Saturday, March 24, 2007

Sydney Duck continued

Before we were married, Julie expressed great interest in having a dog, preferably a miniature Yorkshire Terrier. I wanted to surprise her with a puppy for Christmas, 1960, but I couldn’t bring myself to buy a dog that looked like a large, hairy insect. So I researched somewhat similar terriers and concluded that the Australian Terrier could be a good compromise between Julie’s girlish desire and my macho proclivity. The result was Sydney Duck, with whom she fell in love on sight.


And Sydney loved Julie. For a while. Then one evening during her latter months of pregnancy with Joe, Sydney suddenly bolted from Julie’s touch and ran from the apartment. I saw him get knocked down by a car as he ran across Sunset Boulevard, but quickly gain his footing and continue his run. The last I saw him he was disappearing westward about a mile from home.

Julie was panicked and distraught. We stayed close to home and phone for the next few days, hoping that Sydney’s dog tags would lead him back to us. But that did not happen. Finally, I convinced Julie to go to coffee with me at a bakery patio where I often went, usually with Sydney; who stayed under a tree across the driveway from the patio while I had my coffee and visited with friends. When we pulled up to the curb and got out of the car, Sydney rose from a snooze under the tree, shook himself awake, and gingerly, dolefully, padded toward us. Julie crouched down to embrace the little vagabond with relief and affection, which he allowed, but did not reciprocate.

The bus boy told us that Sydney had shown up at the tree a couple of days before and seemed to be waiting for me. This resting place was familiar to Sydney, but it was located several blocks east of our apartment and when last seen he was running wildly in the opposite direction. When I didn’t show up at the patio, the bus boy gave him food and drink and Sydney spent those days and nights beside the tree. He had obviously chosen to not return home, which was something he frequently did when he became bored waiting for me to leave the patio. We didn’t fully realize it then, but Sydney had stopped being Julie’s dog, possibly a reaction to her pregnancy, and became my charge. Up to that time we had not personally bonded, though I had let him walk or ride to coffee with me. Never on a leash, as neither of us felt comfortable with a tether. But he always did respond immediately to a snap of my fingers or a low pitched whistle signal so we traveled in sync.

Regarding the bus boy, a forty-some year old man with children: a few years later he ran afoul of the DMV and needed to post an insurance bond within days or he would not be allowed to drive legally and travel to work in West Hollywood. When I heard of his problem and desperation, Julie and I agreed to lend him the fairly significant sum he needed. Although it took a while, this is one of the few loans we have ever had repayed.

After his return from the wild runaway, Sydney was calm at home, but generally indifferent to Julie and definitely not enchanted with the baby when Joe eventually arrived. Nor did I come in for any special attention, except when I was ready to go out. It seemed that I could barely start to think about heading out when Sydney would bestir himself from a snooze in the corner and start to pace anxiously at the door. Eventually, I never went anywhere without him.

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