Thursday, April 30, 2015

CHAPTER SIX THE TEST OF WILLS—THE CALVARY ARRIVES TO SAVE A WIFE AND A LIFE (26th installment, Scruggs and Samantha, by Mary de la Pena)

(26th installment, Scruggs and Samantha, by Mary de la Pena)

Prince Charming continued to smile at the two girls at the counter of the Humane Society, using all his charm. Yet, as both girls were again beginning to shake their heads no, I heard a door slam in the back part of the office.
“Hey, counselors, how’s the adoption going for the two of you?” a voice said from somewhere behind the two girls.  “Are you being treated okay by the staff?”
I looked up in time to see Agent Tamarra and one of the other agents come around to the front of the counter to give me a hug and shake my husband’s hand, which he, of course, turned into a hug.
“Always want to give a pretty girl a hug,” he said as he hugged the senior enforcement officer.
I looked over at the two young women behind the counter.  They were trying to disappear as three sets of eyes focused on them.
“Like I told you at court,” my husband said, “there seems to be a computer glitch that has Alice, my Rottweiler, still listed at our address.”
The officer made a few  “tch, tch” sounds with her tongue then leaned over the counter, staring hard at the only girl left at the computer station.  Precious Princess Two had already made a hasty retreat, leaving One to handle the situation on her own.
“I know these people well,” she said.  “Besides them both being fine attorneys I respect highly, I was with Mr. de la Peña when he told me his Rottweiler had died of cancer.  How many dogs does it say he has?”
“If one of the Rottweilers is deceased, then only two,” One said in almost a whisper.
“Okay, then, sign them up.  There couldn’t be a better family to adopt one of our animals.”
Turning back to me, Agent Tamarra asked me when I wanted to bring in my other two dogs to do the temperament check.  We quickly decided I would bring my dogs back when she was done with her field work, which would be about two o’clock that afternoon.  While the officer chatted amicably with my husband, the paperwork was finished miraculously and in record time. 
Even with the adoption paperwork in my hand, I still had trepidations about leaving either Scruggs or Samantha behind when I left.  The loss of Twink was too fresh.
“They’ll be okay until this afternoon?” I asked.
Agent Tamarra stared hard at Precious Princess One then turned back to me.  “I’ll personally make sure the office staff puts ribbons on both their cages, won’t you, dearie,” she said, again staring at One, who bobbed her head in quiet assent.  “I’ll see you back here with your dogs at two, then.”
She vanished out the back door as my husband took my hand, leading me from the office.
“You’ll be okay?” he asked.
I bowed my head, resting the top of my head on his chest, and let out a deep sigh.  “Thanks,” I whispered.  “I don’t think I could have done it without you.”
He gave me a long hug, and said, “Of course you could’ve.  You’d have found a way.  You always do.”
I heaved another sigh, took a deep breath, and then said, “I’m sorry, Twink was adopted over the weekend.  I’m so sorry I let you down.”
He pushed me back so he could look into my eyes.  “Hey,” he said, “you didn’t let me down.  If Twink wasn’t meant to be, then she wasn’t meant to be.  So, who is Samantha?”
I looked back at his smiling face.  I was stunned to feel the same weak-kneed response I had felt those more than two decades earlier.  I couldn’t help but smile back at him.
“Samantha is the black kitten I really wanted,” I answered. 
“Hmm,” he said, still smiling.  “See?  Don’t tell me you don’t get what you want.”
“But, but, but,” I stammered.  “I am so sorry about Twink.”
“Silly girl,” he said, again giving me a hug.  “Samantha, Twink—I don’t care.  As long as you’re smiling, I don’t care what cat we have.”
With one last hug, we walked to our cars.
As he opened my car door for me, he surprised me with a very public kiss.
“I love you, little girl,” he said.
And there it was again, the flutter of my heart that had so long been dormant.  Was my heart really beating again?  Was love flowing through my veins again?
I waved to my prince charming as he drove away from the shelter.  Who knew that by saving a life one could also save a wife?  

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

CHAPTER SIX THE TEST OF WILLS—PRINCE CHARMING RIDES TO THE RESCUE (25th installment, Scruggs and Samantha, by Mary de la Pena)

(25th installment, Scruggs and Samantha, by Mary de la Pena)

My contest of will with Precious Princess One and Precious Princess Two had me to the point of either committing homicide or dissolving into tears—or both, when my phone rang.
“Hey,” Prince Charming said.  “I see I missed two of your calls.  Is everything all right?”
Hearing his voice was enough to bring me to tears.  “Just a minute,” I said to the girl behind the counter.  “I need to take this call.”
I stepped outside and began to cry.  “Oh, God, I am so sorry,” I sobbed.  “Twink is gone, but Scruggs is still here, and they were going to put Samantha to sleep, and if I don’t take them today they’re going to put them all to sleep, and the girl behind the desk says I have too many animals, and they can’t let me take anymore, and I don’t know what to do, and I haven’t been to court yet, and I’m so sorry I let you down, and I just can’t leave here without Scruggs and Samantha.”
The phone was so quiet I thought I had lost the connection.  I hiccupped a few more times and then asked, “Are you still there?”
A quiet sigh was my answer.
I started to talk again, but he cut me off.
“I heard you,” he said.  “Do you need me to come?”
How could I answer that question when everything seemed so far out of control for me?  It was not like me to stand in a public place and blubber like a baby.  It was not in my nature to let others stand in the way of what I wanted.  I was a fighter, not a victim.  I found solutions to problems, I didn’t give into them.  Yet there I was, drained, frightened, and feeling desperately alone.  I stood silently, unable to find the answer, knowing I needed him, but uncertain I could or should ask.
He answered for me.
“I’ll be right there,” Prince Charming said.  “Give me twenty minutes, okay?  We do have twenty minutes, don’t we?”
“Yes,” I whispered.
Twenty-three minutes later, my Prince Charming appeared, dressed in his best charcoal gray suit, white shirt, maroon tie, and gleaming white hair.  He looked every bit the warrior king ready to do battle for his fair maiden.
I stifled my tears but couldn’t help putting my head against his chest.  He placed his hands on my shoulders, gave them a quick squeeze, and then stepped around me.
“Let’s get this done,” he said in his lawyer voice, which was all the comfort I needed. As a team, we would “get this done.”  Together we were invincible!
We stepped back into the office and I pointed to the clerk that held the paperwork for Scruggs and Samantha.
My husband stepped up to the Precious Princess One, just as Precious Princess Two was joining her at her station.
“Is this the woman you were having trouble with?” she asked Precious Princess One, pointing at me.
“Yes,” she answered.  “She’s the one who wants to adopt these two animals, but she seems to have some licensing issues as well as too many animals.”
The smirk on the faces of the two young women was enough again make me want to resort to violence.  But my husband, who knew me only too well, instinctively put out a restraining arm.
In his most soothing lawyer voice, he said to them, “I think there may be a mistake.  All of our animals are current with vaccinations and licensing.  I personally spoke with Agent Tamara myself.”
I was momentarily taken aback.  Agent Tamara was a senior enforcement officer with the Humane Society.  She was a goddess at the shelter, and her name was not to be used lightly.  My husband and I had come to know her when we did an animal cruelty case together.  She came to every court appearance and we had chatted about animals.  In fact, she and my husband had been in court together the Monday after he had euthanized Alice.  He had told me how solicitous she had been at his loss.
Precious Princess One and Precious Princess Two also were momentarily stunned into silence by the use of Agent Tamara’s name.  But it was only momentarily.
Precious Princess Two, the bolder of the two, sniffed at my husband, looked him up and down, then said, “And when did you speak with Agent Tamara?  She is in court today, and then out in the field.  She’s not expected in the office until much later.”
My husband has the most charming smile, while mine can be viper-like when riled, his is charming and sweet.
He smiled at her and answered, “I know Agent Tamara is in court today.  In fact, she was in the same courtroom with me when I spoke with my wife about the trouble she was having today.  Agent Tamara seemed a little concerned and told me to tell you to call her if there was a problem.”
The eyes of both girls widened at my husband’s words.  But again, Precious Princess Two was the quicker of the two to recover.
“We don’t make calls like that, sir,” she said, her voice sliding into disrespect.  “She is much too busy for us to bother her when she is in court.”
My husband shrugged.  “Okay, then can we continue with this adoption?”
Both girls shook their heads in the negative. 
Precious Princess One answered, “I’m sorry, sir, but the computer says you have too many dogs at your address, and we can’t allow a fourth dog to go home with you.  Besides, it says here you have two Rottweilers, and a Rottweiler mix.  We don’t allow dogs to go home with adoptive families unless they bring their dogs into the shelter to see if the dogs get along.”

“We have no problem bringing our two dogs here to do a temperament check,” he answered.  “When can we set that up?”

Thursday, April 23, 2015

CHAPTER SIX THE TEST OF WILLS—BUREAURACY RAISES ITS UGLY HEAD AGAIN (24th installment, Scruggs and Samantha, by Mary de la Pena)

(24th installment, Scruggs and Samantha, by Mary de la Pena)

I know I said it earlier, but let me repeat myself: adopting an animal is not easy.  Besides the emotionally draining aspect of choosing the right animal, there is the bureaucratic nightmare of paperwork.
I arrived back at the front office with Scruggs’s and Samantha’s paperwork in hand.  Having previously completed the contracts for the dog and a kitten, as well as the adoption questionnaire, I thought all I had left to do was pay the adoption fee.  Unfortunately for me, I was wrong.  Worse yet, the compassionate worker who had helped me previously was again working the phones and was no longer assisting with licensing and adoptions.  I was left to the mercy of Precious Princess One and Precious Princess Two, both of whom appeared to be in rare bureaucratic form yet again.
I confidently stepped forward with my paperwork, checkbook in hand, only to be met with a sniff and a hair toss from Precious Princess One.  I smiled in response and handed her the forms.
Not a word emanated from the clerk as she began typing my information into her computer.  Suddenly, she stopped, looked up at me, sniffed and did the hair toss over the shoulder again.
“You’re not eligible to adopt,” she said.
“Pardon?” I answered.
“You’re not eligible to adopt a dog according to the local municipal code,” she said, almost smirking.
“I’m sorry, but why is that?” I asked, irritation rising in my chest.
She rolled her eyes at me as she tossed the hair and sniffed again. Then she said, “You have too many dogs, and some aren’t current with their tags.”
“No, I don’t,” I answered.  “I only have the two dogs, and the city allows three!”
“No,” she said, almost smirking, “the computer says you have at least three dogs, possibly more.  At least two, if not more don’t have current registrations.”
“That can’t be,” I said.  “I registered them when the agent came to my house. I even showed her the folder I keep with my copies of their vaccinations. Do you have the right address?”
She repeated my address back to me and my home phone number. When I confirmed that both were correct, she just shrugged.
“What dogs do you say I have?” I asked, trying to solve the mystery.
“You have a Rottweiler named Katie,” she answered, “And she is seriously behind in her registration.”
“Katie is deceased,” I answered, taking what felt like a blow to my chest. 
Katie was my first Rottweiler and the love of my life.  She had been the first dog of my adulthood, and the one my husband and I had picked out together. Like many empty nesters, she became our “child.”  We had trained her together, spending every Monday night at the park for over a year with her.  We had traveled with her, and even bought an SUV so she could travel comfortably.  When it became too difficult to find hotels that would take her, we bought a cabin so we could spend our weekends away with her.  At the end of her life Katie had been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, an enlarged heart.  I had always thought the diagnosis was appropriate because her heart was huge and filled with love.  When her time came she had died in our arms.  Just thinking of her made me relive the trauma of her death.
But she was more than eight years gone!  How could the ninny behind the counter even think she could be eighteen years old?
I smothered a withering verbal retort and asked her who else she had.
“I also have Yukon and Tessa, neither of which is current,” she answered with another hair toss.
“Both are deceased,” I answered.
“You seem to have trouble keeping your animals alive,” she said.
I swallowed hard. Visions danced in my head of snatching her long hair and pulling it out in large handfuls until she was bald. But just as quickly I smothered my desire for violence as I tried to be pleasant since she still held the fate of Scruggs and Samantha in her hands.
“Please check the animals’ birthdates,” I said.  “They all are dead due to old age, except Tessa who was killed by a coyote near our cabin.”
Precious Princess One sniffed again, flipped her hair over her shoulder, and tapped a few more keys on her computer.
 “Okay,” she said, not looking up at me.  “Even if you say those three are deceased, you also already have three dogs at your residence,” she said, with somewhere between a smirk and a sniff.
I felt the heat of blood rushing to my face as I stood clenching my fists. Just as an emotion somewhere between panic and homicidal mania with a twist of mayhem was again about to overtake me, my cell phone rang.

It was Prince Charming on the line.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

CHAPTER FIVE FINDING SAMANTHA—SAVING HER LIFE (23rd installment, Scruggs and Samantha, by Mary de la Pena)


(23rd   installment, Scruggs and Samantha, by Mary de la Pena)

With Scruggs safe I stood for a moment idly rubbing Scruggs’s nose as I tried to think through the problem.  Again I dialed my husband’s cell phone, hoping I could catch him between appearances.  Again it went straight to voicemail. I hung up the phone without leaving a message.  I didn’t know what to say.  How could I tell him in a voice message that his kitten was gone?  How would he take the disappointment?  With our current state of cold war, would he immediately jump to blame?
I paced in front of Scruggs’s cage with him following my every step, his eyes never leaving me.  His face was a study of intensity.  He was mirroring my mood as well as my steps, trying as only dogs can to help me solve my dilemma. 
“Okay, Scruggs,” I said.  “What should I do?  Do I find another kitten, or do I just walk away?”
He froze in mid-step, his front foot raised, his tail held erect, and his ears pricked. 
I asked again.  “What should I do?  Kitten or no kitten?”
With the second question he came to the cage gate, pressing his nose through the fence, inviting me to rub him.  As I pressed my fingers through the mesh to pet his whiskered face, he sighed.  Then he backed up, sat down, and turned his face toward the door leading outside to the cat ward.
“Scruggies, come here, Scruggs,” I coaxed.
He started to come to me, then sat down and stared at the door leading out from the dog kennels to the cat ward.
I stared hard at him.  It was crazy; dogs don’t understand questions like the one I had asked him. I was going too far in my insanity.  I knew I had gone around the bend, off the pier, and over the dam— all the inane idioms for having lost my mind.
Yet, there he sat idly, catching my eye and then rolling his eyes toward the door. I thrust my fingers through the gate again and called him to me.  He did not move.  He just kept doing the crazy eye thing, making contact with my eyes and then looking at the door.
Okay, I thought, crazier things have happened.  Not much crazier, mind you, but still, weird things have happened between me and my animals, leaving me to believe that God uses animals sometimes to reach us when He thinks we need to listen to Him.
I shrugged, and finally said, “Okay, Scruggs, be that way.  I’ll go look.”
The words had no sooner left my mouth when he began his happy dance, joyfully twirling and prancing, his tail wagging in pleasure.  As I stepped toward his cage to give him one final pat, he froze, refusing to come to the cage door, staring hard at me, then shifting his gaze to the door.
“Okay, okay, don’t nag,” I said.  “I’m going, I’m going!”
As I entered the cat ward, the same volunteer I had spoken with three days earlier was going through the cages, removing kittens and cats, and placing them in a larger cage on wheels.  Her shoulders were slumped and she held each kitten close to her as she removed them from their cages.  Each cat she held was silent and frozen in her arms.  Resignation emanated from the human and the felines.
I gasped as I realized what she was doing.  She was culling the cats to be euthanized!
Just as the conscious thought formed she reached into the cage holding the small black kitten I had played with the week before. But this kitten did not lie quietly in her arms.  It began to purr so loudly I could hear her from across the room.
Without thinking I sprang across the distance in what must have been one leap. 
“No!” I cried, “That kitten is mine!  Please, don’t take her away!  Please, please, please, don’t take her!”
The worker whirled around just as my outstretched hands reached her to take the kitten from her grasp.
Tears sprang to her eyes as she gently placed the purring kitten in my hands.  “Thank God,” was all she said.
I snuggled the tiny kitten in my arms as she continued to purr.  Seeing the volunteer’s tears and feeling the soft fur of the kitten I held, I knew I had arrived just in time to find the right fit to my house.  This tiny black kitten with the copper-hued eyes was going home with Scruggs and me.
Holding her close, I thought of a black cat I had owned many years ago.  I had named him Merlin after the magician.  It had only seemed fitting to name a black cat after a famous sorcerer.  But the kitten I held was a female.  She needed a girl’s name.  Without much of a conscious thought, Samantha of Bewitched jumped to mind.
Of course!  My little black kitten should be named after a famous witch!
“Samantha,” I said.  “Your name is Samantha.”
I rubbed her face and cuddled her a little more.  The volunteer handed me her card, then gently took the kitten from me.
“Samantha is a good name for her,” she said.  “I’m glad she’s got a home.”
I tapped my finger on her cage and watched her skitter to my fingers, then arch her back and skitter away.

Peace again settled into my psyche.  I had made good decisions.  A dog’s and a kitten’s lives were saved, and I was ready to leave that place. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

CHAPTER FIVE FINDING SAMANTHA—DESPERATION COMES IN MANY FORMS (22nd installment, Scruggs and Samantha, by Mary de la Pena)


(22nd  installment, Scruggs and Samantha, by Mary de la Pena)

The wait was interminable. Where was Scruggs? Was he safe? Had he been put down by mistake? With Twink gone nothing seemed secure. I was desperate.
While I waited I pondered how I should handle the issue of the missing kitten with my husband.  Bad news never got better with age, so I quickly dialed his cell phone.  But just as quickly it rolled over to voicemail.  I snapped the phone shut, hesitant to leave that kind of message without some sort of human contact.  It left me with nothing to do but wait for the kennel gate to open.
Those fifteen minutes were the longest minutes in a span of time I had ever spent.  I felt as if time had stopped.  In many respects it was the same as waiting for a verdict in a jury trial.  The outcome was no longer in my hands.  I had done everything I could.  The fate of the animals was in the hands of God.
Despair and fear settled like a heavy cloak on my shoulders.  I could barely breathe from the weight of uncertainty.  With nowhere to go I had a front row seat to the parade of animals brought by truck and individuals.  All of the surrendered animals were placed in holding cages at the front of the shelter directly across from where I paced.
The saddest scene was a woman in her mid-thirties.  She came in holding a small dog that was all wiggles and kisses.
“Here,” she said, handing the dog to the intake worker behind the counter.  “It was running loose in my neighborhoods and its gots no collar, no nothing. You takes it, I can’t keeps it, okay?”
As she was saying this, the dog was giving her kisses all over her face and clearly there was a ring around the dog’s neck where at one time a collar must have rested.
The worker looked at the wiggling dog and then leveled a stare at the woman.  “It will be a twenty-five-dollar surrender fee to take your dog, ma’am,” she said.
“Why?  It’s not my dog.  I tolt you I found it loose in my neighborhoods.”
The worker looked hard at the wiggling dog in the woman’s arms.  It was fat, well cared for, and clearly not a street dog.  But there was also something in the woman’s face that made the worker just shrug and start the paperwork.  But, as she began asking the questions of where the dog was found and how she found it, the shoulders of the woman surrendering the dog began to slump as she held the dog tighter and tighter.  Tears began to form in her eyes, and her voice became shaky.
Finally, with the paperwork completed, the woman signed the bottom of the surrender form.  Handing the dog to the worker and quickly walking away, she left without a backward glance.  But the dog began to whimper, and then barked a plaintive cry as it wiggled and cried, almost escaping the worker, clearly trying to follow its owner as she walked away.  
I stood frozen, watching, unable to avert my attention from the scene as it unfolded.  I wanted to run after the woman and berate her for lying about her dog, just leaving it like unwanted trash.  But just as I thought I could get my feet to respond to my emotional desire to run after the woman, the gates to the kennel area opened. Scruggs!  I had to find Scruggs!
I bolted to the large-dog kennel, running hard to kennel 83, praying as I went.  Skidding to a stop, I was faced with an empty kennel.
Oh, my God!  The kennel was empty.  Scruggs was gone!
I grabbed the chain-link gate and shook it in my anger and frustration, sobbing my dog’s name, “Scruggs, oh, God, Scruggs, I am so sorry!”
I sank to the floor, closed my eyes, and wept, resting my head against the fence.
As I sobbed, I felt a tentative pressure against the top of my head, then a quick swipe of a tongue.  I opened my eyes and stared into the whiskered face of a laughing, golden-haired dog.
Scruggs was alive!
It was only as I thrust my fingers through the gate to rub his face did I notice the trap door from the kennel to the dog run was open. He had obviously been outside in the dog run area of the kennel.

Relief overwhelmed me.  The previous tears of disappointment became tears of joy and relief.  My golden boy was safe. But a kitten, what was I going to do about a kitten?  Twink was gone.  Would my Prince Charming be content with a different cat in our home?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

CHAPTER FIVE FINDING SAMANTHA—IF TWINK IS GONE—WHAT HAPPENED TO SCRUGGS?(21st installment, Scruggs and Samantha, by Mary de la Pena)


(21st installment, Scruggs and Samantha, by Mary de la Pena)

When finally the office door opened, as planned, I was first in line, paperwork in hand.  I had the adoption questionnaires and the completed contracts, as well as Scruggs’s kennel and tag numbers.  I was ready to adopt!
I handed the paperwork to the same kindly worker who had helped me earlier.  She smiled at me as I stepped up to her workstation.
“How can I help you today?” she asked.
“I’m back for my dog and kitten,” I answered, smiling.  “I have the paperwork all ready for Scruggs and Twink!”
Reading the paperwork, she tapped the information into her computer.  Suddenly a stricken look crossed her face.  She looked at me, frowned, then turned back to her computer, tapped a few more keys, sighed, then handed me back my paperwork.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “but the computer says the kitten you chose was adopted on Saturday, and the dog—well, the dogs in kennel 83—their last day was supposed to be Saturday.”
It was like a blow to my midsection.  Tears immediately sprung to my eyes.  “No, no,” I whispered.  “It can’t be.  The kitten was supposed to be available today…and, remember, you promised me that you’d put a ‘hold’ label on my dog?  I told you I’d be back today.  Remember?”
Blankness stared back at me.
I crushed the paperwork in my hand, using all my self-control to keep from throwing it back in her face.
I tried again.  “I was the one who didn’t know the tag number of the dog.  He was the golden retriever mix kept in the inside cage.”
Still blankness.
I gave it one more shot, humbling myself to try to jog her memory.  “Remember, I was the one who started to cry,” I said.
She closed her eyes; shook herself, then looked more closely at me.  Finally, she nodded her head.  “I remember.  And, yes, I did say I would put a ‘hold’ on your dog.  It doesn’t show on my computer, but after you left I distinctly remember having the kennel worker put a ‘hold’ and date stamp on his card.”
Relief flooded over me, but it was quickly replaced by irritation.  Twink was the compromise I had made with my husband.  Twink was his choice and it looked as if I had failed him.  How would he take the loss of the kitten he had already named and claimed as his own?
Anger overcame irritation.  The warrior in me began to bubble to the surface.  I was doing battle for someone other than myself.  I was ready for war!
“But the kitten,” I asked, my voice snapping with anger.  “What happened to the kitten?  Why was she adopted on Saturday?”
My question was met with a shrug of her shoulders and a sigh.  She paused a moment, shrugged her shoulders again, and said, “Mix-up with the paperwork, I guess.”
I vibrated as my anger grew.  All my criminal defense lawyer instincts told me she was not telling me the truth.  I remembered her telling me that “others” had wanted to adopt the kitten, and I also knew that many times the volunteers got first pick of the animals they wanted to keep them for themselves, not waiting for the mandated time to elapse.
The worker must have read my face because she immediately apologized.  “Listen, I’m sorry about this.  But I can tell you the kitten went to a good home.  She didn’t go to a rescue group.  She’s in a private home.”
This was supposed to soothe me?  I had done everything right.  I was here, first in line, my paperwork complete, my home was appropriate.  How could this have happened?
Yet even with my anger at losing Twink, I thought of the long, unpaid hours the volunteers gave to the shelter.  Maybe it was only appropriate they should have the choice of animals.  Twink was in a good home, but what of Scruggs? 
If paperwork could be mishandled so easily, what if something horrible had happened to my dog?
“Can you check to make sure if my dog is okay?” I asked, leaning across the counter trying to read her computer.
She tapped a few more keys on her keyboard, but continued frowning.  “I can’t tell for sure.  All this tells me is that there is one dog in kennel 83, but it doesn’t say what the tag number is.”
“Can’t I go look?” I asked.
“The kennel opens at nine o’clock,” she said.  “You can go then.”

There was something in her tone that was too final, too ominous.  Crushing the paperwork to my chest, I staggered outside to wait for the kennels to open.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

CHAPTER FIVE FINDING SAMANTHA—DOUBT COLORS THE DAY (20TH installment, Scruggs and Samantha, by Mary de la Pena)


(20TH installment, Scruggs and Samantha, by Mary de la Pena)

Monday morning was a slow time coming.  Saturday took my husband and me away from the city to do a charity function.  But even with the activity swirling around me, Scruggs and Twink were never far from my mind.  Visions of catastrophes danced in my head.  What if there was a paperwork mix-up?  What if I had gotten the wrong collar number off Scruggs’s neck?  What if that irrepressible spirit was snuffed out of existence because I chose to give myself somewhere else?
Sunday was even worse.  I paced and fretted and worried throughout the day.  By Sunday evening I was exhausted from compiling scenarios of disaster.  Finally, peace overtook me.  I decided that whatever happened was God’s plan and I should accept the outcome.  However, I may have gone too far with that particular mental exercise.  In trying to find an internal peace from my anxiety, second thoughts began to intrude. 
Many times when faced with a major event it was my habit to pick at the fabric of the decision to determine whether I should proceed.  Unfortunately, those second thoughts have oftentimes frozen me into inaction.  If I was unable to proceed in haste toward a major change, I turned away at the last moment, afraid the slowing process was God’s way of telling me to stop.  Once I stopped it was very hard for me to gather the courage to go forward again.  Thus, the passage of three days between the time of finding Scruggs and Twink at the pound allowed my trepidation to grow immeasurably.
By Monday morning I was filled with ambivalence.  Adopting an animal was a long-term commitment.  Was it just a passing mood that attracted me to the scruffy dog, or was it something greater, more healing?  Was I unable to find the “right cat” in my earlier searches because I was supposed to be downsizing my animal population?
All these crazy thoughts crowded my overwrought brain as I dressed for work.  Yet, as I chose my suit for the court appearance I had promised to make after my visit to the Humane Society, I elected an older, dark-colored blue, more suited to holding a dirty animal.
I arrived a little past eight-thirty on Monday morning.  The shelter did not open until nine o’clock, but I also knew that the office workers started processing paperwork at 8:45.  I wanted to make sure I was first in line.
Even at that early hour the trucks were arriving with animals picked up from their street sweeps, other people were lined up to surrender animals.  It was the same horrific scene I had faced the week before.  I felt my knees buckle and my resolve falter. 

But, as I waited and paced on the front walkway, watching the unfolding action, I felt a stirring in my psyche.  Steel began to replace my wet-noodle spine.  Lightness filtered through my fears.  I thought of Scruggs—his happy nature, his lolling-tongue smile—and I knew I had to see my decision through to completion.  Scruggs and Twink had to go home with me.  At least two fewer animals were going to die that day.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

CHAPTER FOUR SURPRISE—YOURSELF!—PRINCE CHARMING SAVES A SMILE (19th installment, Scruggs and Samantha, by Mary de la Pena)

(19th installment, Scruggs and Samantha, by Mary de la Pena)

We arrived Back at the front desk of the Humane Society to check on the availability of the little brown calico kitten Prince Charming had chosen. We found out the little kitten would be available on Monday, the same day as Scruggs.  We were also warned that others had expressed interest in the calico kitten and, if we wanted her—because it was first come, first served—we needed to be at the shelter when it opened.
It was my husband’s turn to look stricken.  “But we can’t be here when it opens,” he said.  “We have cases on Monday and we have to be in court!”
“Listen, I promise I’ll be here,” I said, “I can be here on Monday at 8:45 a.m. to get Scruggs and the kitten. You go to Rancho court and to Chino. I’ll hit the Pomona court when I’m done here.”
“Really?” he asked.
I understood the question. It had been a long time since I had willingly juggled any of my time for him or for the practice. Any of his requests of me to help had been met with sour indifference at best—rage at worst.  For me to offer to appear on any of the cases was monumental.  I again felt that faint stirring again in the center of my chest. I found myself appreciating his willingness to indulge me, and I thought it was only right that I should make the effort for him.
I shook my head. Was that a brick falling out of the wall of indifference that I had erected around my heart?
“Hey,” I said, taking his hand.  “I promised Scruggs I wouldn’t leave him here. Your kitten is just an add-on to that promise.”
“Her name is Twink,” he said.
“Twink?” I asked.
“Hey, if you can name your dog Scruggs,” he said, “I can name my kitten Twink, as in twinkle, like her eyes.”
“Okay, then.  I guess Twink it is,” I said.  “Oh, by the way, Baby: surprise!  Our family is growing again.”
“Surprise, yourself, little one,” he said.  “I knew it was just a matter of time.  Our house is too quiet and I felt that we were rattling around in it. We need these kids, and I’m glad we found them.”
Again I shook my head. Was I hearing tenderness in his voice? Was I even allowing myself to hear the tenderness? I exhaled quickly and took his hand. The touch was enough to steady my nerves as I relaxed into a smile, and the tension of apprehension began to unwind from my shoulders. I was relieved to find that the magic was still with us.
“We’re saving a life,” I said to my husband as we left the shelter hand in hand on that Friday afternoon.
“No, dear,” he smiled, pulling me close, “we’re saving two lives, three counting your smile.  I thought it had died forever.  I am mighty glad to see it back again.”

Thursday, April 2, 2015

CHAPTER FOUR SURPRISE—YOURSELF!—PRINCE CHARMING PICKS A CAT (18th installment, Scruggs and Samantha, by Mary de la Pena)

(18th installment, Scruggs and Samantha, by Mary de la Pena)

After Prince Charming met the scraggy golden dog, I got to enjoy watching my husband laugh at the antics of the dog named Scruggs.  But, never one to leave things alone, I used that moment to push my luck a little farther.
“As long as we’re here,” I said, “can we look at the kittens?”
Shaking his head, my husband answered, “I should have known there would be more.  We might as well get this over with.  Show me the cats.”
We left the large-dog runs and went back into the rooms holding the multiple tiers of cat cages.  In the two days since I had been there, the population had swelled.  There were even more kittens and full-grown cats stuffed in the cages.  But heartbreakingly enough, many of the cats I had seen earlier were gone.  I almost started to cry, forgetting the recent joy of seeing Scruggs and my husband form their bond.
I let go of my husband’s hand to let him walk the aisles of cages holding the cats and kittens.  It was his turn to have the needy little ones pull at his sleeve and press against his psyche as he passed by them.  He looked into each cage and wiggled his fingers at some of the kittens.  Gently he called to some of the more reluctant cats that sat at the back of their cages.  I did not interfere.  I let him look and see if he made any choices without my input.
Finally he turned to me.  “There are so many,” he said, sadness coloring his voice.  “How do you choose?”
“I like the little black one,” I answered, pointing a tiny female kitten with copper-colored eyes.
He gave her a cursory look, but continued looking up and down the cages again, finally stopping in front of a beautiful brown calico kitten sleeping at the front of her cage.  She came to him when he wiggled his fingers and started a round of loud purring.
“This one,” he said, stroking her fur. “Feel how soft she is.”
I couldn’t help but smile.  He was making a concerted effort to be part of the process of enlarging our family.  A warm glow began to grow in the center of my being.  I realized that he wanted me to be happy and, if adopting an animal would do it, then he was on board with it.
I looked more closely at the kitten he had chosen  She was beautiful with rabbit-soft fur and china-blue eyes, reminding me of a cat I had gotten long ago for my daughters when they were small.  Ralphie had been the joy of their lives. He was patient, sweet, and completely unflappable--the perfect cat for small children.  The kitten had his same white, tan, and dark brown coloring, the same soft fur, and the same piercing blue eyes.
As I turned away from her, I couldn’t help but see the small black kitten I had seen the day before.  She was playing with an invisible piece of lint, scampering and skittering around her cage.  Briefly I ran my fingers across her cage door. But, as I watched my newly re-emerging Prince Charming, I saw the light in his eyes as he stroked the kitten he had chosen. Quickly I turned away from the black kitten, afraid of letting her get too close to my heart.
Sometimes choices and trade-offs are made to cement a relationship.  I knew my husband was trying hard to please me because he saw how important the dog I had found was to me.  It was time for me to relent and give back. The black kitten was not finding a home with me.  I needed to let my husband, my Prince Charming, have what he wanted—and maybe even needed.
Then I felt it again.  The funny stirring in my chest, almost as if I were struggling to breathe.  I caught my breath and then looked at my husband. I began to smile as I realized how handsome he was, how kind he was, and how lucky I was to have him in my life.
“Aha,” I thought to myself.  “There it is. I knew love was in there somewhere.”
Without a backward glance at the black kitten, I turned to my husband.  “Okay,” I said.  “You let me have Scruggs, and you get to have the kitten of your choice.”

“Done,” he said, shaking my hand.