In the summer of '95, I was dancing at a dive bar up in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. I went there a couple of times a year, the pay was really good, and the tips were easy. One afternoon, I had just gotten to the bar, and was having a cup of coffee before work, when a police officer came in, carrying a grey, ugly little dog, asking who the owner was. A drunk, dirty farmer (most of the guys in there were drunk dirty farmers, but this guy was more so of both), piped up and went into a tirade about how that damn dog was nothing but a pain in the ass for him since his mother had died last year, and how he didn't have any use for the damn thing anyway...
Well, there was no stopping my legs from moving, people. Right up to that cop I strode, and deftly removed that dog with a smile, even though she smelled like urine and godsknowswhat. And that cop told me how he found her, hanging from over the edge of a pickup truck, because the idiot had tied her in the back with a piece of rope. No collar, just a piece of knotted rope, long enough to strangle herself when she tried to get out of the bed of the truck. And that guy had been there since just after opening, left the dog out in the truck several hours, in June heat, with no water.
So I took the little dog back to the motel with me, snuck her in my costume bag so the office people didn't see. From then on, she would be smuggled a lot-she was so quiet and small that I could take her on buses and into stores with me. She turned out not to be grey after all, but a light almond color, and when her hair was long, she looked like Benji. As the dog of a traveling dancer, she ate what I was eating, and developed a love for table food, which she kept until her very last day, a habit I regretted giving her many times.
I kept her around too long, really. I was hanging on and didn't want to let her go because I wasn't sure how I would do without her. We'd been through so much together, though she lost her memory and her hearing long ago. She was also losing her sight and had a hacking, incurable cough from an enlarged heart and other respiratory problems. But I was waiting, for some sort of sign, I don't know. The other night, she woke me up yet again in the middle of the night with her cough, and she looked at me. Her eyes were cataract-white, and her teeth had mostly fallen out, and she just looked at me, gasping for breath, and I apologized for not doing it sooner. I apologize again. I'm so sorry, puppyface.
Corey took her to the vet and let them do their thing, and then we did ours, a big fire, to be mixed with the celebration fire tonight. She will be with us forever, a snuggle in my heart.