People who love dogs often talk about a “lifetime” dog. I’d heard the phrase a dozen times before I came to recognize its significance. Lifetime dogs are dogs we love in especially powerful, sometimes inexplicable ways.
— Jon Katz, A Good Dog
Jasmine Blue was my lifetime dog. As I drove to San Francisco Animal Care and Control to pick up a puppy I hadn’t met, my mind flashed back to the first time I saw Jazzy’s sweet face staring back at me from Petfinder.com. I knew she was The One. I had similar feelings when I saw Baby Girl’s sweet face. I also trusted ACC director Rebecca Katz, whose entire job revolves around pairing the right animals with the right humans. Rebecca told me Baby Girl was very special. Sweet and good-natured, she passed her behavior test with flying colors. She got along with other dogs and with people. Her only negative was that she could be a bit shy and submissive.
Jazzy, having spent her first six months in a backyard, was a tough, independent thinker from day one. For a month she slept alone on her dog bed in the guest room. “Do you want to come to bed, Jazzy?” I would ask hopefully, but she would just clutch Mr. Froggy and suck on his wisp of blonde hair, staring off into space with those beautiful eyes, bluer than the Adriatic Sea. Then one night I heard the clickety-click of her nails coming tentatively down the hallway. In the soft glow of the harvest moon, I could see Mr. Froggy’s blonde wisp sticking up at the foot of the bed. “Jazzy, is that you?” I asked, then Mr. Froggy disappeared as I heard the clickety-click of Jazzy’s nails go back down the hallway. I went to sleep disappointed as usual, but when I awoke the next morning Jazzy was curled up beside me with Mr. Froggy safely snuggled between her front paws.
As Jazzy began to trust me, that independent streak lessened, but it never went away. At the beach she would take off like a bolt of lightning and come back when she felt like it, despite me screaming her name and waving her treats. When I had friends over she would greet them with a stuffed toy, and in one fell swoop head back downstairs to our bedroom by the garden. Periodically she would appear at the top of the stairs and flash what my friend Sara called the “whiskey eye,” letting my guests know it was time for them to go home..
I wondered if Baby Girl would be distant at first like Jazzy, or have her independent streak. I wondered if I could ever stop comparing her to Jazzy… my lifetime dog … The One.
Rebecca was waiting on a bench in front of ACC with an itty-bitty grey and white pit bull puppy in her lap. As I approached, my eyes filled with tears. I missed Jazzy so much, yet Baby Girl was looking at me with those pale hazel green eyes as if she knew I was The One. ACC volunteers and Capt. Vicky Guldbech soon joined us, and Rebecca placed the itty-bitty pittie in my lap. “You’re so small,” I said, holding Baby Girl to my chest.
“She was spayed this morning so she’s a little quieter than usual,” Rebecca explained. “But she’s always pretty quiet.”
“And super sweet,” a volunteer added.
“What are you going to name her?” Vicky asked.
“I don’t know,” I said, “It all happened so fast I haven’t had time …”
Rebecca threw Macy Gray out there, which reminded me more of the department store than the musician. “What about Skylar Grey?” Vicky asked. “She’s a really cool singer-songwriter.” It fit her perfectly. “Skylar Grey it is,” I said.
As I gently laid Skylar Grey in the passenger seat of my car, her hazel eyes were staring up at me, but only for a moment; she fell fast asleep before we left the parking lot. “You’re coming home, Skylar Grey,” I said as I scratched the top of her soft, smooth itty-bitty head. “You’re coming home.”