My Shelter

‘Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood

When blackness was a virtue the road was full of mud

He came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form

Come in, I said, I’ll give ya

Shelter from the storm

When I married my wife, who is irrefutably Caucasian, I knew two things would happen. 

First, I would need to learn–and at least pretend to care–about artists like Bob Dylan. 

And, two, I knew the day would come when we had to have a very particular discussion. 

And that day was today. 

So I had my list prepared. 

“Melissa, these are four reasons we should NOT get a dog:

  1. I work in the city and you travel every other week, it would not be fair to the dog

You see, you put the argument that shows you’re a compassionate human being first

  1. If we’re thinking about kids, why rush into even more responsibility

Then, you make a point that is only loosely connected to create fear and confusion

  1. We have so many friends who have dogs, they’re always complaining. 

Next, you throw your friends under the bus. It’s not like they’re in the room, so no harm done. 

  1. We can become Wag walkers and get paid to hang out with dogs over the weekend  

Least effective, but as a semi-Gujurati, I was particularly proud of the last point. 

For two years, this plan worked or at least kept the peace. When Mel’s itch grew strong, we’d occasionally volunteer at this one shelter, Funny Paws. It’s run by this Trunchbull-type woman who was able to peer right into my soul. She knew everything about me and rarely offered me any of the free munchkins they’d have out at adoption events at our Petco. 

“Her name is Donna,” Mel told me one day on our way back to the car. “And you don’t need any munchkins,” she said right after that…

… and many times thereafter. 

“Oh, by the way” she said, “Donna and I had an idea…”

The two had formed an alliance and agreed to a 2-week fostering of a beagle. All they needed was my sign-off. I stuttered through my typical 4 objections, but they didn’t seem to apply to this short-term setup. I was not prepared. 

Hard to cite what would be “fair to the dog,” when the alternative was the dog dying or turning into glue or whatever happens to them when they’re not fostered. 

And, so, I lost. 

Limply, I did manage to carve out one pork barrel provision. Mel agreed to watch this one anime I’d been trying to get her to watch with me for 7 years. With us being home-bound because of this dog, I figured Naruto would be a silver lining to this new, deeply provincial, domesticated life. 

I was at work when it arrived a week or so later.

The texts and photos came rushing in:

“He’s in the car!” 

“I think he’s going to poop!”

A few minutes later…

“He hasn’t pooped”

Later came the selfies. 

“Look at him and his big, floppy ears.”

“He LOVES his bed”

“You think he’ll poop?”

And this onslaught ended with: 

“He doesn’t look like a Bob”

The shelter had given this batch a bunch of old white rocker names. Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Pressley, Mick Jagger–badasses basically–and our new temporary roommate had been named Bob Dylan.

I came home to find Bob, tail between his legs, hiding his face in his dog bed, which was placed inside an octagon-shaped toddler fence. So I moved to the couch next to Bob’s area and turned on the TV. 

Mel began to give me a recap of the day–it was strikingly familiar to the minutes I’d been getting over text.

Bob came out of his bed and sauntered over.  He stared down at my feet. 

“He was so scared when he was in the car. And I think when I walked him home, it was the first time he felt grass,” Mel recapped. 

I reached out my hand and pushed his big floppy right ear back. On the inside was a tattoo “666 666.” 

“Yea, and we’re not sure why he hasn’t barked yet. I read about these medical testing dogs having their vocal chords removed,” Mel continued. “But that might just be a rumor, they might just not be socialized to bark.” 

Bob put his front paws on top of my knees.  I looked into his eyes for the first time. They felt infinitely sad. 

“Hey! No!” Melissa said sternly as Bob looked confused and unperched. 

“I don’t want him thinking he can hop on the couch. You have to teach them early.”

Startled, he moved back to his bed, leaving Mel and I alone on the couch. I put on Naruto, excited to share everything about every moment about the first episode. About 10 minutes in, Mel left and went to sleep.

A few minutes later, Bob popped out of his pack-and-play. He’d been watching through the gate and now sat right beside me on the floor. 

He absorbed everything about episode 1, the journey of a misunderstood kid ninja shunned by his village.

I queued up the next episode. As the same 90 second music intro began, he tried getting back up on the couch. He seemed more comfortable resting on me while standing on two legs than standing on four. 

“Ok, Bob, so, this second episode is kind of filler to be honest. It’s just Naruto taking on a mentee, this preschooler Konohamaru, who’s this even smaller annoying kid.”

He hopped up on the couch. I looked at him just living his life and didn’t have the heart to tell him to get down.

I started to play with his ears. I held up the left floppy one to the light. 

231 321

“Bob,” I thought, “it’s a good name.” 

The middle of this story takes on the ramblings of a typical irritating dog lover. 

Bob’s first walk – he was terrified of the apartment hallway and hugged the walls the entire time. But within 3 days, he ran for the first time, and I think it was the first time he smiled. 

Something about that first run brought on his first poop. It was glorious and both Melissa and I breathed a sigh of relief. I’ll spare the details and skip right to the call.

It was the Trunchbull. Bob had found his forever home within a week. A young professional Greek mother with an adorable teenager whose Instagram account for her cat had more friends than mine.  

Melissa didn’t have it in her to come give Bob away, so it fell to me. 

So there I was, in that deeply mediocre Petco, looking at a bunch of idiots in their cat sweaters and dog-pun tshirts.  I guess I expected something magical to happen, but no such luck. 

I had my final moments with Bob, hugged him tight, and asked him to add me to his Insta. I wish there was something wise I’d said to him, but he’d learned so much on his own. 

I gave my cell # to the mom, handed him off to the teen and asked her to take good care of Bob. She looked shyly at the ground and said, “we were thinking of calling him Luke.”

That took me by surprise. 

“Of course you should call him Luke! Bob’s his slave name, after all” I joked poorly as this kind teenager looked at me with maybe 90% horror and 10% disgust.

Her mother’s numbers registered the inverse. 

I looked down and said, “well, uh, bye you.” I couldn’t call him Luke. 

He looked back up to me with his eyes. Eyes that have already lived so much life. Heroic eyes that endured all kinds of poisons called medicines. Eyes that would never have to see a lab again. 

I knew he couldn’t bark, but we locked eyes and I could tell he wanted to say something. 

I strained my ears. And I think I could almost hear it. 

‘Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood

When blackness was a virtue the road was full of mud

he came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form

Come in, I said, I’ll give ya

Shelter from the storm

Come in, he said I’ll give ya 

Shelter from the storm

We got a text two weeks later: 

“Luke barked!”

bob dylan

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