Troy Daniels LAST ROW ON the left, against the wall, second
cage from the end." He was the only dog not barking. I had a
dog already and wasn't sure about adopting another, but I
decided to go see him anyway. A co-worker had asked earlier
in the day, "Did you know there is a Standard at the
Centerville Animal Shelter?" I couldn't think about anything
else for the rest of the day. The dog was emaciated to only
forty pounds and was listed as black. He had been brought in
a couple of days earlier with a Miniature Schnauzer; both
had been "severely neglected and abused." The animal control
officer said they had been left outside year-round and had
very little socialization. The Schnauzer had already been
adopted by a volunteer at the shelter.
When I saw him, he had been given a bath, and it was obvious
that he was gray, not black. I talked to him through the
noise of the other dogs and the chain-link fence that
separated us. He sat quietly and offered his paw. I was
hooked. I inquired about adopting him and was told that I
would be fourth in line. I didn't leave the shelter with
much hope. On Saturday I called to see how he was doing
after his surgery (he had to be neutered) and learned that I
could have him. I immediately drove to the shelter.
After it was established that he would get along with my
existing dog, we loaded him into the car and drove home. He
did pretty well on the ride home. But he was afraid of
everything the car, stairs, dog door, unfamiliar noises,
furniture, even me. He had never been indoors and seemed
more comfortable outside. He cowered every time we touched
or talked to him. This went on for six months.
We've had Jake for three years now, and it is a little bit
of a struggle to remember what he was like. He now weighs
around seventy pounds ....
As a Young child, I was forced to go on Sunday drives with
my family to various places in New England. It was normally
torture until one Sunday, when everything changed. I was
about nine years old at the time; my younger brother was
five. We stopped off at a roadside general store in New
Hampshire, which happened to have a petting zoo attached to
it. Much to our delight, my brother and I were allowed to
play with the animals; the owners seemed pretty laid back.
We joyfully ran off with a handful of quarters for the
machines that dispense animal feed and made our way inside
the petting zoo. My little brother had taken off for the
goats and sheep, but I took a different path. In the corner
of the pen was a donkey, a Sicilian Donkey to be exact. I
took a few handfuls of feed and approached him. He seemed a
little timid, but once he found out I had a handful of food,
we became fast friends. I couldn't believe how quickly he
became personable and cuddly. We played with the animals for
a little longer before going home.
Unfortunately, the family trips continued for some time. The
good thing was, my brother and I were promised a stop at the
petting zoo each trip. It was always the highlight of the
trip. After about a year, give or take a few months, we
stopped at the petting zoo one Sunday and saw a prominent
going-out-of business sign on the front door of the shop. At
the petting zoo section, there was a sign indicating that
the owner was willing to take reasonable offers for the
purchase of the animals, provided they get a good home.
As the Sunday rides continued, we would continue stopping at
the petting zoo. Each time a couple more animals would be
gone, having been sold. The "jungle" was thinning out in
this petting zoo. The donkey remained, having no takers. It
had gotten to the point where he was the only animal left.
During liquidation of the store/petting zoo, the owners had
draped a double-sided sign over the donkey's back with a
price on it. At first it was $400, which got crossed out and
re-priced at $250. This trend continued until the sign said
"FREE." This meant trouble for my parents ....
MY DAUGHTER DOESN'T love our cat the way most children love
their pets-as a toy, a playmate, a confidant for her
short-lived secrets. He is all those things, but he is more.
A symbol of her childhood. His name is Ocy, though it used
to be Jake.
I stepped into the living room a few minutes ago to send her
on some silly errand that had seemed so all-important, and
found them sleeping on the sofa together, in such inviolable
peace that it took my breath away, and all I could do was
lower myself onto a carpeted step and hush, and stay,
watching innocence like a movie.
She is spread about the sofa, leg on the back cushion, hand
hanging off the side, long shiny brown hair covering the
armrest and parts of her face. The furry symbol-not so much
fat as generously proportioned-is resting on her chest,
puffing up his belly in rhythmic breaths. They both have had
a hard day. She played basketball, cleared the dishes,
solved math problems, and zipped around the neighborhood on
her absurdly long legs. He had two naps and a meal.
I am watching them sleep and wondering if she understands
consciously what this cat means to her, and why she touches
him with such care and gentleness, and why she reaches for
him whenever tears are on their way, Does she know that he
stands for her happiness, her security of being loved: Does
she remember how it all started:
My daughter's name is Katie. It used to be Petra.
I found her seven years ago, in a standard way of the
electronic age-on the Net. Her face in the picture yeas
round, serious. Absent gaze. Circles under the eyes. She was
looking into the camera with the resignation of a condemned
soul taking in the barrels of the bring squad. A child
prisoner. I searched her face for laugh lines and found none