After three bitter-cold nights with my canine comrades, Deek finally returned this morning. We were all still abed in sleepy comfort when he summoned, “Yo! Yo!” The Hohokum smoke and gift shop would not open for another two hours, so he called from right below. The doggies scurried off the bedding and onto the floor. In a flash, Wiley was at the window, standing on hind legs in an attempt to peer out and see her master. Alas, though her front paws could grip the ledge, she is not tall enough to see the sidewalk below…only the buildings and people across the street, Market Street itself, and the sky above. She did not bark; they are peaceful, quiet doggies for the most part. But their curly tails wagged with joyful anticipation as they restlessly paced the floor, eager to be reunited.
I poked my head out the window to see Deek right below, with a shopping cart stuffed to the hilt and beyond, a bicycle lashed atop, and three bursting plastic bags containing crushed cans and empty glass bottles anchored to the sides.
“Bring me dog food, and a black marker!” he requested while looking up, squinting under the bright sun.
I nodded back, then gathered up the dogs and items and stepped outside. I opened the gate and released the hounds, who were mighty pleased to be with him again. Deek’s smile upon seeing them after their longest separation ever, would melt even the devil’s heart. All their attention was now directed at Deek; I may as well have been invisible. I handed him a reusable grocery sack filled with kibble in two Ziploc one-gallon freezer bags, and five cans of Purina Tender Cuts in Gravy. Then extricated the black marker from a pocket. He politely held the gate open so I wouldn’t have to step out any further. But I told him it’s okay, I have my keys and I’m gonna get some coffee.
“Coffee?” he replied with a bemused smile. It was then I observed how clean and healthy he appeared, and that was yet another sign of the doggie’s loving influence, and my devoted patience of many years. “I didn’t know you drink coffee.”
“You forget, Deek, that I used to go to a coffeehouse every day until the pandemic hit. But I decided only a week ago to resume the habit…and I’m enjoying the heck out of it. The coffee at Rosenberg’s really hits the spot.”
He then turned his attention to Taco and remarked: “He looks skinnier, his ribs are stickin’ out a bit.”
Here we go again, I thought…the eternal complainer, always finding SOMEthing to gripe about, no matter how well things are going.
“Oh, he’s perfectly fine, Deek. Doesn’t look like he’s lost any weight at all, and look how happy he is!”
He lowered himself and felt around Taco’s harness. “Nope, this is looser than usual. Is he eating enough?”
I know that was false, as I just put the harness back on before stepping out, and it was perfectly snug. But I ignored the hidden accusation, as that would just feed into his game.
“Yes, they both ate two good meals every day. Just not this morning, since you showed up early.”
I expected him to pipe up about how HE feeds them THREE meals a day, as he’s told me a couple of times before. But he didn’t. When the pooches ain’t hungry, I certainly can’t force-feed them. And they seem to have an excellent appestat, unlike SOME dogs that eat like there’s no tomorrow, whenever they have a chance. They ALWAYS let me know when they’re hungry. They’ll start to look at me with pleading dachshund eyes if I happen to be fussing at the food prep table for my OWN meal or snack. If I ignore them further, they’ll divide their attention between me (by standing at my feet and looking up, sometimes erect on their hind legs, with paws pressed against the table’s edge), and sniffing at the large bag of dry dog food and unopened cans in the door-less closet at the other end of the room.
“Wiley looks fine, though,” he remarked.
Rather than prolong his unjustified whining, I changed the subject, and spoke:
“I am SO grateful you trust me with the doggies. They have been wonderful company that has inspired me with my writing, and I sleep much better.” That caught his attention, so I continued: “You are very kind for sharing them, and I can’t thank you enough.”
Deek lowered his aureate-maned head in modesty, and mumbled something about how I’ve also been a great help to him, but that some of his houseless friends mock him with comments like “Oh, given up those dogs, have we?” and “What happened to your mutts, did you grow tired of them?” He mentioned this one other time, and I told him there are a lot of mean people in this world, and he should pay them no mind. In fact, they may be jealous, or just plain malicious…maybe dope sick and feeling nasty. If he wants, he could tell them he has a friend who lives indoors, who is kind enough to protect them from really cold nights, the rain, and whenever he needs a break. That these are small dogs with thin fur, who can’t handle the cold so well as larger, fluffier dogs. Then he paused, raised his head to declare:
“I had another dog, once, who died from cold nights like these.” Whether or not this is true, I have no idea, as Deek does drama like a Greek tragedy. Coming as he does from New Orleans, which is famous for spooky folklore and corpses rolling out of graves during a storm, this should come as no surprise to anyone.
“Look, Deek, you can bring the dogs back any time you want, even this evening, if these chill nights continue. Never worry about being an imposition when it comes to Taco and Wiley, because they are not. Their visits are ALWAYS a pleasure.”
“I’ll do just that if need be, and thank you, Zeke.”
With that, he started to walk away towards Castro Street with doggies in tow, who looked back at me several times as if to express the same gratitude, wishing they could be with us both, forever.
Then it struck me: I have a new doggie blanket to give him! But considering his temper tantrum over my donation project four evenings ago, I stopped myself and turned away. But the next moment, I turned around and started to walk in their direction, about to offer it to him…when, once again, hesitation gave me pause. “Aw, fuggedabodit!” I thought, and turned away once more to get that coffee. But a little birdie told me no, give it to him. This time I ran up to them, stopped about twenty feet behind, and called out:
“Deek! I have another doggie blanket, do you want it?”
He halted his pace and faced me.
“That’s okay. I’ll come back if I need it. Thanks!”
Now, Deek had exploded in my face four nights back, when the rain was falling and the pups were getting wetter by the moment (happy to see me again, eager to return to my sanctuary), as he ranted on about taking no handouts. I had just told him:
“I have really good news, Deek. I started a doggie donation project on Amazon, for people to send me stuff for the doggies, like blankets, leashes and food.”
I tried to explain to him that these aren’t handouts, they are expressions of kindness…and gave him other examples, such as my OWN support, and that of others in the city. And that I couldn’t afford to help his companions as much as I want, all on my own. Sometimes he can’t track down a blanket, or afford a new harness or leash whenever they get too frayed. So he asks me for a blanket, which I usually don’t have. Or other stuff, which cost of supplies is exhausting my funds. Though I’ve bought a kids sleeping bag now and then, for twenty dollars a pop. And purchase good quality dog food, to help keep them healthy as possible. But it’s wiping out my meager budget, so I’m asking for help.
He grew even more furious and said I don’t NEED to do all that, he never asked me in the first place. He does fine on his own, taking care of himself and the pups. But this is not true, as I often see the dogs without sweaters or blankets, curled up beside him on the sidewalk on a cold, windy night, tucked close within his jacket and in his arms. He might have an extra coat or two, or other clothing to serve for a nest, but often that’s without something else to cover them up…to keep them warm on top, and hide them from the sight of potentially evil jerks passing by. I see Wiley or Taco sometimes poking a nose from an opening in a jacket, or from the cover of a blanket (or something that serves for a blanket), watching over him, checking out anyone going by while their master sleeps. These sweet, innocent little doggies: so brave! How could I NOT bend over backwards to do everything I can, in order to give them the best life possible? And, by association, Deek, too!
“Oh my god, Deek, this is my Christmas gift to you, and here I get punished instead!” I held out my arms, with both leashes in one hand. The holiday is a big deal with Deek, but not for me. I stopped celebrating Christmas, along with all other holidays, countless years ago. Such is my cynical, counterculture nature. Furthermore, I do so much for Deek all year round, including providing him with a weekly allowance of sixty dollars to supplement his income from collecting recyclables and selling found objects on the street (all of which I could NEVER do except for the cheap housing, thanks to rent control). So I figure: isn’t it Christmas every time we get together? And Deek has certainly put the spirit of Yuletide in my heart, thanks to bringing these darling canines into my world.
But this year, because of Wiley & Taco’s amazing affections, I figured, okay, I’ll celebrate Christmas this time around, because of Deek’s incredible generosity to share his precious bundles with me. After all, that’s quite an impressive level of trust!
As Deek ranted on, I yelled over him, through the splattering rain and passing traffic: “Okay, gripe all you want without me; these doggies need to get inside, dried off and warmed up!” By now they were thoroughly wet, though remained patiently by my side, not a whimper or complaint from either…blissed out through it all, regardless. They kept standing up with paws on my knees, eager for more petting and kind attention. I then started walking towards the corner of Market & Noe, to return to my building right across the street.
“If you give me a jacket or a blanket or anything else from these handouts, I’ll throw them away or BURN them!”
“That wouldn’t be very nice,” I hollered back before crossing. “You have a lovely night, your dogs will be safe and well fed with me!”
As we dashed across Market once the pedestrian light turned green and said “walk,” I reminded myself that Deek has always pulled through before, and followed up with my latest suggestion sooner or later…in spite of all his hyperbolic huffing and puffing. For example: my pressing him now and then to switch from leash to harness (because it’s gentler on little dogs) was, at first, greeted with anger and mockery. But now he has a fine harness for Taco…and I presume he’ll soon find one for Wiley. Perhaps he’ll accept the one I will soon receive from my Doggy Wish List, assuming it fits right!
This time is no different, and I have learned some time back, not to allow his flaming displays get the better of me…and just remain calm and friendly no matter what. And his return three days later proved I was right. Once again.
I have yet to clean up from the little angels’ latest visit: wipe down and fold the two tarps, straighten out the bedding, put away the water bowl, and return the sneaker back into storage. This sneaker is my replacement for the slipper that had become a hazard for Taco. The sneaker, however, seems more durably made, and Taco has already taken a liking to it. I removed the lace, to prevent him from swallowing it, or choking. He loves to go for the strings on anything, as well as tags and small, metal or plastic geegaws attached to items such as zipper pull-tags and barrel buttons. So I have used my scissors to remove the pull-string off my hoodie, which I keep on the bed for extra fluff and chewing purposes…as well as the strings on those kids sleeping bags I use for doggie blankets or comforters.
They love the new sleeping bags BTW. I’ve already unpacked the two that Carlos and Angela sent me. So now there are THREE doggie blankets on my cot, and the pups go wild fluffing them up, rearranging with paws and teeth till the result meets their high demand for doggie comfort. One thing I noticed when they use their sharp little teeth on any cloth: they never bite or pull so hard as to actually cause a tear in the fabric. That, and other endearing qualities, are as if God sent us the perfect mutts!
They also like to burrow beneath the topmost blanket, especially Wiley, who loves her hidey-spots. (Yesterday, when I emptied a large box and set it aside, she hid within, to get away from Taco’s attacks…two of the carton’s flaps turned inward, providing her with additional secrecy. She’s a bit like a cat! If I move the box beside the bed, she’ll jump right in! So I tossed that hoodie into it, for comfort.) They also like to play-fight, one pouncing upon the other concealed beneath a sleeping bag like a big lump of stuffing that moves around. The attacker (usually Taco, but not always) will sit there for a few moments, watching the movements like a hawk, before pouncing again. Taco will make these ridiculous, loud and prolonged snorts while buried beneath a blanket, as he attacks Wiley back, or struggles to clamp down on my playful hand. They make other sounds, too, when frisky…such as little yelps, barks and growls. Sometimes when they’re both leaping about on the comforters, Taco will first attack Wiley with a quick but gentle nip, then swiftly back off and bury his schnozzola deep into the blanket and snort away, squirming as he does that, with rump sticking up into the air, curly tail a-wag. Delightfully funny to watch.
I actually use these donated sleeping bags for myself, first…unzipping them fully, to serve as blankets. Then, whenever Deek asks for another one, I pass the oldest bag off, and replace it with another, if available. Oldest because he’ll lose it or it’ll be stolen within a few days to a week. Otherwise, I use a coat or two for my bedding. This saves me the expense of purchasing my OWN sleeping bag or comforter, or of having to bother with washing and drying. I do have a very nice, $49, fluffy adult sleeping bag stored up in my loft, but I really have no need for it these days. So it’s stashed away and sealed in a plastic garbage bag, awaiting a jaunt to a laundromat drier to eliminate any possible bedbugs or their eggs that may be hidden within its folds, from an infestation that happened just over a year ago. I’ve had three more infestations since…they move around this large, old building; thus nigh impossible to eradicate them thoroughly! Besides, it’s so easy for new ones to get inside, due to the high traffic of truck and restaurant deliveries and building maintenance workers, and turnover of residents each year (plus their many guests, which shouldn’t be happening, but is). In addition, these old buildings with their many cracks and hidden spaces between walls–and lacking their own laundry facilities–are far more susceptible to bedbug invasions than modern structures.
Lastly, here is a pic I just took that speaks for itself, in the context of this latest doggie tale: