While walking my dog Ilia one morning, I run into our lovely neighbors Bea & Barry and their cadre of 5 (!) dogs. “Let ‘s go down to the river!” Bea suggests. Sounds good, I say, and off we go. Upon arriving, Barry notices a guy tossing stuff into the river and walks down the steep embankment to the water ‘s edge to inquire as to why said stuff is being tossed. The guy pretends not to speak English and walks away. Barry, Good Samaritan that he is, manages to fish out the tossed bag. Which appears to contain a fully roasted turkey. Really. He dispatches the unfortunate bird into a nearby waste receptacle. So, since we ‘re now near the water ‘s edge, I warmly (yet stupidly) suggest that we continue our constitutional along the bucolic, cement-encrusted bank. We let the dogs off lead and Ilia explodes into a glorious burst of speed. What a pleasure to watch him run! Ears a-flappin ‘, tail a-spinnin ‘. What a sight. Really, really beautiful…until he launches himself – as if wearing a cape- headlong into what we charitably (and delusionally) call the L.A. “River”. I call him out and he races obediently toward me full tilt, stops six inches before my unshaven knees, careens to starboard and flings himself back into the brackish mire. He then begins to swim downriver where it is too deep for him to get out and after much frantic calling and waving, he manages to get back to his original port of departure and extract himself. After shaking vigorously and giving everybody a full bacterial misting, he sprints down the embankment and flings himself back into the drink. I finally manage to coax him out and leash him, whereupon he once again disgorges the river ‘s slimy contents by showering our entire party. Now, I don ‘t know about you, but I think any body of water that has the initials “L.A.” preceding its name is probably a notch or two below being a paragon of pristine aqueous virtue. My slightly germ-phobic brain therefore goes into overdrive imagining what viruses Ilia is now sodden with and to date the list includes (but is not limited to): beri beri, typhoid, diphtheria, dropsy, Ebola and (quite possibly) rickets. But, here is what you must now about this dog: he is not a typical pet. This stunning, sleek black lab/golden retriever cross is my son ‘s service dog, bred and trained to serve nobly along side a wheelchair. For the first 18 months of his life, he was raised by dedicated, loving volunteers who doted on, trained and subsidized him. Then, they made the heart-wrenching trip to the main campus to turn him in and say good-bye forever. Highly skilled trainers took over from there, spending the next six months teaching him advanced commands like picking up dropped objects and opening doors so that when he was matched, he would give the gift of independence to his disabled human partner. Then, they give you this dog. Free. Lofty, no? Appropriately, this organization maintains ownership of the dog while in service so that they can closely monitor its care and health. So…how do I call their facility and tell them I ‘ve just infected their precious gift with West Nile Virus?? Panicked, I take my charge home and immediately deposit him into the tub where I spend an hour scrubbing him down to the molecular level!desperate to punish anything with a flagellum out of existence. Furious but clean, he then searches my hardwood floored house in vain for a corner of carpet to rub on. Finding none, he finally settles for curling into an impossibly tight ball on the couch where remains for several hours, deeply offended that I cut short his aquatic spree. I am happy to report that he is now warm, dry and delightfully Ebola-free. I sent the good people at Canine Companions this tale in the hope that they would be entertained and allow us to keep the dog. They did.
Originally published in Bark Magazine, April 2008‘, ‘