Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dancer Dog

In response to a request (you know who you are!), I am continuing with my true story of Dancer Dog. At this point, my friend Samantha and I have just concluded an exhaustive search of the local shelter in pursuit of a dog for me. I have found a likely candidate, but...she's half Pit Bull and I have one question. Will she eat the cat they just put in the meeting room?


She didn’t spare him a glance. He was a dead ringer for my Kitty, too, right down to his semi-comatose state. That cat never moved the entire time we were in the room and Dancer treated him like he was invisible. After her initial greeting, she treated Sam and me the same way. She was just a nose on four legs, investigating every object in the room with almost desperate intensity, as though she had been so long deprived of any sensory input meaningful to a dog that she was stocking up. My eyes filled and I grabbed a tissue, intercepting a puzzled look from the technician.
“My dog just died on Friday,” I blubbered, though that wasn’t the only reason I was crying. “She had heart failure.” I didn’t want the girl to think I had been negligent in any way and I hadn’t. I had dosed Polly with digitalis, Lasix, L-Carnitine—anything the might extend her life span, all in vain. Bags and cans of her expensive prescription diet littered my back kitchen. I should donate them to some vet hospital, I thought. Maybe the one that had performed her echocardiogram, where the vet had looked at me with compassion and told me I could do all these things, but my dog was still going to die.
“What kind was it?” the technician asked sympathetically.
“A Bull Terrier.”
“Really?” she asked, looking at me with new respect. Bullies were notoriously hard to handle. “Then you might be a good person to take a pit mix.”
“Maybe.” I watched the bitch circling the room, ignoring us in favor of the good smells. “What’s she mixed with?”
“Probably whippet. She’s five or six months old and weighs 29 pounds. She should mature at about 45 pounds.”
I glanced at Sam. “The perfect size.” I had been raised with hunting dogs—setters and retrievers—and although I had thought I needed a little dog because I had a little house, 45 pounds sounded a lot more pleasing. Polly had been just slightly larger and Polly had been built like a brick wall. This dog--with her tiger-striped coat and black edging at muzzle, ears and tail—showed a lot of Whippet. Her body would be svelte even after she gained weight and she had the elegant, curved tail of the Whippet and the soft “rose” ears you see in that breed. Nothing ever got rid of the pit bull face, but she had a very sweet expression. Whippets were gentle dogs…the conscientious objectors of dogdom. Surely that would overcome much of Dancer’s fighting blood.
“I don’t suppose she’s housebroken?” I ventured.
“Probably not,” the technician admitted. “She was on the street and then here. But she’s very intelligent. If you crate her, she shouldn’t be a problem.”
“I have a crate,” I said, feeling more and more confident. She was old enough to sleep through the nights. “I think I’d like to take her.”
Sam beamed; no matchmaker making shiddoch was ever happier. While the technician took the dog back to prepare her, we went to the receptionist’s office so they could call the vet for a reference. My vet’s office was at her home and she was usually there on Sundays. I knew she wouldn’t mind being bothered for this happy event.
All my good feelings evaporated in an instant. My vet’s phone didn’t answer. It didn’t switch to a tape or a service; it just didn’t answer. At all. The receptionist’s expression changed as quickly as my mood. She thought we were trying to put one over on her.
“I know that’s the number,” I insisted. “I called it a hundred times while my dog was sick. Can you try again?”
She tried again. Nothing. She hung up with a look of increasing exasperation.
“I’m sorry. We can’t release the dog without a vet’s reference. She’ll have to stay here until we get one. If she’s still available at that time, you can try again.” Her expression suggested frozen tundra. No way was she going to hold that dog for me.
“I’ll be right back,” Sam said. While we waited, assuming she was going to the rest room, she marched straight into the shelter manager’s office. He was a personal friend of hers and had been to my house…seen my dog…met me. He knew where Dancer would be going and it wasn’t that easy getting someone to take a pit bull, even a mix. Within moments, he was in the office signing in place of the vet, issuing papers to us over the furious glare of his receptionist. She handed me the leash and a bag of dog chow without a word, pocketing my check like it was blood money.
“I’ll give her a very good home,” I promised. She didn’t answer.
“Bitch,” Sam muttered as we exited, and I didn’t pretend to think she was talking about my new dog.


  1. What a touching story, Miriam. Poignant and humorous. We've put down 18 & 15-yr-old cats and swore we'd never have another because of the heartbreak. Now we have 3 more rascals. Your Dancer story will surely strike a sweet note with pet lovers everywhere!

  2. Thanks again for sharing the story with us Miriam. It's a very touching story and I really enjoyed reading it. What a mean receptionist. I am the same way as Pat described. I have cats die and swore that I wouldn't get another. Now I have a 13 year old Cat who runs our home. hehehe I look forward to the next installment. :)

  3. What a great story...you must send this into someone. Sorry it took so long to get you a comment, but I'm hot and heavy with a new book...Wonderful, Miriam, as always. M:)