Chapter 34

When Brian said he had rescued another dog, I said, “No, I can’t take it anymore, we don’t have room, I can’t do it.”

We did it.

When we got Herman, who we call Hermie, he was less than four months old. He looked like a baby deer. He was scared to death of people, for good reason. His first toy was a little pig. He loved that pig. When he got bigger, and came out of his shell, he started looking better, although he started looking like the Joker.

Baby and Grayson are his best buddies, although Hermie and Veruka are always beating up on Baby. He will let Hermie and Veruka take food right out of his mouth. Baby is just so sweet and gentle. He lets Hermie sleep with him, keeping him warm.

Anyone would think Pebbles might do that, too, because she’s fleshy, but she doesn’t. She’s an 80-pound turkey. She’s gross, a fat whore. She just lets it all hang out.

When we were in Mexico, Kristen was watching our dogs, but my friend Jimmy had to take over after she got the flu. When Kristen was baby-sitting she sent us cute pictures of our dogs every day. The picture we got from Jimmy wasn’t so cute. It was a picture of Hermie lounging out on the couch with Jimmy, his legs spread-eagled. He was hanging with Jimmy, the original hanger-out.-

I texted him, “Dude, don’t do that to my dog.” No bad habits, please.

Brian found Hermie on West 25th Street, near St. Malachi’s. It’s a Catholic church from back in the 1860s, tucked into what’s called the Old Angle. They do a Monday Night Meal and have a Back Door Ministry and once a month they stage a Peace Walk from the church to Public Square. Someone told Brian there was a small shivering dog on a fence near the church. Brian got a blanket, spotted him, and scooped him up.

I was driving when Brian called me. “There’s a puppy out here,” he said. “He’s tiny, shivering.”

“No, I can’t take on anymore,” I said. “I can’t do it.”

“OK,” he said. “I’ll send him to the shelter.”

“Oh, I hate to do that,” I said. “No, don’t do it, not the shelter.”

St. Malachi’s used to be Cleveland’s port church. The cross on top of the steeple was always lit up to guide ships on Lake Erie into the harbor. After the church burnt down in 1943 and was rebuilt, the cross on the spire has been lit ever since, even though it doesn’t really have to be anymore.

When I got home, Brian had the dog on our bed. He was blond and taupe, with a long snoot, so he looked like a baby fawn. He was afraid to move. When he saw me he peed on the sheets. I had to wash them.

At first, whenever he heard our dogs barking, he would freak out, and start to shudder and shake. But then he got curious and started going to the baby gate that keeps the dogs out of the dining and living rooms and away from the upstairs rooms. After a few days we could tell what he was thinking, which was, you guys are OK.

We started letting him mingle with the other dogs, who at first were, no, no, we’re fine, we don’t need anybody new, but he persisted, and played with all of them, who accepted him, even Pebbles and our Husky, and he definitely came into his own.

No matter how much he’s grown since we got him, when I take him with me to visit my step-dad and mom’s house, they right away think he’s too thin.

“Oh, he’s so skinny,” said my mom.

They can’t stand it, so they started feeding him potato chips and ham. That’s what they feed Izzy, the Pomeranian I gave my mom to keep her company. They feed Izzy donuts, too. They just can’t stand to see a skinny dog. Izzy’s dog food is always spilling out of her bowl because she doesn’t eat it.

She waits for creampuffs, instead.

In the summer we started taking care of Kirby and his dumb dog, when Kirby absolutely needed a place to get back on his feet. After he and Louie moved into our basement, we had eight dogs in the house, including Hermie. With everything else going on, I needed another dog like I needed a hole in the head.

My mom was having teeth pulled and replaced by dentures. It was going to be better for her, but it was a struggle for me, getting her to go the dentist’s office. Whenever I got her there, and we were leaving afterwards, and I asked her – “Are you OK, mom?” – the answer was always never good.

“Jay, I am never going to the dentist again,” she would say.

When my shoulder started hurting, I went to Orthopaedic Associates in Westlake. After they examined me, they told me I needed a cortisone shot.

“You have bursitis of the rotator cuff,” my doctor said.

When I went back Hermie kept me company. They stuck a huge needle into my arm. Back in the car Hermie’s eyes got big and round.

We still don’t know what kind of a dog Hermie is. We asked our vet, but that wasn’t much help. I was hoping he wasn’t going to be much bigger than when we found him, but he outgrew himself in no time. Eight months later he is large. At first I could hold him in one arm. Now I’ve got to have two hands to hold him back, and one of those hands is attached to my bad arm.

He’s a wonderful dog, but he can be a load.

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