T became my son because my ex-boyfriend and I had communication problems.
After finally settling in the suburbs of LA with my boyfriend at the time, I took a stressful job with a terrible boss. Every day after work I went straight to the county shelter and sat for hours on the dirty concrete floors, melting my stress away as I loved on the dogs.
By then the shelter workers were familiar with me. One of them called to me as she stood in front of a cage. "This one just came in. Owner surrender."
The first time I saw T, he walked quietly up to me and sat. Every dog was screaming around him but he was a focal point of stillness amidst the bark and chaos. (I found out later he has a collapsed trachea.)
I'd been fostering pitbulls and rescuing all breeds for years, and I have a certificate in canine behavior from the TV-famous ASPCA in my native NY. I trusted my relationship with dogs. I felt good about this guy.
But it was really a miscommunication (among many) with my boyfriend that made T our son. My boyfriend loved Corgis. The short, stubby legs, that long body, the prominent nose - I get it. So when I saw T, with his freakishly long torso and crooked, short nubbins, I thought, "This is the perfect dog for us!"
Except I already had my eye on another dog: a tiny, trembly girl chihuahua who licked desperately at my fingers. After talking it over with my boyfriend (who remembers none of this and maintains I brought home a dog without a single word), we decided the chihuahua would be easier to carry on my travels.
I called the shelter the next day. "We neutered the male. It's a shorter procedure. He's ready to go home." The shelter was closing for the holidays and there was no time to spay the chihuahua. Adopting her was off the table.
I went to the shelter to see T. He sat dazedly in the infirmary, bandages pasted onto his crotch. Don't tell him this, but I walked away, unsure. I called my best friend and she said, "He's amazing." I shook my head clear of doubt.
In my car, I raced home with 30 minutes to shelter closing to find my checkbook. I ran back to the front desk, shouting, "I'll take him."
The clerk smiled. "He looked really sad after you left."
They handed me a nylon lead and left me to go to the infirmary by myself. When I opened the door of his little cage, he was ready. He leapt forcefully into my arms and clung to me. He was a lot longer and heavier than I'd realized.
I took him to the pet store immediately to buy a bed and food. A little girl wrapped her arms around him, still dirty from the shelter, and he stood patiently, though he was only a teenager with no training whatsoever. He still has this good-natured personality.
It's been 10 years since T has been my son and I still can't look at the grainy photo of his shelter surrender without tearing up. I am so grateful his original family gave him up so I could find him. I have struggled through anxiety, depression, and a traumatic brain injury. T has kissed my tears and licked my snot through all of it. His father and I are no longer a couple, but we still take him to the vet together every year.
I kiss T every day and tell him, "I will take care of you for the rest of your life." I haven't been blessed with marriage in my life yet, but I have the honor of committing to someone I love for his eternity.
T is short, buff, and completely silent - a lot like the Asian men I fall in love with. A lot like his dad. He has a natural hyena hairstyle and an emo sulk when you leave him. At the dog park he’s been called “handsome”, as well as, “the weirdest looking dog I’ve ever seen.”
I found out later it wasn't the long torso my boyfriend liked. He loved Corgis because there's one in this hipster anime movie I can't stand. To this day, he complains about T's oddly long otter-body.
"Just like his mommy," my ex says. And I put my stubby arms proudly akimbo on my long torso.
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