Saturday, March 26, 2022

Not a Dog Person


This is a photograph of Laura.

When I first met Laura, I was absolutely sure I was firmly camped out in the Not a Dog Person category.  Rather, I was firmly planted on the side of Cat Person.

But, Laura.  How could anyone resist her?  

This photo was taken during the 1992 L.A. Riots--or the L.A. Uprising as the weekend of the Rodney King verdict would become known.  I was working at Paramount Pictures for Meg Ryan's company the day smoke began rolling in a westward direction from South Central.  

By ten that morning, the Paramount messenger boy--a freckled face kid of no more than twenty dashed into our office and dropped off a memo telling us that the studio was being evacuated and that we should leave.  Immediately. 

By the time I left Paramount, the smoke had thickened so that it felt like I was driving through a blanket of smog.  The exodus had already begun and the traffic on Melrose and Gower streets was bumper to bumper.  Getting to the 101 was treacherous.  Drivers had grim expressions as they headed over the hill to the Valley.  Finally, I made it to my daughter's school where the dark clouds overhead were getting worse and the teachers were crying.  "Will this come to the Valley?"  No one knew for sure.  But there was talk that the fires had made it all the way to West L.A.  Someone said all the way to the Beverly Center.  Where would it end?

The fires were indeed coming up the hill and not far from our apartment in North Hollywood and it was hard to sleep that night.  When I finally did fall asleep, I was suddenly awakened by the sound of screeching car brakes, followed by a yelp, but when I looked out the window, I couldn't see anything at all and I wondered if it was a dream.

By morning, my daughter and I walked out to the car park, where we found a bloody trail of foot prints--leading from the side of our car to the front where we found this beautiful dog.  She looked up at me as if to say, please, help me.  She didn't have a collar on and she couldn't walk.  And so, my daughter and I hoisted her up into the back of the Honda and drove her to our veterinarian on the way to her school and my work.

Later, back at Paramount, I checked in on my rescue dog.  They told me she's a Collie!  (My daughter and I had been calling her Lassie).  

She has a broken leg, but the vet tells me that she'll be fine.  I am beginning to fall in love with my dog-protégé.  I am thinking about giving her a name and keeping her, despite the fact that our landlady does not allow dogs or cats and we already have a contraband bunny and I cannot afford to pay the bill for repairing her broken leg.

But then, a nice fellow from my office, suggests I contact a Collie rescue organization.  I add my name to the data base and describe my Collie and then just hours later, her human calls me.  He says he will meet me at the veterinarian. He tells me her name is Laura.

I am fully prepared not to like this man.  My plan to is to scrutinize how my Collie responds to this interloper.  If she is the least bit hesitant, I will leap up and say, "imposter!"  and "Dognapper!"  But then, as it turns out, Laura is all over this guy.  It's a heartwarming father and daughter reunion and yes, he seems like a nice man (although he works in Hollywood).  He tells me that Laura was frightened by the fires and ran away the night before.  He is so happy that I found her.  I tell him that I didn't find her; she found me.  I think about telling him that I am generally Not a Dog Person, but this seems weird and I'm not sure why I would want to tell him this, except to say that Laura is special and he better be nice to her or I'm coming back for her!

So, I restrain myself and the nice man pays Laura's veterinarian bill and then he offers us money for our troubles, which to be honest, after a couple of refusals, I do accept.  I'm embarrassed about this now, because I would like to be the kind of person who says--don't be ridiculous!  I will not take your money!  But, I confess, I do.  And then, my daughter and I  say goodbye to Laurie, petting her, hugging her, taking a photo of her, and crying a little.  More than a little.  My daughter and I bring our reward money to Ventura Boulevard where we seek solace in Chin Chin's famous Chinese Chicken Salad.

And here we are--thirty years later and I discover this little Polaroid I took the day I said goodbye to Laura.  She is my only souvenir from the tumult of 1992 Los Angeles.  And she is why I stopped saying that I am Not a Dog Person.

Creative friends, sometimes it feels as if the end of the world is upon us.  Things have taken a terrible turn.  There is smoke and fire and treachery and death and destruction and unfairness and uncertainty everywhere.  You feel helpless.  But, you're not.  Here, in your own little world, keep art and beauty and love alive--how?  Rescue something.  This something might be right in front of you.  It might be something that has been in your life for years, or something brand new.  It might be a thing, a person, a place, a memory or a neglected project or it might just limp into your life in a completely unexpected way.  

Whatever it is, I want you to consider the idea of rescuing.

You might just find, you are Not a Dog Person or a Cat Person.  You are simply a person.




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