Has it been a year and a half already? It's hard to believe how time flies when you're picking up poop.
But don't take that the wrong way. This is the tale of two dogs, and two families that are thankful for them this holiday weekend, if not necessarily every minute of the week. Not to name names, but my family knows a dog who could figure out how to dynamite open a locked safe if you left a crumb in it.
In case you missed my dispatches about it at the time, our family took home a Corgi mix from a rescue agency for a one-week trial in May of 2013. My daughter had been begging for a dog for roughly five years, and then, five minutes after we brought one home, I lost it.
It was among my worst moments as a father. I let Hannah off the leash in a gesture of charity, and the dog immediately bolted, leading us on a chase that lasted several hours. During that time, we notified the rescue agency that the dog was lost, and they notified my wife that she had married an idiot.
We did, however, catch Hannah and bring her home, only to lose her again temporarily when my daughter took her for a walk the next day and she broke free, dragging the leash behind her. She later returned, but did not seem happy in the least to have us as an adoptive family. She was a fearful pup who may well have been abused, and it wasn't clear how badly she'd been damaged.
So I checked with three dog trainers, two of whom recommended that we take Hannah back and find another dog. The third suggested we spray lavender on all the lightbulbs in our house for a calming effect, and I knew we were in over our heads.
We took the dog back, breaking our daughter's heart, although Hannah seemed just fine with the decision. And when I wrote about our experience, readers pounced.
I was called a "brainless nitwit," among other things, undeserving of canine companionship. I also heard from an animal communicator who did nothing to ease my pain. She said she had "contacted" Hannah, who allegedly said she liked my daughter but was "a little bit scared of the dad."
I'm a little bit scared of people who think they can talk to animals, but that's another column.
As luck would have it, a stray came into our lives a short time later. A coffee shop waitress in Echo Park had found a mixed-breed mutt running the streets of Cudahy and Bell and tried unsuccessfully to find the owners. I figured that if the dog had spent 10 minutes in Bell, there was a good chance he had a bloated pension, so we took him in on a trial basis.
Dominic has been with us ever since, and he's a winner. Certain members of the family don't think he's the smartest member of the animal kingdom, but I beg to differ. Last week, he managed to open the zipped pocket of my backpack to get a nutrition bar I'd stashed there.
Can your dog do that?
And that wasn't all. After he pulled out the bar and sank his teeth into it, he was smart enough not to eat it.
It was vegan.
Have you ever had a good-tasting vegan nutrition bar?
Dominic may in fact be a genius. When he began neurotically chewing his paws, I did some scientific research — Google has all the answers — and stumbled upon a perfectly plausible explanation: Intelligent dogs are easily bored and chew on themselves because they need something to do.
On the other hand, if you dangled a scrap of food off the lip of the Grand Canyon, just out of his reach, there's a pretty good chance Dominic would leap to his death.
At the risk of inviting more attacks on me from dog lovers, I'm going to admit that Dominic has twice sniffed out a stash of candy on Halloween, his favorite holiday. They say chocolate can be deadly for dogs, but Dominic seemed to thoroughly enjoy living on the edge, and it turns out that Kit Kat wrappers can pass through a dog's entire digestive system intact. He does his business, you go to clean up, and what do you see but a reconstituted Kit Kat bar?
As much as we love this little mixed-breed mutt, we do think about Hannah every once in a while and wonder how things might have worked out if we had kept her. So last week, I decided to find out how she's doing.
It turns out that even before we knew about Hannah, a South Bay couple were pining for her. Lee and Greg, both attorneys, had fallen for her after seeing a photo on the website of a Los Angeles shelter. But before they got there to claim her, she was taken by a rescue agency, which sent her home with us for the one-week trial.
Lee was disappointed, thinking Hannah would not be available again. But she called the agency a week later and was told "the dad was walking her and she got off the leash," among other problems. So the day we brought Hannah back, Lee and Greg took her home.
She was a little withdrawn at first, says Lee, but she warmed up quickly, and they're as happy with Hannah as we are with Dominic. Hannah has tried to make a break for it once or twice, Lee said, but only to chase squirrels. Dominic goes nuts for squirrels, too, and Lee offered to arrange a play-date.
She also sent me a very sweet email:
"It occurred to me that your daughter might still feel some regret and pain at having let Hannah go. I would appreciate it if you could let her know that Hannah has truly been a blessing to us, and we can't imagine our lives without her.
"Our jobs are so stressful, and we can see such horrendous things at times. Hannah is so sweet, even-tempered and loving, and coming home to her each day helps so much. We feel grateful to be able to share our home with her. Please tell your daughter 'thank you' on our behalf."
That was very much appreciated, and I've passed it along.
But what about me?
After all, I was the nitwit who let Hannah off the leash. And based on the air-tight testimony of the animal communicator, Hannah might not have run for her life if she wasn't afraid of me.
But for two rescue dogs, and two grateful families, things have worked out pretty well.