The Keeper

Trixie, adjusting

“Don’t let her out of the crate for the first four months,” was the stern advice offered by the flinty woman from Angel City Pit Bulls.

“Don’t throw the tennis ball.”

“Don’t let her on the furniture.”

“Don’t let her pull on the leash.”

“Don’t let her get over-stimulated.”

“Don’t let her climb on top of you.”

“Don’t let her cross in front of you on the leash.”

“Make her hold her sit before she leaves the crate or the house.”

“Never let her on the bed.”

Guess how many of these rules failed to last the first week.

The Audition


To Mid City did Mr. and Mrs. U kettle in glacial traffic on Saturday, to meet Trixie, who showed us her best sit, which was not very long, but revealed a certain eagerness to please nonetheless.

After striking out at Best Friends last week we were put in touch with a foster organization called Angel City Pit Bulls which pulls dogs from the city shelters and provides them with domestication skills.  Trixie was advertised as non-cat chasing, small dog loving and crate-trained. Mrs. U fixated on her after one look at the website and did not relent until we got in the car to see her.

I had my doubts. Picking dogs out of a wish book puts common sense at a disadvantage to the eye, and the wife was already evincing an ominous pre-determination to buy:   “Isn’t she adorable? You do think she’s adorable, don’t you? I can’t wait to meet her.”  Oh boy.

We were greeted by a flinty woman named Royce who had a very precise choreography for the supplicants who came to meet her rescue dogs. We waited in the front yard.  Trixie was brought out to sniff our shoes, circle us a few times and lead us to the back yard, where her leash was removed so she could get down to business, which was cracking open a big can of tail-thumping adorability.

Emotional blackmail in action
Emotional blackmail in action

Royce didn’t suffer foolishness from dog-indulging adoptees like myself, who unwisely asked her if she had a tennis ball I could throw.

“Never play fetch with a dog. It increases their prey drive.”

I learned other things. Like I was wrong to let dogs on the furniture and never on the bed.  I wonder what she would think if she knew Woody not only slept on the bed but on top of me, his head resting on my thigh, queefing contentedly.

Trixie came from the South LA shelter and had the scar tissue to prove it, but the time she had spent at Royce’s house was put to good use.  She exhibited none of the zombie-ified, stressed-out behavior we saw at Best Friends.  She had obedience skills. Which raised another issue: How different those dogs might be if they had a month in foster care.    How many would be charming me into submission at this very moment? Is it fair to assess a dog in those conditions?  Need a dog be charming at all? Character is revealed in time. Who’s to say how one will pan out as opposed to another?  How do you choose?  Do you take the first dog who seems like she doesn’t have problems?  Do you take the one with the silky coat or the one with the patch over the eye?  Do you keep kicking the tires from shelter to shelter?   Should one look a gift dog in the mouth?

Mrs. U was giving me pleading looks.  “Darling, she wiggled toward us, and she gets along with cats.  A bird in hand…”


I was defenseless. I was a man with no good reason to say no.

We ordered a 42-inch crate and several hundred dollars worth of toys and specialty food the minute we got home.  Happy Mother’s Day.

Did we do the right thing?
Did we do the right thing?