The Black (or Onyx) Pearl
Sometime between finalization of Coralines' adoption and my father’s illness, our family dog passed away. “Susie” suffered a mysterious injury to her spinal cord and became paralyzed soon after. I had no choice but to have her euthanized. It was devastating. I nursed this pup when she was rejected by her mother at the age of 3 weeks. Susie was probably a Shar-pei, Lab, and German shepherd mix. Anyway, she was plenty cute when she was a puppy, and I loved her when the cute part was no longer important. My daughter Ivy thought we should get another dog. I resisted this idea of another dog because we just had too much going on, and a puppy would require too much work. In spite of my protest, Ivy went online searching replacements for Susie. I refused to look. Ivy knew that if I saw a puppy, I would want to bring it home and she kept trying to tempt me. She was relentless. The following weekend, our family went to the hills to a rescue facility for lab puppies.
The puppy I did not want to see was a clone of Susie, except that she was all shiny sleek black instead of tan. The rescue facility was a small ranch with dozens of black lab puppies in a covered pen. A hard sided wading pool sat in the corner for water. Many, many puppies were yipping, wagging, running and jumping on the hard packed dirt that made the floor of their pen. We were warned to be careful as we opened the gate as all the puppies would run to the gate to greet puppy lovers coming to see them. I told the woman in charge we needed a temperament that would tolerate endless handling and affection. She pointed to a puppy with a kinky tail. It was assumed that the tail got misshapen in the womb and matured in that form. The kinky tail was a very distinguishing characteristic; it set her apart from the other black puppies. I picked up the puppy with a kinky tail and kissed her soft snout. I put her up to my shoulder like a baby and she laid her head on my shoulder and buried her face in my neck. I had no choice but to let my children hold our new puppy and I had to release her.
Daniel, Coraline, and Fritz’ only experience with pets was with our dog Susie. I wanted them to know the happiness of a warm puppy. I also thought because all of my children had different origins, a pet that we came to know at the same time would be a great equalizer.
We left with our kinky tailed puppy. She immediately fell asleep between Coraline and Nina and stayed asleep as we drove toward home for more than an hour. The girls’ constant petting and stroking did not disturb the pup. After an hour or so, we stopped for fast food. I stayed in the van with the sleeping puppy. The noise of children exiting, talking and doors slamming did not wake her. When they returned, the rattle of bags, and opening and closing of car doors had no effect on the sleeping dog. I began to wonder if the dog had a hearing problem. Ivy purchased an extra cheeseburger (plain) for our puppy. We continued home and our puppy did not stir.
Suddenly, a breeze carried the aroma of cheeseburger and French fries past the dogs’ nose. It must have been a strong breeze because she became airborne. All four legs spread out like a squirrel that flies. Then, as a pelican diving for a fish in the sea, the puppy dove into Coralines’ bag of food. Coraline screamed. Nina screamed. Daniel and Fritz looked on in horror, thankful that the black dog bird was not stuck in their food bag. Only the hind legs and kinky tail were visible. As Coraline and Nina screamed, Ivy climbed back and separated the dog and the bag of food. A piece of soggy lettuce hung from her mouth like a green tongue. Our canine bird of prey was not able to get any food except for a lettuce leaf with mayonnaise, some of which remained on her nose. Coraline put her sandwich back together and said she could still eat it. Ivy climbed back to her seat holding the hungry puppy and found the extra cheeseburger and fed it too her in little civilized bites.
That night, we discussed the name for our new dog. Daniel and Fritz thought her name should be “Onyx” because that was her color. I thought her name should be “Pearl,” as in a “black pearl.” Coraline and Nina wanted to name the dog after them, and call her “Coraline,” or “Nina.” Ivy didn’t really care. We agreed to name her “Pearl Onyx……..and then the last names of everyone in the family. We were going to call her “Pearl Onyx” which got shortened to “Pearl” for practical reasons.