Chica I on left
All dogs know what happens to each other, did you know that? I do because Mariana came to me today in the parking lot. She always comes to see me, you see, but this time it was different. She jumped up and put her arms around me and gave me an honest to God hug. And then she started to whimper. Real low and down in her throat, and I thought she wanted me to comfort her. But she continued to jump up and down and hug me and make noises. I realized she was trying to tell me something, and then it hit me. She was telling me how sorry she was about Chica’s passing. She was trying to comfort me. Even Chaparo came to see me. Now he never leaves his post by the cashier in the lot. Never ever. Mariana continued to jump and next thing I knew, my red shirt was all dirty and my jeans had streaks of mud and when I left, I discovered my left arm was full of scratches, scratches in the shape of two swords crossing one another with a line below. What did it mean? What was Chica trying to tell me?
But let me back up. I am getting ahead of myself. Mariana is a bull terrier with beautiful eyes the color of honey. They were green when she was a baby and she is a real beauty. I wanted so bad to buy her for my mother-in-law when her dog was dying a few years back, but the owner wouldn’t sell her. He would rather leave her to guard the parking lot. The guy who works in the lot told me she has bitten some of the customers, but I find that impossible to believe. I have always loved her, almost as if she is one of my animals reincarnated. That is how close our bond is. She lives in the parking lot where I park my car when I go to the bank, which is almost every day. My name is Luh and I own an interior design and furniture store, a small business with only my husband and me and a few employees to run the place.
Chica passed away last week. She was the runt of the litter, the smallest of six Shar-pei puppies born in our house 13 years ago. The first puppy came when I returned from Burger King one evening, after picking up take out. I got to the gate and my husband ran out and said, “You’re a grandmother.” He really yelled it, but that is the way he gets sometimes. I guess it is the Latin in him. People have compared his accent to Ricky Ricardo from I Love Lucy, but I think that is a little unfair. I understand him perfectly, but we have been together almost twenty years and I understand him and spend lots of time translating his English to others.
I just looked at him, “Liar,” I said. “Now why would you go and tell me something like that?” I had good reason not to believe, as the future mother Alex was standing right behind him at the gate, looking fatter than usual, but other than that, pretty much the same.
But I ran in anyway, bags and sodas in a cardboard box that ended up on the floor with the drinks spilled, running toward the plastic swimming pool we had prepared for the puppies to arrive, almost as precarious as the cardboard box that held our drinks. Now I have to admit, the vet told me not to put in towels, but I had done it anyway. If there is one thing you will learn about me, I don’t listen very well. It isn’t anything personal. And in between the towels, I heard what sounded like the peeping of a chicken and then a head popped up, all black with its nose smashed down, even looked kind of like a little chick. Legs thrust out with tiny little nails on the end of each precious paw, I watched in wonder as the living creature attempted to move forward. Alex jumped in and I threw the bag of food in the air and jumped in too. Oh my God, it was a living breathing puppy. I really was a grandmother. But before I could have another thought, another puppy started coming out and Alex looked at me. I could tell she wanted me to help her. Panic-stricken, I screamed, “Moises.” And he took over, bless his heart.
He delivered six puppies in total, broke and opened every sac, cleaned them up. Alex did a really crappy job of cutting the cords. Well, maybe she didn’t try at all. We ended up using a scissors. The first puppy was bigger than the rest and black. The second was fawn, but the third puppy was very small and did not move. Moises couldn’t get her to breathe. I called Dr. Julio on his cell and he was at the house in five minutes. He grabbed her by the legs and tossed her outward. Whack and out flew something from the puppy’s mouth. He explained later she had fluid in her lungs. Small and delicate, barely moving, we named her Marie Antoinette, but for most of her life we called her Chica. She was so small, but she was a fighter.
A few hours later, six puppies slept in the swimming pool, but as the hours went by and they woke up to feed, I knew we were in trouble. Their little nails and Alex’ much bigger nails scratched the sides of the pool and we heard a big swoosh, as the pool collapsed. I jumped in to hold the sides as the air went out, afraid that the falling plastic would suffocate the tiny puppies. Moises made a dog bed from a cardboard box and put in a call to the carpenter.
“He needs to build a better house for these puppies,” I said, as we transported them to their cardboard home for the night.