I first got a dog when I moved to Oakland. My freshman year of college I'd had a bad experience where I was nearly raped. I managed to talk my way out of it at the time but, after that, made it a point to never walk alone at night. Come my senior year when I made the move to Oakland, I decided it was time to stop relying on human escorts and get myself a dog. Always an animal husbandry nerd at heart (not that my 11 years in 4-H prove that or anything), I quickly picked up some reading material and studied up on dogs. I read the book "How to Deal With Your Dog's Adolescence" on the hunch that, if a dog's adolescence was a fraction as terrible as human adolescence, then I'd be prepared for the worst.
Armed with my new knowledge, I marched down to the Oakland Animal Shelter and returned home with Ajax, a young mixed breed puppy who grew up to look and act like a Cattle Dog/Chow cross. She was an awesome dog and she (and her tennis ball) accompanied me everywhere.
In the year 2000 I hit the road in a van to travel across country, Ajax in tow. The first couple months were great, and then we ran out of money. And then the van broke down. So that's how I ended up stranded in Georgia for 6 months.
During that time, Ajax hit two years old and developed epilepsy. I was homesick beyond belief but refused to go home unless Ajax could come. Finally, my friend Amy called to say she'd be making a road trip back east to visit a few friends before the semester began, and she was willing to drive down to Atlanta and rescue me and Ajax. I was so elated, but then my traveling companion (who had been a boyfriend at one point... we'd broken up quite early on in the adventure but remained on good terms) broke the horrible truth to me: I was about to return to the Bay Area with no home or job lined up. Ajax needed to be on a constant stream of phenobarbitol to regulate her condition. He had a house with 1/4 acre of property, a job, and Sherman, his puppy who thought the world revolved around Ajax.
It broke my heart, but I did what was best for Ajax and left her behind in Georgia (she died a year later from a massive seizure).
Upon returning to the Bay Area I got a job at a dog day care to fill that void Ajax left behind, but being around dogs every day just made things worse. It took a while since I, literally, had to start from ground zero (I applied for the job with a handwritten resume and $2.60 in my bank account), but I eventually saved up enough money to get my own place, one where I could have a dog. And that's when I met Paco.
Fast forward many years and I now find myself without a dog again. And it feels weird.
When I was little I had a fantasy of what having a dog would be like. I imagined myself hopping in a large pick-up, my trusty dog jumping on the bench seat beside me, and off we'd go, feeding the horses and patrolling the ranch together. As I went about my daily life my dog would be there acting as a trusty sidekick. And at night we'd cuddle up by the fire.
Of course, in real life I do not live on a ranch. While Ajax would have been perfect in that setting, Paco was the perfect urban sidekick. They may be allergic to everything in nature, thus making them ill-fitted for ranch life, but I think pit bulls are perfect for the urban environment. Since I'm committed to staying in the city for a while longer, I want to find another pit bull who can be that go-everywhere-buddy for me.
I know it's just a matter of time...
Paco demonstrates just one of the many duties of an urban ranch dog: clearing the territory of varmints (in this case, Prop 8 supporters).