
For the last year as I’ve been recovering from cancer treatment Leroy has been by my side, but now it seems his days as my canine personal support worker are numbered. We are up every night with his “doggy dementia,” and I am well aware that those who love me are worried about my health. I am not sleeping because of his cognitive dysfunction and that leaves me with a weakened immune system. Not ideal for a cancer patient. And yet, he still loves his walks. He enjoys the rush of finding a pizza crust in a bush. At the dog park he is reserved, careful not to get in the way of the younger more agile dogs, but he still thrives on it. The other day he met a dog as big as a pony and that thrilled him to no end. He still has a little sparkle left in him, but less & less. My heart is starting to prepare itself for when the sparkle runs dry.
“Do you have an extra ball at home?” he asked, his voice tinged with harshness. “Excuse me?” I answered, confused and annoyed. I’d been enjoying my daily shot of bliss – hanging out at the dog park – and I didn’t want to chat with a random peacoat wearing hipster boy with facial hair and faux broken-in chinos. I looked at him sideways, hoping that if I just ignored him he would disappear. But he crept towards me, one fake workboot at a time. “Your dog stole my dog’s ball. I recognize his sweater.” I stared at him and was about to start laughing when I realized he was dead serious. His eyes were full of well-seasoned anger, anger that couldn’t possibly have anything to do with balls.
A swoosh of fur went flying by, as a bossy Corgi herded a crew of six dogs, including mine. Surely I possessed enough feminine charms to get Random Hipster Boy to calm the fuck down. I smiled, flashing what I hoped was a Julia Roberts style warm grin. “That’s too bad about your dog’s ball, but Leroy didn’t take it, he’s not into balls and never has been.” I kept my tone light and airy, imagining pink spun sugar swirling out of my mouth. The spun sugar seemed to work against me, as Random Hipster Boy seethed with a newly enhanced level of anger. “I saw YOUR dog, in that red sweater, leave the dog park with my dog’s ball in his mouth.” My smile froze, pink spun sugar stuck to my lips. He was probably the type who would toss poisoned chunks of hot dog into his neighbor’s backyard, killing their pooch in retaliation for a perceived act of aggression, like their Maple Tree’s leaves falling on his deck. “Well, I’m not sure who stole your dog’s ball and again, I’m very sorry for your loss, but I assure you it wasn’t Leroy. But, you know, I have a 20% off coupon for PetLand and I’d be happy to buy a few new balls for the park.” As if on cue his dog ran up to him. Sweet Jesus it was ugly. It looked like a caramel dipped ferret. “Good boy Hashtag, good boy,” he said. “His name is Hashtag?!!” I cried. I couldn’t help myself, the words just flew past my lips, I tried grabbing them out of the air but it was too late. Random Hipster Boy eyeballed me hard, while Hashtag barfed up some kind of pebble-grass mix. “Next time you come to the park bring Hashtag’s ball with you!” He was fuming like a cartoon character from a 1940’s comic book drawn with its head exploding. He turned to leave. A ragtag pack of two Beagles, a Pitbull, three Chihuahuas and Leroy flew by, the same bossy Corgi herding them from behind. Sand and dirt filled the air and the Beagles howled.