Our new dog is from Alabama.
For some reason, things didn’t work out down South and he was shipped up here to Milwaukee. With mange. It doesn’t reflect well on that part of the country, sending their mangy critters up to us Northerners to adopt. The shelter here treated him for it and swears it’s not contagious but still.
His name is Romeo but we rarely use his name. I always call him Buddy, Honey, or Sweetie – the same names I used for my other dogs and sometimes my kids, never my husband though, he hates terms of endearment. So we are working on using Romeo but it might be shortened to Romy. Three syllables seems too much for a dog’s name.
Romeo was in the last ‘cell’ on the right at the Humane Society. Lying in his bed on the other side of the room, he raised an eyebrow and his tail, what there is of it, wagged. When he decided we weren’t leaving right away, he came over to wag closer. He was small – just 28 lbs it said on his rap sheet – wiry, tan, and white, with a most abbreviated tail like it had maybe been lopped off by a hoe or a truck door.
In my mind, I had him living in a pen outside down South with a lot of bad barking companions, eating and eliminating happening every which way. I thought of all our new rugs at home, bought after our dearly departed BowWow’s diabetic-inspired peeing left new paisley patterns everywhere. He doesn’t know how to live inside I decided. Of course, they don’t tell you any of this stuff at the Humane Society, you basically have to create a narrative for your dog. Mine was that he was practically feral, that’s how I feel about the South, I guess, which is terrible but true.
As it turns out, Romeo has manners, a lot of them. He is attentive and pretty obedient, cheerful and uncomplaining. He is also, at least for the moment, profoundly grateful, which adds to his charm no end. He is mindful that there is, in our house, a ‘resident dog’ as the Humane Society calls her and he is properly deferential without being a wimp. It means that they can sleep on the same blanket, if only for a bit.
He is a dog who seems delighted to be alive. And he is young, only a year old, so he could be alive a long time. I forgot that calculus in my fascination with his wagging stump of a tail. He could very well outlive us or not. We don’t know. Or care, not right now anyway, there’s no point in thinking ahead.