The Dog I Needed

Kathie GibboneyBy Kathie Gibboney

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The Dog I Needed
Lobo, the stray turned ever-loyal family member, shared a long-ago cuddle with Kathie Gibboney’s son, Riley. R.I.P Lobo.
I hadn’t thought I needed a dog. Especially some half-grown, crazy, large-eared, black animal that slunk away the first time I saw it. “There’s a pup outside the back door,” reported the (not yet beleaguered) Husband. For some reason I dashed as quickly as possible down the stairs with beating heart and opened the door only to see a furtive creature skulking off through the Venice neighborhood. I said to myself, “That’s not a pup, that’s a wolf.” Hence the name Lobo. I kept an eye out for Lobo and was disappointed when no further sighting occurred, feeling like I’d lost something. Then one morning the Husband, home from surfing, announced again, “The pup’s back.” This time I attempted a cautious approach moving slowly. And just for a moment we both stood still staring at each other. I saw there was a gash along one side of its head, by a fight? Hit by a car? abused? I could not say. “Hi, who are you?” I asked holding out my hand and taking a step forward. A flash of black shot past me disappearing down the street, vanishing into the nether places where the Stray Dogs of Venice go. I wasn’t sure how I could help, but I felt compelled to make contact. I put out some food, which sometimes disappeared, sometimes remained untouched. A few times I actually saw Lobo wolfing it down but whenever I tried to come close, he ran. One day, somehow emboldened, or just foolish I snuck up on him. I knew it might be dangerous to corner a stray, but I moved stealthily, noticing the sharp white teeth and kept talking. I got closer and closer. This time he didn’t try to run by me, nor did he growl. I reached out and touched him. And in that moment, as he licked my hand, I knew with utter certainty I was his and he was mine. Except he wasn’t a he; he was a she, but we never changed the name. She was always Lobo. The veterinarian deemed Lobo a German Shepard about six months old. As he cleaned the wound he felt it could have come from a car or being kicked. We posted “Found Dog” signs. I was relieved to get no response. Already she had my heart, already she slept on our bed, already she retrieved the ball I threw. Then one morning an ad appeared in the local paper, “Lost in Venice, Black German Shepherd, named Mittenvald. Reward.” Part of the light faded from that summer day. Then the Husband read on, “White patch on forehead.” Suddenly, there was a God. In spite of Mike now calling Lobo Mittenvald and suggesting we paint on the white patch and claim the reward, we had a dog. Lobo was skittish to say the least. Although extremely gentle with me, she would choose amongst humans those she liked and those she didn’t, without any discernable reason. Maybe she didn’t like tall people, or people who wore hats or smoked or in the past might have been guilty of minor embezzlement, but then, she liked my brother. Those she disliked were met with furious barking and more than one guest, observing the bared white teeth suggested Lobo was crazy, advising, “get rid of her.” Sometimes a friend, having been welcomed without canine reproach, would only have to stand up to be suddenly met with a menacing snarl. At such times, I’d advise guests to sit on the floor, maybe just crawl around for a moment and Lobo would return to her gracious self. Bohemian style, we would even sip champagne and serve dessert down there. Maybe the gash on Lobo’s head caused psychological damage, rendering her unpredictable more than once when Mike, whom she tolerated fairly well, left the house and returned a minute later. I thought she would jump right through the sliding glass door to attack, and this was the same man who had been petting her a minute before. So, I was concerned upon discovering I was pregnant. How would Lobo be with a child? There is a photo I have of an ever loyal black shepherd with oversized pointed ears lying proudly alongside a child’s bassinet, on the job like Nana in Peter Pan. And so she was with both our children, as they grew up here in Topanga. One night, just after my daughter was born, I was alone with my children. There came a knock on the door. Lobo got there first, growling. A strange woman’s voice questioned if Ron was there? Ron was a renowned drug dealer who lived in the house before us. I told her, “No, Ron doesn’t live here anymore.” Then she asked if I had a match? It seemed a creepy question. Lobo began to bark, loudly, and I yelled through the door that she had better go, my dog was getting crazy. Peeking out the window I saw her shuffling along, an odd woman all bundled up. Thank you, Lobo. Thank you for your big ears, your kind eyes, your patience with my children, your ever-loving protection and being part of our family. Somehow, in all the world I needed you and you needed me.
Kathie Gibboney

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August 19, 2022