Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Juice Retrospective

Juice is 5 years old now — and still so terrific. and of course i’m totally objective. but even if i’m not, i’ve heard enough complements from other folks to know conclusively that i have a special dog. even on day one, i knew i hit the jackpot. i well remember that day when i went to the South LA pound to choose my puppy. little did i know that they actually choose you. it was a Friday in mid-July, a hot day, making for one stinky animal shelter. i walked through the kennels and surveyed the barking pups. at that point, i wanted to take all of them home. city shelters are fucking depressing.

but then this little pup caught my eye. she wasn’t barking. she was sitting quietly looking up at me, blinking her dark eyes. in her kennel were two boys, presumably her brothers from the same litter, who were barking wildly and wrestling each other in an attempt to rope my attention. but she sat silent and calm nearby, just staring, staring. so i stared back. cupid must have surfaced at that moment to shoot his arrow into my heart. love at first sight. the decision had been made.

i walked through the remainder of the pound out of obligation, all the while knowing i had already found what i came for. that charade must have lasted five minutes before i turned to find the guard with the keys, who opened the gate, grabbed the lone female pup out of the litter, the runt, and placed her into my arms, creating a moment of sheer cosmic divination. this was the big it. we belonged to each other. she was about six weeks old.

at the shelter, the employees told me i was getting a rottweiler who would likely grow to 90 pounds. she had enormous paws and a black face with brown teardrop markings that are characteristic of rotts. the tips of her paws were frosted white, like a french manicure. and her puppy countenance seemed a touch serious, belying her gentle nature.

as she grew, however, it became clear that she wasn’t a rott at all. she was more of a Shepard with floppy ears and a snout like a lab. her cute face — which i found cutest when she slept — gradually turned brown and sweeter. and she grew to only 75 pounds.

she was crazy affectionate, too — almost bordering on needy. it took a long while before she could be left alone without incident. the first time i tried, i jetted to the grocery store for an hour and came home to neighbors standing outside my door, demanding to know what torture was being conducted inside. apparently, Juice had alarmed the neighborhood with her intense howling. this alarmed me in turn and really drove home the gravity of puppy parenthood. from that point on, everything became about training. and fortunately for me, Juice was a quick study.

people always ask me about the name. i can’t take credit; my ex named her. but it fits. she drools a lot, prompting the groomers i often take her to to call her Juicy Juice. she has a slew of other nicknames as well, which evolve with time. they include pretty girl, patoose, toots, cute cake, pinhead, perfect and bozo. but she is most thoroughly Juice. funny story about the first few years with her, when i lived in the fairfax & beverly area of LA, near the Hasidics, who would traipse through the neighborhood, usually to temple while i chased my pup up the street in a few botched attempts at walking her without a leash, screaming “Juice! Juice!” i got many stares and only realized later that they must have thought i was screaming “Jews! Jews!”

always a social and affectionate dog, Juice had many friends and admirers throughout the neighborhood, both canine and human. Chuck (pictured here) was her main man for a long while, before his owners moved out of state. they spent many a playdate locked in embraces. thankfully, they were both fixed.

but ultimately black Max took her heart. they’ve been best friends and lovers since puppyhood. Max is a year older and lives nearby, so they get to see each other weekly. from Max, Juice learned how to pee like a boy dog and how to wrestle with the best of them.

from me, Juice hopefully learned some of her good manners and how to while away her days by being lazy. she’s fairly mellow now, never aggressive or unruly, and she can walk without a leash. she’s definitely still needy, smiley, sweet, cuddly, gentle and perfect. i can’t imagine one thing that could make her a better dog.

but the question is — can lightning strike twice in the same household? Juice will have a sister soon. it’s my gift to her on her 5th birthday...

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