Copyright 2015 by James Bassett
told me his name was Scannello, however one might spell that.
Likewise, however one might say that repeatedly throughout the day or
say it right after ‘sit’. This is a
“Sit, Scannello” does not come trippingly off the
tongue. Everything that moves your mouth has to think about
it. And when you’re talking
strange, unknown “dog” talk, it has to be quick and
easy. Otherwise, “just how long is it going to take
get this sentence out of my mouth” soon becomes cats chased
draperies, pillow innards flying everywhere, chairs, tables, and
shelves full of whatnot toppling willy-nilly, guests bowled over at
the door, and poop, yes, poop is professional “dog”
terminology, poop and pee everywhere. No.
Scanello” was not good “dog”
talk. He became
“Roger” real fast and, so far, no poop, no
Thank you very much, Roger. Other dogs have not been so
Roger can hold it forever.
had tagged him a purebred Cocker Spaniel. After all, he
quite look like anything else. The face on him was a Spaniel
type. But if you saw him lying down, you’d think of him more
a good size Retriever type, a Setter if you were to catch just a
glimpse of the feathered tail and legs, or who knows what with those
big, hairy, snowshoe feet. Anyway, he was an adult, and when
stood up, there was a slight jolt. His stubby little, crooked
legs jerked to a stop just six inches up from the ground. The
Cocker Spaniel left a defining mark on this otherwise good size
the towel dried away a simple bath you could see the curls rising up,
flipping back, turning right, and screaming left.
could see the curly Golden Retriever, the kinky Chesapeake Bay
Retriever, the wavy, feathered Setter, and the thick double coated
Cocker Spaniel wiggling through every runaway lock, ringlet, and
twisted curl. To call him a Cocker Spaniel or a Retriever mix
was an insult to nature. This was the first animated, very
frenzied, and maniacal purebred cowlick.
for a while anyway, he’s now my red dog Roger, my scruffy
My dog “for a while” because I volunteered to be a
home for a nokill, animal adoption agency, F.A.I.R., For Animals in
Risk. I supposed the grammar to be no worse than my
And by the way people, about the twentieth time you tell someone you
are a foster home for a dog to be adopted, you just want to turn
around and scream:
So what if I do end up keeping the dog? Just what is your
know they are just thoughtless comments in passing and it’s
own fault to build such resentment over remarks that are rude only by
naiveté. But I do so savor to wallow in
contentious mire and to ill consider all the possible implications
how could you give up such a face?”
course, only a heartless ogre could take in such a cute little dog
that was facing death at a crowded animal shelter, only to coldly
cast it off to another loving family so another and another could
also be so cruelly housed temporarily. What could I
all probability, I will allow Roger to go just to sneer at the
scoffers. That’s the real foe in me I hate to love
Damn the need and damn your own need. Retaliate.
what no one really meant at all.
out. Here comes another sentence that won’t soon be
just have to release the idle chatter of those who don’t
grasp the significance of the space, because right now you have to
concentrate on getting in between the terrified cat racing through
the TV room and the now vicious, bent on killing, Roger in hot
pursuit, yank the dog up bodily by the collar, screaming bloody
murder, “No, we will not be eating the cat
today, Roger,” and wondering
yourself just why you
go through all the more unfriendly aspects of the companion animal
game, the learning, the teaching, the training, the reprimanding, the
scolding, the yelling, and screaming that molds the dog into a
peaceful piece of the family puzzle, just to all too soon release the
dog over to a perfect stranger who will then reap the benefits of
saving yet another out of the hands of, many prefer the euphemism put
to sleep, but it really is, death. Thousands upon
Year after year. Letting the one go, if you can, to give
precious space to another.
anyway, Roger is mine for the time being. The time being,
first, three months for tick and valley fever medication prior to
neutering and adoption. The time then extending to six months
for tick and valley fever medication prior to neutering and adoption.
The time now being two or three more months of medications for valley
fever only, no more tick fever, prior to adoption, as indicated by
blood samples taken during neutering. This is how it
Fever is an erratic disease, causing most no symptoms whatsoever and
some others slight, flu-like symptoms. But for still others,
unlucky few, it causes severe and debilitating, possibly deadly
reactions. Roger was not responding to the Valley Fever
Medication. The disease was progressing. Though
were no obvious symptoms, nothing so visual that just to look at him
you thought of debilitating disease, there were times he turned,
froze, and cried out in pain for no apparent reason. He would
turn in one direction or another, to stand from sitting, or to climb
the porch stairs, only to freeze, crying the pain as only a dog
If I was close, I would check frantically that I wasn’t
standing on his feet or tail, or pinching his hair to the ground or
floor. I would just hold my hands near him, because you could
see it hurt too much to touch. Then it was gone as quick and
you didn’t think so much of disease, rather something broken,
dislocated, or caught up wrong inside. I mentioned to the
neighbor lady how much the veterinarian increased the drug dosage,
adding “Which I guess will either cure him or kill
And I knew that really was no joke. It was an obvious last
hope for the former rather than the later in the not so facetious
remark, but I am no stranger to animals, their illnesses, and
providing for the need and know that all efforts don’t end in
success. But success isn’t the point. The
effort is statement to a social ill of abandoning animals to
tremendously overcrowded shelters, end results known to all,
definitely not a statement of societal success. All the
that have shared my home and life have been animals in need.
Some needed longer than others, some I hardly remember, and yes,
people, some stayed their full lives, others remain still, and still
others died for the trying. Roger? Will he stay or
he go? Well, we’ll see. The intent is to
get through this current wall of horror and finally place him for
adoption. One; because as well as all the others, he deserves
better than to be thrust from home and left to his death, and two;
because others need this half-way from hell to home space.
now, I wonder who this dog is. I’m sitting in a
taking in the sites and sounds of a good ol’ hippie folk
festival, crowded, loud, and bustling with erratic activity, sidewalk
circus acts, painted faces, dazzling streamers, and flashing
fireworks of types. And this dog is letting other little dogs
jump on his head. Little, baby girls are pounding and pulling
on him the way they will and he’s wagging. All of
wagging. Big people are brushing past, reaching down and
his head that little ruffle and a bang. I guess
pat on the head, but it looks like a bang to me. But
wagging and he is for all intents and purposes ignoring the odd dog
who stretches at his leash to pounce on him. That’s
thought this dog was. That’s why we’re
here, to get
this fairly unsociable dog accustomed to being around people and
other animals in public places.
home this is the dog I have to physically restrain at the door, whose
fierce growling grows into savage snarling, pulling me over in his
lunging at visitors. I short leash him when approaching other
dogs on our daily walk because he goes directly for the throat, a
full set of teeth bared and bloodthirsty. It is the dog I
in the TV room when I leave the house because he attacks the cats in
an instant. His attempts to kill them may have thus far been
disrupted and, admittedly, he has softened, even lately been found
lounging in the same sunspot with them on the floor. And
visitors may now be greeted with less sheer violence and out of
danger as soon as they take a second to bend over and tap his barking
head. But for a long, long time that took a particularly
was supposed to have been the first of many planned outings into the
public arena to begin what I thought was going to be a fairly long
trial in socialization for what was up to now an unruly, aggressive,
confrontational, and intimidating dog. But no, maybe finally,
“Who is this dog?” He’s right
next to me on a
loose leash, weaving in between a big city, crowded park of
The dog I brought home is not this mild, happy dog breezing through
the chaos and mayhem. My dog was the chaos and
But today I wonder. My breathing trembling a little as I wonder when
this all turned around. My breathing trembling a little more,
when I think of him moving on.
Roger. My red dog Roger. We’ll
see. If you
live, Roger -- We’ll see.
I guess. (Someone, my sister I guess, once
gave me a
book that I neglected to read, something about a Once and Only Genius
or other, that she informed me at the time used the P.S., postscript,
as some sort of literary tactic or form. So I thought as long
as I added, “I guess”, I might use it as well,
too closely exposing myself to plagiarism.)
Roger. My red dog Roger. We’ll
see. If you
live, Roger -- We’ll see.
so we did see. And now he’s back. This
somewhat terse method of indicating it is now some time
You see, Roger found that “forever home” they call
It didn’t take but a day.
limping in the back leg that caused him such great pain and had been
treated for Valley Fever for so song wasn’t Valley Fever at
all. When the organization’s veterinarian continued
the same path expecting different results and refused to hear any
discussion on the progress or the lack of it from the home point of
view, and despite the stern and fairly condescending objections,
something about the dangers and complications associated with
multiple and conflicting medical treatment interactions and
reactions, I consulted my own veterinarian.
couldn’t argue with the numbers. Tick Fever and
Fever were both indicated and in high numbers, and both are insidious
diseases, and both can situate and manifest themselves in
But it was also possible that the leg was its own and segregated
affliction. Once given a history of the treatment thus far
armed with a few x-rays and manual palpitations, my own veterinarian
offered the possibility and probability of a cruciate ligament
injury. It was something common to the breed, the spaniel
of Roger, and he referred me to a surgical specialist known to him to
perform the most current surgical correction for this
That specialist, also armed with x-rays, confirmed the diagnosis and
confirmed his surgical expertise, and in fact, was even renown for
teaching this newest technique to Veterinarian orthopedic specialists
throughout the country.
was just glad Roger was injured. Injuries are fixable. Some
things are not. I might have even done it to him
He was a really energetic dog and I could only go for so many walks
for so far. He got most of his exercise chasing a ball down
hall. And I chose that hallway expressly for its
value to me. It was tiled. It was my delight to
scramble and slide, slip and tumble as the ball bounced from wall to
wall. The Vet. said it probably was not an injury, but we
the guilt factor in our lives. And like I say, I was just
he was injured. He also said, “Keep him on his
medications for the Tick and Valley Fevers for now, but I think they
are no longer a problem for him and we’ll be able to get him
off all that after the surgery.”
and I went home and I did not throw the ball down the
I guess we’ll see, Roger. You may go home to some
yet. I guess we’ll see. But we did go for
long, quiet walk that night. Walks wouldn’t be
after surgery for a month or so. And if the doctor was right,
Roger would be well. They’d be no more reason to
course, organizations will be organizations, and nothing was going to
happen fast. I may have finally broken through a barrier and
found a real and curable diagnosis for Roger, but it was
Even “no-kill” organizations can’t put
unlimited cash on individual dogs. It was put to me very
succinctly in a fairly blunt email. It wasn’t
new or that I didn’t know. Roger had already cost
lot in medications and now this. The Board of Directors had
and if I did not care to pay for the surgery myself, Roger was to be
killed. And if it had been an abbreviated time limit with an
obscure recovery possibility, I would not have replied so
abrasively. It would not have seemed so much like emotional
blackmail. But they had allowed Roger to remain in my home on
medications for more than a year. You don’t just
support at that point. That decision is made first.
decision to place a dog in the home for extended medication and
recovery is a full commitment to all but the incurable or more
tenable of outcomes in relation to adoptability. At least as
much as that was a given even in kill shelters relying on foster
homes for their favorite “projects”. That
have to hand it to them. It may have taken the
approach and six months, but they put up for, if not the most
expensive surgery, a surgery that has served dogs well for a long
time, and, if not the most current surgery, the best surgeon.
And though I was going to make up financially for the better surgery,
my contact with the organization advised me otherwise and in a manner
I found fully acceptable. That surgery was for the dog
“athlete”. Even the doctor had said
belonged to the champion dog Frisbee competitors. I wanted
world for Roger and so I was being grandiose, elitist. Roger
just wanted to go for our daily three-mile walk around a few
He wanted to chase the ball. He wanted to chase it
down the tiled hall, but I couldn’t do that anymore, even if
the doctor maintained it was not an injury of trauma. The
bounced around the walls of carpeted rooms only. I deferred
surgery dates were set.
was shaved from hip to toe. The cut was a foot long, swollen
and red, with big, black, railroad tie stitches. You
hear the doctor talking to you very well looking at that. The
surgery had gone very well and Roger would be fine.
And this was not just one more “but” in the life of
and me together. It was the bigly
of them all. There was no cruciate ligament injury.
biopsy had been taken. There was also no indication of
associative Valley Fever or Tick Fever activity. So the good
news would be he could finally be taken off his medications.
The other news was that Roger had a very degenerative arthritis in
that knee. There was neither medication nor surgery that
cure and heal Roger. There would be no walks, not ball, not
anything other than bodily functions for Roger for a month, if such a
thing were possible.
course, the surgery cost no less. While open, there was an
exploratory done. It yielded nothing other than already
mentioned. So I had taken the organization down the road of
most expensive and positive path of proof possible that Roger was for
all intents and purposes, not a very satisfactory prospect for
adoption. And had done so at a few turns rather rudely and
self-righteously. I was so proud of myself. Can you
the self-deprecation, the sarcasm dripping?
the months rehabilitated Roger and with otherwise good veterinary
health approval, also of course, finally brought Roger to the nearest
adoption site, placed him in his kennel, and while home enduring the
very expected inner-turmoil, vowed to retrieve him tonight and never
bring him there again. He was my dog and he was home in my
that night. I know the feelings well. I had
dogs in my life. Steeled against my own sentiments, sometimes
think against my own sensibilities, an adoption counselor that had
received three phone calls the next morning from someone who had seen
him yesterday yelled out to me as I entered the facilities.
“Scanello’s” going home, buddy.
been calling all morning.
didn’t meet them. No one is ever good enough to
dog once you have gone through the fire. I intentionally
that to the adoption counselors. My job is to give a
home. But you hear things and they call you and when you know
they’re not home, you take over the last of the food, the
favorite toys, and his blanket.
families adopted Roger. Cousins?
can’t remember. But the one who called was young,
pleasant, and excited to have Roger. She would take him to my
Veterinarian and get the scoop on his previous heath issues and his
continuing arthritis. I could hear children in the
Now that I’m old, I refer to young women like this one on the
phone as “inner-city kids with children”.
an obnoxious term of battered hope, but still, hope. And if
the hope of the young and in love, still, the hope for the young and
thought of Roger as he would always perk up with exactly that hope
when we would hear the playful screams of children in the
neighborhood. You could tell he so longed to be with them
I would often joke about my buying a few children just for him to
play with and have for his very own. And no matter my sense
loss right now, or my foreboding for his future, I grasped the one
given, the one known delight, that Roger now had-- children.
After all, it wasn’t all about me. The entire
whole enchilada, isn’t all about me. Maybe
how I should express it to those who think it so difficult to give an
animal a home for a while, just to give them up, in order to save
them out of the overcrowded animal shelters. It
why you don’t call again. Even if you want to
makes plans to meet in the park or at a community event so you can
see Roger one more time, just once, playing with his new
It had been a couple of months and I had been wanting to do just that
more and more. But you don’t.
It’s not fair.
And I don’t know just who it isn’t fair to the
It just isn’t fair.
I was very glad to hear from the adoption councelor after a few
months. You never know after such a struggle whether you may
have offended people beyond remedy. You push for you and
and see what’s what in the end. There was a
beagle needing a foster home. She was an adoption return
because she didn’t get along with cats. I let her
had a cat that was accustomed to such struggles and that we would try
it. The beagle’s name was Daisy Mae.
say, “What else?”, but I didn’t know what
meant and don’t still. She really didn’t
cat a second glance, was a spotless houseguest, if you get my drift,
and was adopted first day in the limelight. Other than a call
from a nervous new dog owner contemplating returning her for running
so quickly out open doors, but who was also easily persuaded to let a
little time and instruction mend such a minor problem, Daisy was the
antithesis of the Roger rigmarole. And it did at least let me
know that I was not entirely ostracized from the group
was certain of that when I heard from the primary foster contact who
had seen me through the days of Roger. She hoped I might be
ready to take in another and I was except for this one week.
This week however was already scheduled. I had Roger again,
just for the week.
didn’t call. I didn’t make arrangements
Roger one more time. The second cousin, or sister-in-law, the
one I had not spoken with at his adoption time, called. They
were moving. My heart sank. This poor dog Roger was
of a home again was my thought before she could even utter another
word. It was unfair of me. They wanted only for me
hold Roger while they moved things from one house to the other this
week and then they would bring him home when they were settled and
could watch him. It was a lot for them to get this done with
the children and the dog.
I’d love to see Roger for a week.”
regretted my initial and almost instant cynicism. Maybe not
cynicism so much as how quick to be the skeptic, how critical, how
untrusting had become my soul. But it wouldn’t
Roger was presumably in two households, one watching Roger for the
other. All the right words and suggestions were in place, but
it was missing a heartbeat. Still, I dismissed that with,
I’d love to see Roger for a week.”
stood at the door, her door. She hadn’t even
bring him over to my house. I stood at her door and
She hadn’t known about his arthritis, his health
She handed over pills whose label held a date three months past and
the bottle still full. I was supposed to give three a
There was some explanation and a complaint about the organization and
its adoption practices. But it was just chatter and they
call in a week. We were home and Roger was bathed,
for all dogs coming here, just in time to put in our walk.
knew the schedule and the walk to the minute. He knew when we
would walk and where to begin running, which turn to walk again, and
to run the home stretch. I was glad to have Roger for the
if not the fleas. Surprise. Roger sleeps on his
spread eagle, or I would not have seen them the next morning crawling
in and out of the dense coat to the more sparse stomach.
Another bath, flea shampoo, and a double dose of over-the-counter
flea ointment to the neck, tail, and tummy, and a carpet spread with
20 mule team borax to dry and kill wandering fleas and their eggs,
all of which dried his coat to an extreme, and his long, gorgeous,
unwieldy cowlicks were no more than dull and ugly, brittle
And although I would have thoroughly enjoyed returning the fleas, I
was not disappointed to never hear from the “forever
again. And not overly surprised.
did make the obligatory calls to the owners about retrieving
One was to a message machine, the other to my original contact who
very pleasantly offered to relay the message to the other.
Both, I’m sure, certain they had put a good one over on
Me, however, just very glad to be out walking with Roger again, glad
to be finally giving him the medications he was supposed to have
received for the last three months, glad to be rid of the disturbing
bout with fleas, and glad Roger was not returning to such or another
such condition. I was not glad to see he had begun to limp on
one of his front legs.
checked for cactus spines, matted fur, cuts, anything that would
cause a limp. I feared the arthritis was
degenerative nature prompted the surgical Vet. to indicate an immune
deficiency possibility. That had also been brought up about
some blood tests showing an elevation of certain levels sometimes
equated with a compromised immune system. That the
arthritis could be progressing and be Roger’s final disabling
was a plausible prospect. But, still, injury needed to be
eliminated as the culprit. I pursued the matter
the adoption organization. I wasn’t of the mind
was their responsibility, or that Roger was in any way their
responsibility any longer at all. Foster and adoption
can be convoluted, but for now, Roger was in my care by word of the
“forever home” and I cared to use my own
check into the leg.
considering the saga of Roger’s medical chronicle and
developments, I would have injured Roger myself if I thought that
would make certain injury was the diagnosis. Besides
the Vet. informed me during the examination that there was still the
lingering issue of chronic Tick Fever, Ehrlichia, and its insidious
symptoms, including sore, swollen joints. But in the end,
injury it was. A few days of anti-inflammatory medication and
Roger was cured. A few more for good luck, and a few more
because the Vet. said so, one final month of ehrlichia treatment, and
Roger’s days of pills were over.
this now a good, full two years after Roger had come to me?
gone and come to me again? Couldn’t I see the
the muzzle that was not there when he first arrived? Now
off all medications a month or two and there are no symptoms of any
kind. There is only the hind leg, arthritic limp.
that brittle straw is softening as he sheds into another winter coat.
contact with the organization is searching for someone to hold a dog
for post surgical recuperation. I’ve already turned
two other requests for fostering dogs in need of a temporary solution
for having Roger for a while. I’m not a multiple
person. Some people are. I focus on one dog at a
while still giving home to my two cats and two emus. But this
one dog, this time, is in a prison program of sorts. There
such programs intended to assist dogs in need and the
rehabilitation, a mutual assistance of sorts. If it were a
positive return to program and only a matter of the recuperation time
with no possible extended custody, that might be a
There is so much need. I could accommodate a positive stay of
one or two weeks, but not the ever possibility of an extended health
or physical recuperation of the two years Roger has needed.
still, if you mention the end game, the adoption, the
home” for Roger, there are those who degrade you still
with questioning how you might care for a dog for so long and still
think to adopt him to strangers. And still there are those
chide you even with your own reluctance.
So what if I do keep the dog? What is you
I have nothing to prove now. Roger has come and gone and
returned again. Even if I did let him slip away that first
just for spite, to spite those who taunted, or did they really (?),
to prove my tenure and tenacity, I lose no stature certainly now if I
forego releasing him further. Certainly I could release the
enemy now, the impulse to strike vengeance against an idle
still, it begs the question again. Roger is well.
still, there is a great need.
Roger. My red dog Roger. I guess we’ll
You see, Roger, you lived. So I guess, we’ll see.
e cummings would place here
dashes - -
indicate a pause
It isn’t fair, Roger. But still, I guess
Pinter would just plain write out - - Pause
yet again write out as quickly - - Pause
see, Roger.” - - “Damn
if nothing else, we first do have to see you through to the end of
this bit of dried straw coat look you have for the fleas and the
bathing. It will take the full year at least for the coat to
change over. It’s half through now and just a mild
ugliness to endure until the certain emergence once again of my
gorgeous, red and animated, very frenzied, did I say almost or and,
maniacal, purebred cowlick.
out. Here comes another sentence that won’t soon be
we’ll see you through this little bit of ugliness first,
because that’s the real strategy behind beholding great
behind beholding greatness, behind life in abundance, which is
precisely what I want that someone, someday, to see in and feel for
you at that first glance, immediate, overwhelming endearment and
the point. It never was how many, but how well.
Roger, - - we’ll see.” - - (Pause)
- - P.S., I guess, rather
about two years ago. He died in Arkansas, where one of the
cats, the two emu and I moved with him eight years ago. I
built him a fence. He never left the property without
He walked on a leash three miles every day with me and ignored all
the loose, country dogs that harassed him while we did that.
didn’t travel by airline anymore. Roger kept me
driving everywhere. We visited friends and family,
inseparable. He even learned to sit in the front of a canoe.
was my ballast. I don’t think he liked it.
a towel for his shade. A few times he’d
sit up and
look around, adjust a little and lie back down. He and the
kitty are both buried in the back. There’s a simple
cross, a little crooked, wood cross painted white over each of
them. I hold Evan, one of the emu, looking through
muscadine growing on the fence at them and their little
forwarded by The Preservation Foundation.
when you write to an author, please type his/her name
line of the message.)
Story List and Biography
Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher