Thursday, December 3, 2009

Never Trust a Homeless Dog



A few years ago, my brother spent a summer working for me.  This was before law school, before the big job in Tokyo, before he became a minor celebrity on one of those creepy Japanese comedy shows that involve people staring at one another while scorpions crawl up and down their legs and girls dressed in sexy schoolgirl costumes sing cover versions of Carpenters tunes.  The Japanese have an unslakable yearning for such entertainment.

My brother and his wife lived at my office, which sounds sad, like Gob on "Arrested Development" setting up housekeeping in Bluth corporate headquarters.  It wasn't like that, not much, at least.  Our office is in a converted cottage, which dates to 1936.  There was a kitchen and a bedroom and a living room, in addition to the rooms we use for business: it wasn't perfect, but it wasn't horrible.

Our office is in Pasadena, in a little neighborhood called "Golden Acres." It's a nice, working class area, maybe a little more bronze than golden, but nice.  I really like it here.  

We have homes and businesses all around us, but there are plenty of open fields very close by, and a major highway is just a block away.  That means we get more than our share of stray animals.  A growing family of cats lives in the stack of  six inch pipes outside the fabricating plant next door.  Every once in a while, I'll find a shifty-looking black cat, loitering on the front porch.  I've learned not to feed these four legged hoboes; they tend to overstay their welcome when their bellies are full.  I counseled Josh and Satchiko to steer clear of the vagrant hounds and kitties.

They ignored my counsel.

"We've adopted a dog for the company," he cheerily announced one Monday morning.  "His name is Sticky, because we gave him a plate of pancakes with syrup on Saturday morning, and they made his snout all sticky."

These were The Days of Sticky.  Every morning brought a new account of Sticky's loyalty, bravery, and intelligence.  "He won't let us get too close -- I think he's afraid of humans -- but as soon as he does, we're going to bathe him and groom him and give him a real home!"  Even though I'd never actually seen this animal, even though the only dogs I really care for are made by Sahlen's and come in a natural casing, I was actually warming up to the notion of a Company Hound.

Then it ended.

"Well, we finally got close to Sticky," Josh morosely reported one morning.  

And did you clean him up?

"Well, when you get close to him, he's kind of scary-looking."

You told me he was a little like Benji.  How could that be scary?

"He's got crazy eyes.  And he growls a lot, growls and shows his teeth.  And I think he has mange.  He's got bugs and little white things crawling all over his fur.  And he really, really stinks.  I just don't think we can handle Sticky.  Plus, I think he's a she, and I get the feeling there are puppies somewhere."

I finally caught a glimpse of Sticky -- who hung around for a few days after Josh stopped setting out food for him -- shortly after this conversation.  The dog stood by a telephone pole, listing, like an abandoned Soviet ship, rusting in Vladivostok harbor.  He (she?) did indeed have a crazy look in his (her?) eyes, and there was clear evidence of The Mange.  When it was obvious that there would be no more free meals, Sticky hit the road, like The Littlest Hobo on that old Canadian teevee show, except the Littlest Hobo was clean and disease-free and he didn't hang around looking for handouts, he Solved Mysteries and Helped People In Trouble.

I've been thinking a lot about this today, mainly because our office was visited by a salesman this morning who reminded me of Sticky in a suitcoat: kind of personable and pleasant from a distance; crazy-eyed and scary up close.

So on the one hand, you could say that the lesson for today is, "Never open your door to a stray dog or a salesman."

On the other hand, I've got King Benjamin's words rattling around in my brain, reminding me that the true Christian doesn't "suffer the beggar to putteth up his petition in vain," for "are we not all beggars?"

Am I really the kind of Christian who doesn't have time for stray dogs and salesmen?


  1. Some salesmen are creeps (remember Flannery O'Connor's bible salesman).

    I looked on Google Maps, and there's an IHOP in Pasadena, Texas. I'm sure that it's got a whole dumpster full of pancakes. I hope that Sticky has found and made his home there.

  2. Please continue your info about your Polish ancestors. I would like to know about them.