09 February 2009
She came into my life unexpectedly, as so many good things do. I was visiting with a friend in La Jolla and at end of day, strolling down a shopping street, I noticed a few people clustered in front of a pet shop. I don’t really know why I looked, nor why I stopped, but it was a group from an animal shelter in Chula Vista and they were packing up after a day of trying to seduce passers-by to adopt homeless animals. Mona was the only dog still there, perched behind a make-shift fence, but there was no need to fence in this dog, she had already learned that there was no where to go. She looked up at me with eyes almost blue and I swear I heard her say, “I don’t expect much.” But you should, I thought, because I knew at first glance that there was an elegance to this short-legged barrel-shaped little mutt. I was smitten from the first. Frankly, I’m not sure which of us needed a friend more. No matter. I wasn’t allowed pets at my rental cottage but I talked my landlord into allowing her to stay and took her home to Laguna Beach where she found not only a safe place but a village, a neighborhood of dog lovers who loved and protected her and gave her the safety net I think she may never have had. She came to me openly and with hope in her eyes, but also with tumors inside that we tried to heal but they had staked their claim. 20 months was all we had together but it was a small lifetime. We’ll never know exactly where Mona came from, nor her full story. I can only conjecture based on the dog we came to know. She had never been neutered and had several litters, and at the shelter they had to sedate her to clean her teeth and clip nails, but somewhere along the line she had been loved, as she responded so well to it. I suspect her original family was poor, but caring. And she must have lived with children because the very sound of young laughter made her ears perk up and she always sat so patiently to allow them to pet her, as if a remembrance of a happy time. She came to me anxious and skittish after who knows how long on the streets and six months in a cage in a shelter plus one month with a foster family with alpha dogs, but she also came to me fiercely independent and determined and with a sweetness that is utterly indescribable. She was at first afraid of strangers, especially men, and also of shoes, which must have been at the bottom of feet that kicked her. Still, in a matter of moments, she seemed to know she belonged to me and adapted quickly to a simple life. She loved long walks, albeit slowly so that she might sniff every single low-growing flower and every post and beam. She loved car trips and would have been happy to wait in the car for me all day at work, as she never loved being home alone, although she never complained, only spun around in delight when I came to collect her, the same little dance she danced at feeding time, which was never often enough. She loved going out to breakfast or lunch and would wait patiently for her share, staring up at me all along, grateful for every bit of potato or scrambled egg or bagel. Pizza crust was the rare and most favorite treat of all. And before long, she relinquished her fears and stopped to examine every dog and looked up at every person who might have a treat for her. She loved her Uncle Byron, and Moose and Poppy who welcomed her into their home and made her part of the neighborhood pack. She loved her sitter, Auntie Louie, who she allowed to walk her on a leash after months of refusals, and wagged her tail especially wildly when she came into view, but still growled at her now and then to let her know who was boss. And after a few months of sleeping on a padded dog bed on the floor, she looked up at me one night and trotted over to me for a lift up onto my bed and never slept alone again. And I, who have slept alone for too long, will feel her absence most of all in the midst of night and again every morning when that little face looked up as if to say, what shall we do today? Rest in peace Mona Francesca.