Here in my car
I feel safest of all
I can lock all my doors
It’s the only way to live
— “Cars,” by Gary Numan
Skylar Grey slept all the way home. She was exhausted from being spayed that morning, but it still seemed strange to me how comfortable she was — most puppies hate the car; they’re anxious and confused, and they often throw up. The first time I took Jazzy for a ride, she made what I called “the throw-up face,” where the corners of her mouth curled up like The Joker in Batman. After a few gut-wrenching heaves, with me trying to watch the road and Jazzy looking guilty and helpless at the same time, she projectile vomited all over the dashboard of my Mini Cooper.
As I pulled into my driveway, I laid my hand softly on Skylar’s little head; she opened one hazel eye, then shut both eyes tightly, took a big stretch, and went back to sleep. “Let’s go, Sky,” I said as I got out of the car and patted the driver’s seat. She opened both eyes this time and squinted at me suspiciously. I tugged gently at her leash, but she was having none of it. She only weighed 19 pounds, so it was easy to reach in and scoop her up, but she squirted out of my arms like a greased pig and scrambled into the backseat, pressing her body tightly into the furthermost corner.
No amount of begging, whistling, tongue clucking, sweet talking, or treat offering could convince Skylar to come out of the car, so I tried a different tactic: I closed the door and hid just inside the garage. Within seconds I heard her whining; when I peeked she was sitting in the driver’s seat, but she was so small that all I could see was the tops of her ears. “Here I am, Sky,” I said, heading back toward the car. I assumed she would jump into my arms, but instead she darted right back to that furthermost backseat corner.
Again, I hid; again, Skylar whined. This time when I peeked, she had figured out how to place her front paws on the door ledge, and those hazel eyes were staring right back at me. Slowly, I approached, and then stood there for a moment, letting her whine. “Are you ready now, little missy?” I asked. She grew quiet, her grey nose steaming up the window as the white tip of her tail wagged ever so slightly. When I opened the door, like clockwork, Sky headed for the backseat, but like a professional greased pig wrangler, this time I was ready and grabbed her around the waist. I pulled her out and she twisted her body toward mine, wrapped her paws around my neck, and dug her head into the hoodie of my sweatshirt. She was shaking, and I could feel her heart pounding like a gazelle that had been chased by a cheetah. “It’s O.K., Baby Girl,” I said, using my right hand to support her bottom and rubbing her neck with my left, “you’re safe now.” I leaned against the car and hugged her tightly until she stopped shaking, and her heart slowed down a bit.
All I knew about Skylar Grey’s background was that a young man had surrendered her at San Francisco Animal Care and Control on Aug. 30, just two days before Jazzy passed away. Judging from her reaction to the car — the way she loved to get in but hated to get out; how she slept so peacefully as we traversed the city streets and had no tummy problems — I surmised that perhaps she had spent some of her first two months living with that young man in a car. “Baby Girl,” I said as I carried her into the house, “your life is about to change. …”