Marin Humane Society, September 1993: It happened right after Adrienne’s daughter Celina got shot.
When Celina had married Ray, they had a child named Jessica, and when Jessica was about three, Celina and Ray called it quits, and Celina married a bum.
The bum didn’t treat Jessica very well, but one day he gave Celina and Jessica tickets to go to a spa to the north, a day-trip. How nice.
Except that when they returned, he’d moved away, taking all the furniture, leaving bare walls.
Celina got the cops involved, excellent high drama there, and one of them found an apartment for her and her child, and that’s how she and Jessica came to be living in the apartment that day, when Celina drove down to the store.
She was wearing my motorcycle jacket. I’d grown too fat to wear it, and Adrienne gave it to Celina, who liked it a lot, as had I. It turned out to be a good thing she was wearing my tough leather jacket that day.
For as her car stopped at a light, a hoodlum came up with a .22 pistol, and attempted to shoot her in the head. Yelling in fury at the guy, she threw her arm up, and the firing bullet went into the jacket, slowed and turned, nicked her arm, and spared her head. The hoodlum ran. They caught him later and sent him off to prison. Who knows what it was really about?
As it happened, Adrienne and her other daughter, Layla, had just visited the Marin Humane Society. They wandered through the kennels, and the cacophony of leaping, barking dogs, and then they spied the black and white border collie, an adolescent with big feet, sitting, leaning up against the wall, and with rolled eyes, looking up at Adrienne.
Adrienne fell in love, just like that.
She and Layla were living in Berkeley. They weren’t Marin residents, and learned to their dismay that they couldn’t adopt Tulip. And Tulip was only one day away from the gas chamber.
I was a Marin resident. I living with Stan the Snake in Mill Valley. The phone call sounded pretty urgent. I needs must go at once and immediately to the Marin Humane and adopt Tulip.
So I did.
She was one very bouncy dog. Border Collies are fast, intelligent, playful, and full of energy. Tulip bounced off the walls, overflowing with zest and high spirits. I wondered if Adrienne knew what she was getting into. The Humanes helped corral Ms. Tulip into a large crate, and my Ford van was just the ticket, driving back to Mill Valley. Great Success!
Adrienne sighed with relief on the phone, and came immediately, where she and Tulip met again with great rejoicing and bouncing, and then they drove away. On her way home, Adrienne dropped by to see Celina, recuperating in the new apartment.
Tulip was crazy for Celina and Jessica, too. And ever since, when Celina comes to visit, Tulip goes bananas with joy. The first people she knew, on leaving her vagabond existance, were Adrienne and Layla and me and Celina and Jessica. We’ve been her pack ever since.
Tulip used to come visit me at Stan the Snake’s. She went with me to the high-school track up the street, where we ran around and around. I brought a chewy rope and she’d grab it and try to stop me running. Hah! No way, doggie! There were balls to throw and fetch and grass to romp, and running and running and running. I found it work; she seemed to fly just for the fun of it.
Adrienne reports that she hadn’t known what she was getting into. Tulip’s puppy energy was boundless; three times daily Adrienne took her to Point Isabel to run alongside the bay. Adrienne took her to work; Tulip tried to herd people walking the sidewalks. Adrienne brought home supermarket boxes; Tulip shredded cardboard throughout the house. Tulip chewed the wiring off the car radio. I replaced the radio as a birthday gift; the new wiring lasted two days. Tulip ran, played ball, barked, and pranced. The Chinese landlord said, “Dog mus go!” Adrienne and Layla moved next door, where the landlord was Danish.
Adrienne and I drifted apart for a while, and I didn’t see Tulip much. Then later we found one another again, and before long Adrienne invited me to leave my rustic trailer park, to come and live in San Anselmo. I did, and there was Tulip. Tulip thought it was just great. It was just swell.
Our pack lived there for years. How the years melt away! I took Tulip to the ball field near my office. Using a gadget, I could throw the ball far, far away. She’d gallop and fetch it and come happily back for another go. But I noticed, now, at age seven, she didn’t have the same eternal energy. After a while, she flopped onto the cool grass, and rested. Then we went home.
A couple of years ago, Tulip displayed a mysterious discomfort. Her neck was stiff, and sometimes she slipped. Arthritus, said the vet. Now she was nine. Slowly, she was growing old, as we watched. Still playful, and sometimes playing jokes on Adrienne and me, smiling often, but now for the first time she napped during the day.
In San Anselmo we had no yard for Tulip.
She was too prone to go a-sniffing so we couldn’t let her run loose, and besides, that’s how dogs get killed by cars. On the front lawn, on a long tie-out cable, she’d lie like the sphinx, with our cat Percy lined up alongside her, and together they’d watch the traffic passing by.
Of course, people who came walking with dogs got an earful as she lunged and snarled at these evil dogs who were attempting to walk upon our grass. People sometimes complained, and I thought it excessive, but Adrienne said, “It’s her lawn. They don’t have to walk here.”
Adrienne dreamed of a fenced-in yard for Tulip.
For five years, Adrienne and I had scouted for a place to move. We’d visited Nevada, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and British Columbia. Some places might do, but we’d spent five years looking, and we hadn’t settled on a place yet.
I began to feel haunted by a disturbing thought. I wanted to get a yard for Tulip. But what if Tulip grew old, and died, and never had a yard? What if, good-hearted and loving creature that she was, she never had a yard of her own, because we took too long. She wouldn’t know she’d missed out. But I would know. And it troubled me, for in my mind’s eye I saw it happening that way, and it felt sad as whispers fading.
Adrienne didn’t believe me when I said we were moving.
I said the Spring; she didn’t believe me. Spring came and waned, and I wrapped up telephone lines and divested myself of equipment rooms in San Jose, Sonoma county, and Tiburon. I prepared to move. I was nearly ready, but Adrienne didn’t believe me. Then, in the Summer, we visited Mount Shasta, in the Northern California mountains, and we said, “That’s it.”
I told Adrienne that I’d need a couple of months to move. She didn’t believe me. But I packed the trucks and moved us, and there she was. With Tulip, and Percy our cat, in Mount Shasta on September the first, this last year.
As we got out of the car, Tulip pranced like a youngster, and sniffed at the fence. We went in through the gate, into our fenced-in yard. Inside the tall board fence, an apple tree, a pear tree, a holly tree, and deep green grass.
“Look around,” Adrienne told Tulip, “This is your yard.”
Tulip sniffed. Tulip investigated. Tulip rolled on her back in the fresh grass, kicking her feet.
I think she likes it.