My wife and I never thought we’d be dog owners. But that all changed on a chilly fall day several years ago when the West Valley animal shelter in Los Angeles brought two little puppies to the tv station where I worked. The kids really wanted a dog and we’d talked about it with the kids for a while. They even doggie sat ANOTHER dog — a great golden retriever– for a weekend just to see what it would be like. We were just waiting for the right time and the right dog. This was both. We were told we’d have to go line up at the shelter like everyone else if we wanted to adopt a dog. So we did.
The next morning we loaded the girls into the car. I remember so vividly the pouring rain, a cold driving rain. We got there at the shelter right as they opened. So did another family. And they were looking right at the dog WE were looking at. But they eventually picked another. We picked ours. It was a cold and rainy and blustery Saturday. It was the day Cupcake came home. The girls named her.
A border terrier lab mix, Cupcake was soooo tiny when she came home; she couldn’t even make a squeak. The kids loved having her around so much. She quickly became the third kid in the family. As Cupcake grew, she grew into her bark. So playful and so loving, Cupcake’s number one mission: protect the family. Bark bark bark, then lick lick lick. Maybe the worst protection dog ever. And she earned her name. One day we made cupcakes for one of the kids’ birthdays. Twelve vanilla cupcakes on the table. We came in to the kitchen and only the crumbs remained. Cupcake hid in the corner with a satisfied dog grin. Cupcake had undoubtedly eaten all the evidence.
Whenever people ask about Cupcake, I always tell them she’s a shelter dog. I feel so good that we got her out of the shelter and have given her her a good home. Cupcake’s bed sits right by the heater. When she’s too warm, her head flops out of her bed onto the cold, wooden planks on the floor. Just hanging out. Typical teenager. She doesn’t jump but stands up on two legs putting those long front paws on you to say hello. She goes into the living room and walks under your feet using your legs to scratch her back. She sits by the table just waiting for you to make a mistake with your fork. When our little girl falls asleep on the couch, Cupcake sneaks a lick right on the lips. That dog has owned the house for five years. Owned it. And us.
Recently Cupcake started exploring more. Cupcake would run the hill behind our house. This week Cupcake got out and made a run down the sidewalk. My wife gave chase. That dog is always so mischievous. Cupcake ran across the street. She took one look at my wife. She ran back towards her. A car hit her. The driver had to know. My wife saw it. I saw it. The driver never looked back and just continued down the street. By this time I was running behind my wife. Cupcake limped to the side of the road. I thought she had broken her leg. But it was worse than that. She just laid down. We knelt down beside her. My wife burst into tears. The couple who never saw ourselves as dog owners, now sitting there just comforting our dog, rubbing her behind her ears and on her neck, talking to her, letting her know we were there. A neighbor walking her dog saw what happened and was in tears too. She wanted to know what she could do to help. There was nothing to do except give Cupcake the last few moments of love. We did. My wife brought a big comfy towel out and we cradled Cupcake like when we first brought her home and we brought her back to the house. One daughter was still at home and inconsolable. The other was already at school and had no idea what had happened. She does now.
An ordinary Thursday turned into a morning none of us will ever forget.
It’s funny how a pet can change a family, can nurture a family, can become part of the fabric of the family. The couple who never saw ourselves as dog owners. Now we do. So here it is: my favorite picture of Cupcake. The window down, Cupcake chasing the wind like the captain of her own ship. I always thought she looked like Falcor from the Neverending story in this pic. Fitting. The little puppy from the shelter will never be forgotten.