Love song in the key of C, for canine


She was blond, underweight and beautiful. According to societal stereotypes, I should have hated her. Instead, I wanted to bring her home with me. If only I could talk my boyfriend into it.

There we argued three years ago, at the Nevada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, about our prospective dog.

She shakes and she's weird, he said in a whisper that wanted to be a yell. I love her, his now-wife replied.

We signed the adoption papers a few hours later. Love always wins. Now, if only Penny - as he named her for her copper-colored eyelashes - could win him over.

Two years old, beagle mix. That's what the tag read that hung from her crate and that's all we knew about her. We had no idea why she trembled, refused eye contact, and cowered around men. But our imaginations could figure it out. And our imaginations still entertain run-ins with her previous owners.

My husband didn't grow up with dogs, like I did, but he always wanted one. That should've made adopting Penny a dream come true. Except for one little problem. He had the nerve to desire a dog that did dog things, such as bark, fetch and sniff strangers' crotches. Penny wanted none of that tomfoolery.

Still, he found a way to blow $300 on her at PetSmart, a rhinestone-studded collar included.

That was the first sign he was warming up to her. Sign No. 2 arrived on night No. 2.

I had one policy about our new roommate: She couldn't sleep in our bedroom. Of course, establishing the rule proved much easier than enforcing it. We slept upstairs in our bed that first night, wondering what she might be doing downstairs in her bed. The next night, she crept her way up to our door and we ordered her back down. Guilt kept me up, though, and I decided to check on her.

When you discover a frail, four-legged little thing cuddled up with a slipper, you quickly learn how those parents wind up sleeping with a toddler between them for years. When you tell your husband it was his slipper, you hear words you never thought possible.

With Penny slumbering away in a bed right next to ours, we could both finally do the same. But not before my husband whispered this: "You know, before I didn't really care, but man, I really hate Michael Vick now."

That's how you melt the heart of a woman who lives with a sports fanatic. For him to say that about the star NFL quarterback who, at the time, was serving a prison sentence for operating a dog-fighting ring, sounded nothing short of a puppy lullaby. And, he's been singing in that key ever since.

Penny just turned 5 in human years, which means she's my age in dog years. That might explain why she thinks she's my shadow.

I can walk up the stairs, down the stairs, out the back door, around the pool, through the front door and one thing is certain. She will be trotting along beside me the whole time, tail wagging. She even lies on our bed and stares at the bathroom door while I shower. Some might call her a creepy stalker. I call her a loyal companion.

But it's only because I'm the woman of the house. We've had friends of ours, couples, dogsit her when we go away. She'll buddy up with the female half of the couple. The male half still gives her the shakes.

The other day I saw something that lent some perspective. My husband snapped his fingers and Penny obediently ran to the top of a short stack of stairs in our living room. She sat so upright, her dark eyes staring at his and refusing to blink.

I wish I could tell you what came next. It was the routine that struck me. Clearly, they'd done this before. My husband and I work opposite schedules, so surely he and Penny have their own relationship, their own drills. But, for an untrained dog to react that quickly to snapping fingers fascinated me.

I inquired about it, shocked. He answered, casually. "That's where I say goodbye to her every day."

And that's why, at the dog-age of 35, Penny trusts and loves only one man.

Contact Xazmin Garza at xgarza@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0477. Follow her on Twitter @startswithanx.

 

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