Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fetching Seth

The shelter at Casa Grande is down a lonely stretch of I-8, the interstate that connects Tucson to San Diego. The desert rises slightly, in a modest regime of foothills on the south side, to my left, and levels into a vast plane on the north. Either direction, saguaro cacti stand stark still in the noonday sun. It is hot as seven devils as I take the right turn onto the dirt road leading past a dusty corral and three pintos—one a young colt—to the Casa Grande Humane Society.

It is a white cinder block array, ugly and low to the ground, squatting inside a steel cattle fence. Dust rises from the red dirt parking lot as I pull up and park, facing a dreary shelter thrift store tucked into a small opening between the shelter door and the building's facade. Odds and ends: a 1970s metal TV tray stand, some computer cables, an assortment of small and very bad framed things, a few baseball caps, and a motorcycle helmet. Thin pickings.

The white wood door with its eight murky panes creaks open. Inside, to the right, a very heavy Native American woman leans on the laminate counter. In front of her, an Anglo thin as a copper wire paces back and forth, militantly waiting for the Mexican man and his daughter to wrap it up. I look around. A rack of yellowed business cards, a stack of those free real estate pamphlets, and a few dog leads and collars for sale. The Anglo, pale gray T-shirt dark with sweat, wheels in his jeans and cowboy boots and leaves.

Soon enough the Mexican family departs. Had they bought or sold? Not clear.

My turn.

“I’m here from Phoenix for Seth, the Doberman.” Lillian raises her moon-round, dark cafĂ© au lait face and beams. Unusual for a Native American out here to smile at an Anglo, I think to myself. But then there’s not a lot to smile about, I guess. Especially not if you work at the Casa Grande Animal Shelter and it’s 110 outside. The white plastic fan behind her ruffles the blue print mu-mu thing she’s wearing and, mercifully, turns my way for just long enough for me to miss it when it turns back again.

She must be pleased that Seth is finally going home. Her long, straight black hair is pulled hard back into a knot on the top of her head. She looks like the Buddha.

To my right, an officer of the Animal Control Department of Pinal County is standing hip propped against the counter, talking on the Shelter's one line about a German Shorthaired Pointer. Charlese Theron should have her part. She’s got some mileage. She's tough but still attractive in her khaki and green Animal Control uniform. I picture her line dancing in some Pachecho cantina, tequila on the rocks in one hand. Salt and lime.

The one small room fills up with our body heat. I can almost see it lying like a meringue on top of the thickly layered white gloss paint that suffocates the wooden counter in the back of the area where Lillian reigns.

Behind me,through several large panes of glass over tiers of cinder blocks, we can see steel cages full of cats lining a dreary wall.

The fan tries, wanly but to no real effect.

I do the paperwork. Lillian does the Xeroxing. The officer and I exchange business cards. Now she knows there’s a new Doberman rescue in the city. Now I have two contacts in Casa Grande: Lillian and Linda. I hope there won't be many calls. It's a 130-mile round trip.

Lillian passes through some kind of curtain to the kennels, and in a minute, returns with a small, red Dobey boy. I look into his upturned face and wonder what he thinks as she hands his red nylon kennel lead to me.

I say, softly, “Well you’re a little guy, aren’t you? And you know what? It’s OK now, Seth. It’s all good. You’re outta here, boy. You’re going home, Seth, you’re going to your Forever Home and your Daddy’s name is Paul.”

“That’s it?” I ask Lillian.

“That’s it.”

“Well, OK then. Thank you, and thank ya’ll for what you’re doing here.”

The door slams shut behind me. Seth and I blink into the glare. In a minute, he’s in the back of the 4Runner and we’re headed back to Phoenix. He's a free man. I've made a small installment for the space I take up.


Julie said...

I can't thank you enough and I look forward to meeting him tomorrow! Giant hugs!

Dorothy said...

With this said, the real live of Seth, the little doberguy, life has truly began...I wish they could all be so lucky. He is out of the shelter! He will soon be out of Arizona to his forever home where he will never want for anything again in his precious life...