I once lived with three animals. Two dogs and a cat, but the cat thought she was a dog...so in the spirit of our transgender world, I should think of her as she thunk of herself: trans-species! I apologize for how the photos here have discolored over time. Memory is like that, too. So this is a memoir. It is as I remember it. I wonder about certain particulars, but not because they are not true, only that I may have embellished them in keeping with how my memories cherish certain ideas more than others.
I found Salem. He was teeny puppy of the noble Doberman breed. I know most people think of Dobermans and they think of Batman, right? The black mask and pointed ears as all. But truth be told, there are actually four distinct colorations for Dobermans. There is the classic Black on Rust, but also three other formally recognized types: Blue on Rust, Fawn on Rust, and Red of Rust. Salem was a Red on Rust Doberman Pinscher. I bought him from a friend who bred both Dobermans and Corgies on his horse farm in central Kentucky. I did not clip his ears. Look at him. Why would anyone mutilate such beautiful ears?
The morning I went, I was not at all convinced that I was ready to adopt another canine companion. My previous Chocolate Lab, Beau, had eaten some bate carrion poisoned by someone to kill Coyote or Fox by accident, and I was still pretty shaken up by that.
I entered the barn and found him and his brood mates in their place and without focusing on him at all, I was just looking the lot over. He took one look at me and stumbled across the straw and placed his head on my feet, while his siblings played manic puppy games all around the rest of their paddock nursery. I looked down. He looked up. I looked at my friend and said, "I'll take him."
That evening as I did dishes over the sink, he came into the kitchen and fell asleep at my feet--his head resting on my feet. How do you return such a love in only one lifetime?
Baby found me. Well, no. I spotted Baby. Out of the corner of my eye in a field on hill while driving along US 64 in central Kentucky on a stark and cold late November afternoon. It would be months before I met her. And I saw her again at different times in different places as I drove and biked along the roads in Jessamine and Woodford counties in central Kentucky. She was always alone and usually on the run. One time I foolishly stopped at a place where I could barely pull my truck off the road and attempted to coax her toward me. I remember that I got her attention, but nothing close to her cooperation! Such is the life of a refugee...a feral existence free from abuse.
Then one evening in late May, I arrived home, weeks after last seeing her and miles from any sighting at all, to see a pair of glowing red eyes peering our from the fresh undergrowth along my driveway. I slowed and the light caught enough of her to let me know that it was the same beagle. I tried to call to her, but she vanished. What to do? I placed a bowl of food on the porch. Come morning, it was empty. From than point on, I never stopped filling the bowl and she never stopped eating from it. Soon she was sleeping with Salem in his doghouse. But she never let me bring her into my house. She was never comfortable with that.
She was smart. She learned my habits and the sound of my truck. I would turn left off of the county road onto Haggin Lane after work and as I approached by home I would see her waiting. She would toss the beagle candle of her tail straight up into the air and run along side of me into the driveway where she would act like she was ready to fucking split out of her skin with excitement. I would get out of truck and she would change personalities completely. She suddenly crouch to the ground, turn sideways to me, crawl in my direction slowly while averting her gaze and glancing at me as if she were watching a ping pong match. It was like she was expected to be kicking into tomorrow by me. My heart went from joy to sorrow every time, but I learned that if I would kneel and/or sit on the ground, she would regain her joy and run to me. What kind of evil would teach such a sweet creature to behave like this?
After over a year, I was able to get her to a vet who was able to give her the check up she needed. On the inside of her ear was a tattoo of numbers (think Auschwitz). The vet saw it and was very disturbed. She knew something about what it meant, but she said there weren't enough numbers.... Later I understood that Baby had probably been one of the beagles that the University of Kentucky used for "medical" research, and somehow had gotten away.
So who found who? It no longer mattered. She had home. Her home. A home on her terms. And a family, too.
Buster definitely found me! I was of a habit of walking my lane. Haggin Lane was named for someone, but who I do not know. It was a dead end road a mile long that went from a county road to the end of a finger of land defined by the palisades of the Kentucky River on the boarder of Jessamine and Woodford counties. There lived by 5 households on that lane. None of us could see the other's home from ours. It was a wonderful place a peace and quiet. And along this lane, I walked of the evenings.
One evening, my quiet was broken by the mewing of a kitten--just one little kitten with the look as a Siamese, but not exactly. The road was lined by storm ditches, like all proper rural roads, and it was out of this tangle of growth that she appeared.
Well, I not a cruel man. I stooped and acknowledged her, cupped her in my arms and rubbed her tenderly. I wondered what a helpless little waif like this was doing all alone and so far from anything that made any sense. At some point I placed her down out of doubt. What would I do with another animal? And one so fragile? What it right? My only intention was to go for a walk....and now this?
She followed me all the way home. I placed a bowl of milk on the porch next to Baby's food dish. And what can I say. Within a month she was leaving presents of bird wings and frog head on my welcome mat! She was sleeping in the dog house with Baby and Salem. She had both Baby and Salem under her paw--thus she earned her true name: Buster-the-Usurper. We were a family. A good family.