I was bypassed for a MacArthur Genius grant again this year, but I’ve been placed in the pool of candidates for their little-known Anti-Genius grant, set aside for those lacking in perspective, acting impetuously, or failing to anticipate the consequences of even their best intentions.
See this little guy? He may remind you of someone you know . . . or knew. Gomez had a rough road to his 4th birthday: Found as a stray , starving, with that big sweet white head on top of a rib cage covered with skin. Covered in flecks of black tar. Being fed from time to time by a guy tossing him pans of unfinished burritos, but the rest of the time fending for himself.
At first I was taken with his story, and then of course with his appearance, so similar to Inez. I wanted to help. Ultimately I wanted to make him part of the family, so we took him in as a foster with the intention to adopt and began the process of falling in love with him.
In the three weeks we had him he went from a guy with his tail firmly between his legs to a guy who would wag furiously at the mere sight of us. From a guy who wouldn’t roll on his back to a guy who allowed us at least selective belly rubs. And from a guy who growled at the neighbors to one who at least tolerated the activity in the alley – the car repairs, the idling motorcycles – while he went about his inspections of the yard.
In those three weeks he also bit another dog, jumped the fence, bumped a burner and filled the house with gas, and ultimately sank his teeth into the sleeve of a teenage girl whose only sin was walking past us. And he did these things because he was a fragile and complicated beast, testing his boundaries, protecting the only territory he knew.
And as much as I understood all of that, pulling him off that teenage girl while he had his teeth clamped down on her sleeve, simply proved too much for me. What if he’d gotten her wrist (just millimeters from where he’d bitten down)? What if he’d drawn blood, or worse? What if it happened again? What if I failed the girl? What if I failed Gomez?
I tried to convince myself he was sending me warnings, like the haunted house an old boyfriend’s mother once told me about, where the family was eventually chased away by ghosts, only to have the house burn down a few weeks later. Had they stayed, they all would have perished.
But I guess I’m being romantic. In ways Gomez was sending me a warning – that it was too soon after losing Inez to take this on . . . that I wasn’t prepared to deal with surprises, especially those that brought risk along with them. Damn that Gomez, though, because he forgot to warn me about getting too attached.
So now we watch, in a world of Facebook, as he gets adjusted to his next home – thankfully a home he knew before, with a foster who loves him and feels more prepared now than before to consider adopting him. He’ll be undergoing a rigorous training program with an amazing woman, determined to make him a good canine citizen. And we watch this from the sidelines, so happy for him, but with the pain of that window between us – letting us see, but keeping us at a distance. It’s a distance I chose, but I wish I hadn’t had to.