Just Another Stray

As told by QP:

I’m going to tell this story because it deserves to be told. Maybe it’s boring or stupid or a little too “Made for TV” movie-ish, but whatevs. It’s mine.

It was a warm summer night. My partner and I needed to run out to pick up some smokes and late night crappy drive thru food. Since he would be the one going into the store I didn’t even get dressed. I threw on some fuzzy slippers and we were on our way. We ran through the Arby’s for the noms, then stopped at the gas station. He went in. He came out a few minutes later, saying I HAD to go inside. I told him hellz naw, not in my t shirt (no bra), sleepy pants, and fuzzy slippers. He said there was a puppy in the store and I needed to come inside and see it.

Now we had been discussing a dog for some time. I lived with a roommate when he and I met and she had this amazing dog. The dog was super smart, sweet, and just freakishly awesome. I never knew what kind of dog she was but I knew I wanted one. So we had been talking about it but in a “I want a clone of the roomie’s dog” (read: not realistic) sort of way.

So ok. I (with curly fries in hand cuz those fuckers are GOOD) go tottering into the store and right there in the entryway was this dog. The first thing I said was “thats NOT a puppy!” while I eyed my partner suspiciously. She was a nondescript color, dog shaped, medium to large sized, with big yellow eyes. I looked at her. She looked at me. There were other people in the store but she wasn’t paying them any mind. I walked up to her and petted her. Again, she just kinda looked at me. She was clearly not afraid but wasn’t all slobbery and grovelly. She was clearly reserving judgement on me.

The clerk was a young kid. He told us that an SUV pulled up by the gas pumps, and he watched as the driver threw this dog out of the car window. While it was still moving. Then the car sped out of the lot. There was a lady there who said the dog was a pit bull. She told us about how they didn’t want to call the pound because this dog would not have a chance. They would euthenize her immediately due to her breed. She urged us to take her home even if it was to find her a permanent home. We had a large fenced in yard, so we agreed. I looked at the dog again. I squatted next to her. I fed her a curly fry. I got up and walked over to the door, waved another curly fry at her, and she happily followed me out of that store and into my car. We left that store, a Circle K, and Kayce was born.

She wasn’t in the yard 2 days. I don’t know who the hell I was kidding. I gave her a bath the next day. Apparently there was a tan and white dog under all that dirt. So we welcomed her into our home. She learned quickly that the cats ruled the house and she bowed down to their greatness enough for them to allow her to stay (with much shunning and general distaste). I did an ass ton of research. She was a pitt bull/lab mix. Just another stray, one of millions of dogs bred by hoodrats and used as a status symbol. She had never had solid dog food. Whatever they had been feeding her came from a can. I had to mix kibble into wet food for her to eat it. Also, whatever her diet was previously gave her the WORST DOGFARTS EVER. I literally cracked a window at night because I was worried about us dying in our sleep. As a sidenote I told a friend about her and how similar she was to the ex-roomie’s dog. Guess what? Same exact mix.

We quickly became her family. She bonded with us both, but honestly she bonded with him in a different way. He was her man. He had her heart. She and I became very close, she listened to me more, she followed me around, she looked to me as her leader when she was scared or unsure, but her eyes had a special sparkle when he came home from work.

Everything was gangbusters until his behavior because problematic. See he was bipolar. And alcoholic. He was a wonderful partner unless he was manic. He was sober, until a mania hit. Then we would negotiate these horrifying rapids of insanity. He would yell. He would throw things. And eventually, he started hitting me. During a particular bad screamfest I was curled up on the bed, crying. He was standing at the foot of the bed, screaming. She was curled up with me under the blankets. He hit my feet for emphasis. She shot out from under the covers, stood on the end of the bed facing him, and growled. Not one of those “srsly, quit it already” noises that we had heard from her occasionally. A real growl. It said in no uncertain terms that she was going to bite his fucking throat out if he didn’t back the fuck off. That was the first and last time I have ever heard her make that noise. And he did back off. She protected me against her man, her heart, her Daddy. That cemented it between us. Maybe I wasn’t her first preference, but when the shit hit the fan she picked me. I vowed to always pick her to return the favor.

Some months later he went manic again. This time was particularly bad. I ended up sleeping in my car. He punished me for leaving by putting her out of the house. He literally opened the door and told her to leave, then shut the door and got drunk/passed out for the next 12 hours. The next day I got a call from a mutual friend asking where Kayce was. It was new years eve. I called the pound and confirmed she was there. It was 7pm. I went straight there. I was in a panic. Knowing their policy, that even an obviously well cared for dog, with a collar, with ID, with a rabies tag, with a microchip, might still be put to death without even attempting to find the owner. I bribed the night caretaker. Flat out, I asked him how much he needed. I told him that if he did not let her out I would drive my car through the goddamn fence and steal her. I cried. I begged. I wrote an outrageously high check. He relented.

I delivered pizza that night, New Years Eve, with Kayce as my co-pilot. She and I slept in my Honda Civic for two weeks, and delivered pizza at night. I probably would have gone back to him, again. I probably would have put myself at risk and allowed him to chip away at more of my self esteem until I was just an oozing puddle of sadness. But I could not take her back there. Not after what he had done to her. By kicking out my dog he really opened the door to me leaving him for good.

So I did. We moved on, she and I, and had a good life. A few months after the breakup he called me one day. He told me he loved me. He told me his life was over without me. He told me he had no future. Then he placed a gun in his mouth and blew his brains out. While holding the phone. With me on it. I nearly died of that gunshot wound, too. His death hurt me in a way that is indescribable. I contemplated suicide every singe day. Every single minute. If it wasn’t for Kayce, and knowing that no one in their right fucking mind would care for her the way I did, I would have probably done it. She was the constant companion. She was the one I cried to every day. She was my safe place, my one friend who would never say dumb shit like “It will get better” and “I understand”. Because dammit she was smart enough to know better!

Fast forward a few years.. we had good times again. We moved a lot. We ended up here in Greensboro. I was living with a partner, but things were not meant to be. I had to move, and I could not take her with me. My mother offered to take care of her until I could. I happily accepted. She loved my mom. I would still like to think that she and I had a super special bond, but she and my mom got along really well. They were like two peas in a pod. Mom played ball, mom threw sticks. Mom even trained her to shit in the woods, not in the yard (I told you she was smart!) It was so hard to live without her, but what got me through was knowing she was happy and loved and living a wonderful life until I could have her live with me again.

So I got a phone call today. Kayce was hit by the school bus. She died on the way to the vet.

In all these years she and I have been together it wasn’t until today that I realized that she wasn’t the stray who needed saving. I was. And she did a bang up job of it. This one dog, this one filthy, farty dog, this one creature in a million helped me through some of the toughest places I have ever been. And she did this effortlessly, with an ever wagging tail.

This one’s for you, Miss Kayce Jackson. I hope there are lots of squirrels to chase in dog heaven.

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