When I moved to Savannah, the first thing I noticed were the dogs. So many dogs. All different kinds. Doodles and Yorkies and Labs. It was strange to see. Where I’d grown up, dogs weren’t something you’d see out and about town. Small dogs were kept inside and occasionally taken to the grocery store (much to the disinterest of the employees). Large dogs were kept behind the backyard fence to frequently escape and wander around their respective neighborhoods. But in Savannah, things are different.
The dogs of Savannah are paraded downtown with pride. They trot through the squares and do brunch with their humans. They can be found at cafés and in the park. They even have their own park. They’re everywhere. If you listen closely, you can hear their owners chatting with them as though they might one day stand up on their hind legs, turn around, and say, “You know, that’s really interesting. Tell me more.”
So in this place where dogs roam around in such volume, I found myself wanting one. I had a dog back home – a fluffy little black and white thing who was older than God. But I lived in the dorms where anything comforting was forbidden. Besides, I couldn’t deprive my mother of our sweet, aging Princess, nor Princess of my mother whose bed she slept in every single night. I was on my own. I’d have to find my own furry companion.
Once I was finally free of the dorms and had established myself in a pet-friendly house, I was ready. It was two weeks before my 20th birthday, and I was working a shift at my do-nothing, on-campus job. I was a barista at the bookstore coffee shop where I pressed buttons on an espresso machine and made sandwiches for an unlivable wage. I’d been referred to the job by my boyfriend at the time. He was my first boyfriend – an uptight boy about a year younger than me. Despite the fact that we’d been dating for a year and half, he avoided showing attachment to me in most situations which made me want to be around him even more. Working together was fun--for me.
So imagine my surprise when, in the middle of my shift, he texted me a picture from the local humane society’s website. It was a little yellow dog with floppy ears and her tongue sticking out. Her name was Rose. Overall, she was a cute dog. But what really caught my attention were her eyes. Dark brown with the whites visible. Like she was the most excited girl in the world. She looked so goofy. I was in love.
“What about this one?” read the text. We’d talked about getting a dog for a while. Early on in the relationship, I’d expressed my love of dogs, fawning over the different breeds we’d see about town, getting distracted by particularly beautiful ones mid-conversation. At first, he found it annoying as he came from a culture that didn’t value dogs as anything more than property. I came from a home where dogs were members of the family to be loved, cherished, and adored. He thought I was weird.
Even so, I’d convinced him he wanted one, a loyal friend who would be with him through thick and thin. He wanted a big dog to play around with and go on long walks. He wanted a high-energy dog who would play outside with him. I wanted a little dog to follow me around the house and snuggle me on the couch. I wanted a dog as lazy as me. Clearly a compatible couple.
We looked around at all the local shelters. We visited the humane society on weekends to play with the pups. We looked online, combing Petfinder daily for updates. Finally, we found one. Well, he found one. A chow chow named Bucky. Sure, he was cute with his fluffy coat and blue tongue, but he was a solid seventy pounds. Huge. I voiced my concerns to my boyfriend, and the next thing I knew, we were at the shelter meeting Bucky.
He was generally disinterested in us. The shelter employee allowed us to take him on a walk up the street. After almost having my shoulder dislocated when Bucky spotted a squirrel, I let my boyfriend take the leash. I knew this dog was not right for us, but they were both so happy, and that makes everything okay, right? We returned to the shelter and adopted Bucky. We signed all the documents and took plenty of pictures and took him home. The only problem was that we lived in separate houses. We decided to share him equally, taking turns staying with him. I let my boyfriend have him the first few nights.
Two weeks later, Bucky was staying with me. We had just returned from a walk, the game where he pulled me around the neighborhood and I attempted to keep him from bolting after cats. I was putting his leash away when I heard a yelp from the kitchen. A human yelp. Then vicious barking. I ran to see what had happened and found my roommate cowering while Bucky cornered her. Tired of his many similar antics, I grabbed him by the collar apologizing to my roommate profusely. Luckily, he hadn’t hurt her. I pulled him into my room and called my boyfriend.
“Listen,” I said. “This isn’t working out. We need to take him back to the shelter.” He begged me not to. He could take him for a couple of days. I just needed to rest. I told him it wasn’t fair. Bucky needed a big yard and kids to play with. He didn’t belong going back and forth between our tiny duplexes. He deserved better. So we took him back to the shelter. I cried. He was a good boy and I loved him like I did any dog. He just needed more than we could give him. A few weeks later, I saw on the shelter’s Facebook page that he’d been adopted by a family that could give him what he needed.
So there I sat in the bookstore café staring at this picture of Rose. She was small like I wanted, but what was her temperament like? I was nervous so I didn’t respond to my boyfriend’s text. An hour or two had gone by when my phone rang. It was him. I answered. He explained to me that he had gone to the shelter to get Rose for my birthday, but by the time he’d gotten there, an elderly couple was already adopting her. I was a little disappointed, but I thanked him for trying. Secretly, I was a little relieved. We had been going through a rough patch, and I didn’t know if I wanted to be with him, let alone have a dog with him.
The café finally closed, and I walked around to the back parking lot ready to get home. As I rounded the corner of the building, I noticed my boyfriend’s car. I approached it, and he rolled the passenger-side window down. Before I could get a word out, I looked down into the passenger seat and saw little Rose. I gasped, speechless.
“She’s a beagle so I changed her name to Bagel.” I gasped again. What a stupid name. But as I watched her curled up there, I had to admit: she did look like a bagel.
I picked her up and climbed in the car. The poor thing was shedding everywhere and she smelled like the shelter. She was shivering, scared out of her mind. I could feel her ribs. When we got her home, she huddled in the corner of the room, unsure of everything. I saw questions in her eyes. “Who are these people? Will they be kind to me? Are there snacks somewhere?” My boyfriend told everything the shelter knew about her: she’d been surrendered by a family with too many dogs after she’d torn up the children’s toys. She had been tossed out like trash. She needed love.
While I fawned over this delicate little creature, my boyfriend played video games and ignored us both. I suppose he figured he’d done his part. Over the next few days, he took plenty of pictures of her to post on Instagram and Snapchat while I walked, fed, and bathed her. I didn’t mind. It only confirmed to me that she was mine.
Two weeks later, my boyfriend broke up with me. My last words to him were, “I want the dog.” And so I got the dog. She’s been with me ever since. I did consider changing her name since he’d chosen it. But I decided it just fit her too perfectly, my beagle, Bagel.