This morning I sit in an Adirondack chair on my new patio. My coffee mug stating, ‘Witches Practice Safe Hex’ is on the armrest. Steam lifts from the rim and blows away. Silver haze rings the Wasatch Mountains in the east, separating the serrated peaks from its base. The sun is rising and throws shadows of my pen across the page. Birds chirp. Traffic hums on a nearby highway. A machine in the distance is gnawing on metal, and geese honk a hello, bodies sagging, wings pumping, as they struggle to fly north.
I rest in the middle of a paver stone patio my husband and I have worked on over the last two weekends. We’ve tamed the once dirt hill with cement squares patterned like a Van Gogh eddy from his Starry Night. The stones are a mixture of purples and sand tones surrounded by seven pots ready to be filled with green beans, carrots, cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil. Of the pots, four white line the front of the piazza and the three lining the back are blue, resembling teal packages from Tiffany’s.
It’s chilly, 48 degrees Fahrenheit. But the sun seeps into my face and the coffee I sip rolls down my throat and distributes warmth throughout my body. Zoey, my pet Chiweenie, investigates the new hardscape. Because of the chill, I forced her into a pair of puppy pajamas, a humiliating one piece made of fuzzy plaid. She’s a Californian dog and freezes in the mildest temperature drop. Zoey, her allergy-laden voice sounds like a veteran smoker, barks at a Magpie bold enough to rest on a fence post.
Zoey was part of a city pound exchange from the Los Angeles area. Her behavior suggests she was kept most of the time indoors and was never socialized. She dislikes being outside if not going on a walk. She hates the feel of grass and prefers the sidewalk. Zoey is mean to those who visit our house. She’s aggressive to all other dogs. She goes insane over adult males and hates little kids the most.
However, whenever I walk her, and we pass a Hispanic woman, Zoey’s tail wags, her mouth curves and she starts to prance up to her with a happy shake of her rump. It happens all of the time. In general, no one can get near my dog unless they happen to be a middle-aged Mexican woman. Then Zoey will allow her to pet her on the head and scratch her under the ear. It took me six months before Zoey would let me do that! Zoey’s behavior towards Latin females makes me think that my dog’s original owner must have been a Spanish woman.
We didn’t choose our Chiweenie, Zoey; she chose us—actually she chose my husband, Brian. He and I went to Petsmart to look at the pound puppies up for adoption. It had been six years since our family Chihuahua had suffered a massive heart attack and died in my arms. I hadn’t dared to get another dog. I loved my Benjamin Thomas, and he was irreplaceable. But here I was with my husband, looking at the prospect of a second pet.
I had gone the day before with my daughter, Lorrin, who fell in love with the black Chiweenie with the giraffe neck, showing indifference to people overall. I had hopes of a puppy who seemed happy and liked to snuggle if one at all.
When Brian and I returned to Petsmart the next day, the black Chiweenie was still there. Brian walked over, and the dog stood up on her hind, legs, front paws raised out to him. He leaned over the cage and scooped her up. Zoey had chosen her new home centered on the man who picked her up—it’s ironic because she goes berserk whenever Brian covers his baldhead with a baseball cap. I don’t know if it’s because she hates men in hats or if she simply finds wearing hats inside the house as rude. Either case, we brought Zoey home, and it has been rough ever since.
We knew very little about our new pet. She was house broken. She was probably around four years old. And she was given the name of MIM, which turned out to be the brand of the crate she was transferred to Utah in. Zoey was more comfortable on the end of a leash and was ecstatic when we put a collar and dog tags on her, bowing and prancing, shaking her head so that the tags slamming against each other making a magical chime. We also noticed Zoey didn’t understand us. She’d stare at us trying to grasp what it was we were saying to her.
One day, one of my kids suggested that perhaps English wasn’t the language she understood. That maybe, being from L.A., and more than likely from an apartment, our dog only knew outside tethered to a leash and commands in Spanish. It was an interesting thought. So we tried it. Brian called Zoey and asked, in Spanish, if she had to go outside to go potty. Zoey’s ears lifted. She looked at Brian and then looked at our back door. My husband got excited.
“But what if it’s the inflection in your voice she’s responding to and not what you’re saying?” I asked. So Brian said the words again in English using the same inflection. Zoey stood, ears poised, waiting to understand the command. Then, in a very flat tone, Brian said the word, “Banjo?” Zoey stood and walked to the back door. Apparently, our new puppy spoke Spanish.
It has been over a year and a half living with our crazy mutt. She has gotten used to Utah’s rain and snow, although, she hates both. I don’t have to ask her, in Spanish, if she needs to pee. Instead, she comes and pats my leg when she needs to be let out. She’s an unusual dog. I often wonder who the people were who raised her.
Was it a Hispanic family who taught her commands in Spanish and pierced her left ear for an earring? Did they let her sit on their lap behind the steering wheel and again at the dinner table during meals? How long ago was it before my dog went by the name of Zoey and had to put up with silly P.J.’s and owners who won’t let her sit at the dinner table and who know how to drive a car without her aid? Who knows?
My dog Zoey is a Princess, a foreigner in a land of rules. She’s part of a new family that forces her into sweaters to go for walks around the block. And although I believe she was loved once in L.A., she’s loved once more, in a place that gets cold and wet and with people who don’t speak her native tongue. She is loved and I think she at least understands that.