Sunday, March 29, 2009

Baby Giraffe

I brought Stella home from the fair on tear down day. Often, it's a Monday, the day after the midway closes when all the rides are being packed away. It follows tear down night. Any other year, I would've stayed all day taking pictures, but I had very suddenly become the owner of a puppy. I say very suddenly - that's misleading- I asked Billy Winn, nine days earlier if I could have her, betting he'd say no, which he did. Then, in a combined moment of clarity and good will, Billy and his girl had a meeting and decided to adopt her out. So late Sunday afternoon, I became the new proud owner of the bouncing baby dog. Three months old. Pit Bull. Never been on a walk. Or in a house. Did however, spend the last three months riding around the country, hanging behind a midway, listening to Nickleback and Emanem.

In preparation for this adoption I went home at 4 in the morning and picked up everything in the house that I thought would interest a puppy, magazines, camera gear, power cords, the new cowboy boots, all put away some place out of reach. During that time I went from trying to talk myself out of taking the puppy to being totally overjoyed about actually having a puppy. It was a combination of fear and sleep deprivation but at no time did I stop picking things up and putting them away. Two hours later, I was back at the fairgrounds in time to shoot the sunrise. At eleven-thirty that afternoon, I got the nod from Billy to take the dog. He was getting ready to move the truck she'd been tied to for the last twelve days and we agreed that at that point, she'd be mine.

She (all twelve pounds of her) drug me across the midway and I steered her in the direction of the car. There's a whole story about the first time I walked this dog, nine and a half hours earlier. I'll just say here, that she has a passion for funnel cake and leave it at that. On this, our last goodbye to the Tennessee State Fair, I was headed to the car and she was headed to the funnel cake. It's safe to say, there's more than a little bit of it, on the ground after ten days of the Tennessee State Fair. It was kind of like being tied to the back of a train.

Once we made it to the car, her demeanor changed. This would be the only time she would be allowed to sit in my lap in the car and for part of the ride, she did exactly that. The last half of our journey would see her sitting quietly in the passenger's seat watching me intently for any sign of what was coming next.

Don't worry, I blindly assured her. Everything's going to be fine.

We went straight to the pet supermarket, just to drive the point home.

Without hesitating, she walked through the automatic doors. I immediately picked her up and set her in the basket of the nearest cart. She studied me, uncertain as we rolled down the first aisle and let loose a heavy sigh. Her world had changed dramatically in the last forty minutes. Neither of us had slept for two days and it was hard to say which would be the first to collapse.

Then I picked up Baby Giraffe, gave him a squeak and tossed him into the cart with her.

Joyous revelation is the only way I can describe it now. The happy dance. I'm surprised she didn't pee herself. It was the moment she understood that I wasn't just some dangerous kidnapper. By the time we left there, she was sitting in the cart in a new dog bed, schmoozing extra milk bones off the cashiers.

Baby Giraffe became the icon of happiness for Stella. This photo was taken the day we retired him and today, this many months later, if I want her full attention, literally all I have to do is say the words: Baby Giraffe and for a minute anyway - she's mine.

Friday, March 27, 2009

What you make 'em

The first couple of girls I'd passed on the midway that night also suggested she was a pit bull but denial blinded me to the possibility of it that first time. They had to be wrong. I decided this in a most friendly way and kept moving.

This woman though, she knew what she was talking about. I could hear it in her voice. Those few moments slowed way down in my head, like when you realize that you're about to skid off the road and there's nothing you can do about it except hold on. I asked if she minded if I sat down at the table and she motioned to the chair.

"Jesus," I said, "are you sure she's a pit bull?"


"So tell me what do I need to know about raising a pit bull," My own words echoed in my ears but hers didn't.

"They're what you make 'em," she said. She took a long drink from the beer and I found myself wishing for one too. "What else?" I asked. "I'm sorry I'm interrupting your dinner, but I have to know by tomorrow afternoon." She didn't seem to mind.

"Females are more easy-going than males are," she said, "and well, you might have to beat that dog once or twice" (I think I momentarily repressed a full-on head-bouncing-off-asphalt faint here), "just with a newspaper though," she added - "but once you've got her attention, she can be the best dog in the world so long as you don't tie her up in the backyard and walk away."

No problemo.

I thanked her and she wished me luck. The dog and I continued on, down the backside of the midway toward her truck which had been parked mostly behind the Starship 3000 for this last twelve days. I think Stephanie tied her back up when we returned as my head was still swimming in the fog of reality and my newly discovered prejudice.

Just the moment I start feeling all proud of myself in the ethics and morality department, a new prejudice, that I am completely ignorant of in myself, comes home to roost. Despite the fact that I felt completely ready to be a dog owner, never in a million years would I have gone off in search of a pet pit bull. Never.

N.E.V.E.R. And now I had one. The first dog of my adult life. Pit bull.

I've chosen to believe, looking back on it, that God was playing a little trick on me, not to mention my cat Gigi.

Stephanie and the puppy; Sunday afternoon