Lindsay Marks 6 p.m., Dec. 5
They keep a dossier on me at the animal shelter. And if you’ve ever had any dealings with them, they have a file on you too. During my divorce, we had to find a new home for our beloved family dog, Coney. We named him Coney because when we got him, he had the cone-shaped collar that they put on dogs after neutering so they don’t chew their stitches open. My ex-husband was adamant about not leaving the house, but our relationship was so volatile that I chose to take my daughters and live in an apartment until things were settled. Since he worked all day and dogs weren’t allowed in our apartment, poor Coney was home alone all day. I put him on a leash and took him to my woman’s meeting in a last-ditch effort to find him a home instead of taking him to the shelter. A woman named Lisa (which is my name) offered to take him. She lived in a new house in Ocean View Hills and renamed him Peetie. My daughters were heartbroken to lose their pet. So when we settled into our home after the divorce ordeal, one of our first orders of business was to find another dog. We headed down to the animal shelter with excitement. It took awhile for the girls to choose the right dog. My stipulations were the dog had to be less than fifty pounds, short haired, friendly, & more than a year old. They finally settled on a cute curly-haired snauza-beagl-pood, a conglomerate-ancestried mutt. We pulled his tag from his cage and sauntered down to the admin office to complete the necessary paperwork and pay. That’s when I learned about my dossier. The county bureaucrat looked me up in the computer and said I was ineligible to adopt a dog from their agency because of my negative history with them. A few years prior, someone gave us a little black dog which we named Rascal. Rascal fit his name with his unruly and somewhat defiant nature. I did not know enough about animal training then, and this dog caused no end of problems due to my failure to properly train him. He chewed books and toys. He dug holes in our yard. He escaped many times, only to corralled by neighborhood boys and brought back for the $5.00 reward I offered. I began to suspect those boys were letting him out so they could earn the reward money for capturing him. Rascal’s final action that sealed his fate occurred when we had a house full of neighborhood children, noisy and clamoring and teasing Rascal. I was loading up the car for our beach trip when I heard the scream; Rascal bit one of the children. I know, dear dog-loving reader, it was my fault. I was not acting responsibly, because I had not properly trained the dog, and I did not supervise the children playing with him. But due to my negligence and inability to cope, I couldn’t have the dog in my house any longer. I put him on a leash and drove him down to the shelter. It was closed. Closed? What was I going to do? I knew there were personnel inside the building; after all, someone had to feed all those animals. But a chain prohibited entrance to their driveway. I couldn’t take him to the beach, he would die in the car in the parking lot, and I wasn’t going to take him back home. Frustration clouded my judgment and I attached his leash to the driveway chain. I figured it wouldn’t be long until the animal workers discovered him and gave him a room at their inn. I called the facility on my cell phone and left a message, telling them about the dog and why he was there and that I would send them a check for the relinquishment fee. But the entry in my dossier read that I had attached a “biter dog” to the fence. Well, I argued, since that was my only offense, I should be offered a second chance at dog ownership. This time I’d take us to obedience school and learn how to properly train a new pet. No, the snarky desk clerk said, what about the kitten you sentenced to death? Kitten? I searched my memory. Oh, yeah. Once upon a time I wanted a kitten. The shelter had dozens up for adoption, and I selected a cute cuddly docile kitten. They charged me $75 to neuter him and declare him fit for adoption. The next morning my kitten’s face was swollen and pus was running from his eyes and nose. I took him back to the shelter and demanded another kitten. After all, I paid good money for what they asserted was a healthy animal. That time the clerk said all I had to do was take him to the veterinarian and get medicine. This upset me because I had spent my entire cat budget on the adoption and couldn’t afford veterinary care so soon. In effect, they had sold me a defective product and I was entitled to an exchange. The clerk said that if I brought back an unhealthy animal it would end up being euthanized. I argued that if they had given me a healthy animal I wouldn’t have brought it back. It was their policy that was giving the animal a death sentence, not me. Begrudgingly, the clerk allowed me to select another kitten and be on my way. But she entered into my file that I was a heartless and thoughtless animal hater who shouldn’t be allowed to adopt. So there it was: my second strike. And I would not be permitted the chance to abuse any more of their animals. They were as adamant as I was angry, but I realized that I had reached a bureaucratic impasse and I would be leaving there in a pet-less condition. I slunk away with my tail between my legs, but my ears perked up when one of my daughters suggested that I check the newspaper ads for a new dog. Why didn’t I think of that? I knew why when I read the ads. They were mostly for purebred dogs, priced higher than my monthly mortgage payments. I wasn’t prepared for foreclosure just to get a dog. But then I spied an ad for a pug-Chihuahua mix puppy for only $400. The girls pleaded with me to get one. I called the number in the ad and the man who answered said there was one puppy left. He gave me an address in Ocean View Hills, which I took as a good omen. Maybe because I had given a fabulous dog to Ocean View Hills, my dog karma was changing and I could now buy my way into new-dog ownership. I’d show those animal-shelter bureaucrats! As the girls played with the puppy, I asked the man about the animal’s pedigree. The mother was a Chihuahua and the father was a pug. “How did that go?” I wondered out loud. “I don’t know. I just put them in the room together and shut the door.” “Please Mom? Can we keep him?” After my bureaucratic tryst, my defenses were down. I hadn’t wanted to pay so much for an animal, but I did want a dog. I felt guilty about the divorce and wanted them to have family comforts. I paid the man. We named our dog “Little Brother,” Our neighborhood vet, Dr. Terry Kaiser, is a kindly animal-lover who dubbed him a “Chug.” I borrowed some dog obedience books from the library and learned how to properly train our pet. In the few years we’ve owned him, I’ve had no more incidents with the shelter people, and no one has been bit.