My dog Naan found me back in 1998. I was renting a little Sears Craftsmen in middle of Hollywood, behind Sunset Blvd and just East of Highland Ave. It was truly the best house I have ever lived in. Restored hardwoods throughout, crafty built-ins, dark cherry fire-place and mantle, it was pink and white exterior and we painted the inside shades of merlot and forest. It had enormous Birds of Paradise growing along the front drive. They stood in thick lines guarding like alien militia. It also had a crack-head living in a small one-room apartment in the garage located behind my place. I’m not just using the term loosely, Antonio smoked a quite a bit of rock. Besides having a good intuition I was living in a city where employers encouraged the use of any performance enhancing drug. I knew that stir in the eyes and the grit of the jaw of a crack and speed user. Within in the first week he moved into the small $300 a month room, Bill had to break in to extinguish a fire that was spreading throughout his carpet. Apparently he had his burners on the floor, plugged in and then ran out to the store and left them to smolder. Bill said the inside of the place was without a doubt a drug-den. Antonio used to come out wearing nothing but a wife-beater. No underwear. Nothing but his sac hanging in the breeze and high speed rant about something or other, and to perfectly honest he made such little impression on me that I can’t remember much of what he ever said. He slurred and was full of himself which got boring after the initial contact high gave wore off. I called my landlord a few times to complain. I am pretty tolerant, you have to be when you live in the middle of Hollywood, esp. in the late 90’s before serious gentrification took place. But when the homeless dude who always staked out the 7-11 parking lot up the street came and pounded on my doors and windows in the middle of the night looking for Antonio(the neighbor), I had really had it. My landlord, unfortunately, was a total slum-lord and rumor had it he allowed Antonio to pay him with blow-jobs.
One day Antonio came home with the most beautiful pup. I had seen this exact dog in my dreams. She was sleek, slim, sly. Intense black and white markings spread throughout her shiny coat. She moved with grace and ease like a wolf. Her eyes sparkled like the sea in clear shallow waters flickering and waving; shifting with sunlight. He was walking her down my driveway on a rope. I saw this through my dining room winder. I ran outside.
“Antonio, where did you get her? She’s beautiful.”
“This is my new wolf bitch. I named her Nanock.”
“Dude, she’s not a wolf.” I got down on the ground and felt this magnificent creature, pet her, scratched her, rubbed her belly. Looked into those eyes. A sweet baby no older that a year with the soul of a Mother. We got lost inside each other.
“She’s a pure Husky, Antonio. Where did you get her?” I looked up at him squinting; the sun was bouncing off my face so I couldn’t read his expression well. Was he serious?
“My friend gave her to me. She’s a wolf, not a dog. She’s gonna be my bitch watch-wolf.” He laughed a part diva-part-drug-user-part-hurt little kid laugh. “My bitch watch!”
I translated that for myself. He traded her from some crack. Probably from someone who has stole or found her in the first place. Huskies are runners and they are one of the most common “lost dog” breeds out there.
“Do you know how to take care of her? She’s so beautiful Antonio. Husky’s are work.” I knew this because I had been learning about them for years. They were highly intelligent dogs. Stubborn. Not obedient in the least unless there is food or a run involved. They like to lead. They dig holes. Their coats work at keeping them warm and cool. They love kids. They shed like a wooly sheep.
“Yeah, yeah. I know how to take care of her. C’mon Nanock.” And he kicked her to get her walking.
“Don’t kick her!” I stood up. I was pretty much a couple inches taller than him. And I had a few years as well. Even in the years Hollywood street living had prematurely carved around his mouth and on his forward, I could still see a late teenager shine to his eyes.
I got really close to him. “Don’t fucking kick her.” I breathed in his face. My eyes drilled through his.
Antonio lifted his left hand, limped his wrist and waved me off with a few sarcastic flicks. I didn’t say anything else. I was not interested in starting trouble with him. I was just interested in his new dog.
A couple days past and Bill and I decided to just watched and listen to the scene. We lived close enough to him to observe whether the dog was being treated well or not. During the day we could her crying and whining a puppy whine from somewhere outside the garage. There was a fence and a small space on the other side of the garage where we didn’t have access. There was no way into except from inside his apartment… unless we scaled a wall. At night, when Antonio would have small smokey gatherings in his room, it got silent behind the fence. She must have been inside then, smoking with them all.
Three days later I came home from work and there she was, sitting in my living, laying on the floor, wagging her tail at me. How the hell did she get in my house? My backdoor was opened, but I was sure I shut when I left that morning.
“Come here girl. Come here.” I got on the floor.
She ran over to me wagging, licking, dancing, jumping. She was my girl. I was her mama. There was no doubt in my mind. She found me. She took a huge runny poo all over the floor covering I had been working on painting for weeks. And I wasn’t in the least bit upset.
When Bill came home we both talked about how even though we were sure Antonio was making and smoking crack, we had no real proof he was abusing her. So we brought her back to him. Well, Bill brought her back. I laid in bed and cried. Apparently Antonio had not even known she was missing.
Very early the next morning Bill stood over me, shaking me, waking me.
“Hey baby, get up. Get up. Take her out of the house. I gotta go into work. Just stay gone with her all day and we’ll figure things out when I get home. I open my eyes up and there she was, standing on the foot of our bed, panting.
Bill got up to go to work and heard her whining and crying so loudly he had to scale the wall and see what the deal was. Our little pup was tied to a foot long rope, a bag of dog food totally ripped up to bits was scattered everywhere. She had a total of about 4 feet of square space. Bill picked her up and climbed back over the walk with Nanock in his arms. Not an easy feat. He brought her to me in bed.
“My hero.” I squealed. Nanock and I spent the day running from park to park and visiting friends.
That night we talked about what we had done. Stolen a dog, basically. Not a very nice thing to do. We wanted to keep her, but the reality was we had NO yard, we both worked 40 hours a week, not counting the commute time. She’d be alone more than I would want my best friend to be. Then there was the border-line criminal who we stole her from that lived 20 feet away. The Husky rescue was full. The pounds in L.A. were horrible, cruel dungeons of places, so we’d never bring her there. We had no friends interested. A few days passed and we’d wake up before the sun came up, sneak her out for a long walk, then hide her in our house with the shades down, plenty of water and newspaper for her bathroom emergencies and our other neighbor who we confided in worked at home so she would sneak over and let her out to pee once or twice. We never got a knock on our door from Antonio asking about the dog. Never saw a lost dog sign. As a matter of fact, one time when I was sneaking her out for a walk, I swore he saw me and just turned his head the other way.
We decided he was not capable of being her parents. And we felt we were.
So we stopped hiding the fact we had her after the first week or so. He saw us a few times walking her and never said a thing. We thought this to be really bizarre, but jut played along. About a month after we took her we found another place to live after deciding our perfect little house was not so perfect for Naan (the new name we gave her after the sweet bread we ate the night we decided we were hers.) Our new place, at about 600 sq. feet was less than half the size of our old one but the yard was massive, endless, fenced in and gem of a place for our new dog to run free in.
Naan bought Bill and I closer. We’d only known each other around 6 months at that point. But she gave us a sense of place and commitment. We began deciding things as a trio. We took weekend trips to mountains, from 7,000 foot pastures in Kern County, to bear-font printed river beds in Santa Barbara, we roamed the outdoors . She was this wild slightly cracked out little spirit that lead us to beautiful crevices in the West. We watched her run free as we witnessed a bit more meaning in our slightly sticky, fast, freeway driving, night-clubbing life. Bill and I grew with our sameness in nature, the desire to climb mountains, pitch tents by rivers, and sleep next to crackling fires and skies that spilled stars down the sided of the globe. Naan helped set the tone for our future.
The night before we were going to move into our new place, Bill, Naan and I fell asleep on the couch watching Saturday Night Live. We woke with Antonio trying to break through our window.
“You motherfuckers have my wolf. She’s mine!”
Bill and I jumped. What the? We realized that someone’s head was trying to come through our window screen.
“We’ve had this dog for a month, Antonio. You weren’t taking care of her. Now get the fuck out of our window and go home.”
“No way man. That’s my dog.” He kept trying to climb in our window, busting out the screen.
Bill physically pushed him out.
He ran back to his garage apartment screaming at us, calling me a whole, slut, cunt. We walked through our house and headed out the back door so we can see him pass by to his place. He yells to me about his friend Demi Moore and how she is going to come over and kick my ass. I am now totally convinced he is utterly wacked. I almost had to laugh. Demi Moore?
“You are a fucking whore prostitute! I see you working the corners! Hooker!” He is screaming and pointing at me from him door wearing boxers, an aqua wife-beater and tube socks.
I stand at my back door, looking over my small fence at him. My mouth hanging open trying to say something back but couldn’t muster up a word.
Bill was 24 at the time. He was not the man he was now who would breathe it out, walk away and let it go. Then he was a bit more reckless and like a shot of lightening he flew out the back door and over to Antonio and tried to clock him in the mouth. I screamed. Antonio slammed the door in his face before his fist got to him and instead pounded the door. I heard him wince. As soon as Bill started to walk away, Antonio opened the door again, “You pussy!” he called to Bill.
Bill turned and charged him again. Again he ran inside and slammed the door.
Bill stood there fuming. I could see his fists clenched. His eyes, poisonous darts. His teeth, gritting.
Then out of nowhere a young nineteenish topless man with a chest cut like diamonds jumps out of Antonio’s little window like a ninja and attacks Bill. Slams him in the nose with a fist and throw him on the ground. I scream. The kids just stands there. Antonio is laughing from the door. Bill gets up, shocked. Passive. Walks away. The large and cut guy goes back into Antonio’s apartment through the door.
The police end up doing nothing, as usual. Bill still has a deep scar on the bridge of his nose.
We had most of our stuff packed for the move so we began moving into our new place that night around 2am.
We never saw Antonio again. Naan loved her new yard played and ran all day and dug up every garden I started to plant. Around a year later after living next to a Vietnam vet who would keep his 3 daughters and wife hostage in their house for long weekends, we decided we needed a bit more outdoor space. We packed our bags again and we moved to Idaho. That’s where she found Thunder.
I got off my dead-cat track.
This morning Naan and Thunder brought us a dead black cat at our backdoor. She stood next to it so proud, begging me for praise with her eyes and her pant. Thunder on the other side of the poor kitty with three bloody dots on his snout where the cat gave a good fight.
How do I explain that to my 2 1/2 year old who wants to play with the kitty ’sleeping’ outside our doors?