Where forgiveness took me…
His name was Kermit.
A German shepherd Labrador puppy we got when I was six. His look favored the shepherd coloring and course coat, but his ears and head were smooth like a Lab.
Kermit needed a lot of exercise by the time he was full-sized, but I’d walk Kermit as far as it took him to poop.
Then I’d turn around and go home…
As if all the dog needed was a toilet.
By the time we moved back to the city, walking Kermit was a real challenge. My mom was working full-time. I was in a new school. The neighborhood wasn’t safe.
I began to resent him.
After Kermit died, we didn’t get a dog again for a while.
In my one semester in a college dorm, I told a harmless story about Kermit.
And I broke down in tears…
“I abused Kermit,” I admitted to my new friends.
I never hit or harmed him, but I realized neglect and resentment were forms of abuse. Kermit only wanted affection, food, and exercise.
A dog’s life.
I swore I’d never have a dog if I couldn’t properly give it that life. Our three subsequent dogs, post-Kermit, have all been rescue dogs.
Each - in its own way - rescued us.
Which brings me to Gilda.
Thanks for reading That Place You Love! Subscribe for free & gimme some truth.
The campo giveth. The campo taketh away.
September 2021. I drove to town to walk Ragazzo - our current dog who showed up on Christmas day in 2017. As I turned off the highway onto our dirt road, I noticed a parked car. The driver was on the phone outside.
He seemed distressed.
“Everything okay?” I asked.
And then I saw her.
A full-grown Mastín Español (Spanish mastiff) can weigh up to 150-200 lbs. and stand at 4-feet tall. They’re an ancient breed of protectors of livestock. We see them often around here as land and property guardians.
While they are huge and intimidating, Mastins are mostly loyal and loving.
The man asked if the dog was mine.
He had herded her off the highway onto our road for safety. She had a chain around her neck. Her eyes were sunken into her sockets. Her ribs were visible.
He didn’t know what to do. If he went back onto the highway, she would wander back out. But he couldn’t stay or fit her in his car.
I brought some food to lure her to safety.
I was confident we could put the dog in our truck and take her to ASAP (Alhama Street Animal Protection) where she would be cared for and adopted.
But ASAP was at full capacity.
I looked at the Mastin winking at me with dry eyes and decided to name her Gilda in memory of Radner’s wink-y character, Roseanne Roseannadanna.
We couldn’t keep Gilda. Or could we?
This can/can’t conversation went on for days as we rehabilitated Gilda. Her eyes became brighter. She gained weight. The vet said she wasn’t chipped.
The problem was Kermit.
I had made a promise to myself - in an act of forgiveness - that I wouldn’t keep a dog I couldn’t care for properly.
We didn’t have land for Gilda, and she couldn’t come inside - she was too big - and Ragazzo and she tussled a few times about position.
I had to find her a good home, and I had 5 days to do it before leaving for a week.
Mastins are popular here, but many are abandoned. I posted in FB groups, contacted organizations, got messages from people who wanted to breed her.
Gilda would not be a Handmaid, I said.
Finally, a neighbor active in the animal rescue community contacted me about a family who wanted Gilda. They had land, kids, horses, other dogs, and were 30-minutes away.
They could pick her up that evening.
Ana, the hopeful new owner, Whatsapp’d me for directions. I sent our location pin. As I stood at the top of the road to make sure they made the turn, I realized I didn’t know anything about them.
I looked at Ana’s profile photo. She was kissing the cheek of a man I figured was her husband, Oscar. Then I saw the tattoo on his left cheekbone: the interlocking LA of the Dodger’s logo.
We were not in Los Angeles.
Why would he have this tattoo on his face?
When Ana and Oscar pulled up, I saw Oscar also had a tattoo of an AK-47 on his cheek. Oh, shit, I thought.
What kind of plans do they have for Gilda?
I began to feel protective, but I had no evidence to presume their intentions weren’t good.
“I put more faith in animals than people,” Oscar said.
He had a soft expression, kind of world weary. He had been in prison. He just wanted to live in peace with his wife, kids, and animals.
When they got out of the car, Gilda put her paws on Ana’s shoulders and went in for a hug.
Ana’s long blue fingernails caressed Gilda’s fur.
An hour after they left, Ana sent me photos of Gilda relaxing on green grass with their sons and two other dogs.
Gilda was chomping on a barrita de pan between her paws.
A dog’s life.
YOUR TURN: Where does FORGIVENESS take you? Is an awakening necessary for Forgiveness? Can regret be a lesson? When do anger and disappointment transform into compassion? Or don’t they? Is Forgiveness a muscle that becomes more agile with practice?
I went long on this one even after cutting out a ton. The Gilda story needed to be written.
Share your FORGIVENESS story in 200 - 300 words (the length of my Kermit story more or less).
POST IT IN THE COMMENTS SECTION.
Click the HEART when you read a post so the writer knows to come back and read yours. Heart = Heard.
Don’t comment on my or other people’s stories.
For more about the rules & intention of this Zine, check the About page.
Want to publish in TPYL Zines’s Anthology series?
The Zine will live on its own website (URL) separate from Substack. There are no submission or reading fees. The only prerequisite is active participation (4 post minimum) in the TPYL Substack community in the 4-month period before the publication month (January, May, September).
The first edition with artwork will launch in May 2023.
More info in the Forum!
It's a chilly Halloween night, and Paul McCartney is singing “Yesterday” on my transistor radio. We kids walk the dark rural-neighborhood roads holding flashlights for the younger trick-or-treaters like my sister. At ten going on eleven, she doesn’t need my fourteen-year-old protection. But that excuse allows us teens to hang out and snag some candy even though we’re far too cool to dress in costume now. Along the way, I say to thirteen-year-old Karen, a sometime playmate, “I think Peter’s cute." Peter is fifteen. She looks at him and says, “Yeah, he is,” as if just noticing. I scoot close to him and say, “Hi.” He doesn't say anything. Then Karen saddles to his other side and giggles. He laughs, and she touches his sleeve. After a while, I fall back with the younger kids, watch Karen and Peter lean into one another, and scowl. At the end of the evening, I say, “You know, Peter, I don’t care if I ever see you again." A total lie. "That's not a very nice thing to say," he says back. I don’t say anything to Karen because I don’t want to speak to her. Ever again. At home, I tell Mother the whole sad story. “Karen only made a play for him because she knew I liked him, and he fell for it,” I wail. "I hate them both.” Instead of consoling me, Mother sighs and says, “We are our own worst enemies.”
Peter and Karen dated throughout high school and college but didn’t end up marrying one another. Years later, Mother called to tell me that a swimming accident had claimed Peter's life. He left a wife and two young children and died without my apology. That's the thing about forgiveness. My confession of wrong-doing and request for forgiveness would have been hard. But I'm here to tell you, we are our own worst enemies if we don't, because living with regret is much, much harder.
“Leave him in the car, he never sleeps,” I thought as I parallel-parked my VW Jetta on Sunset Boulevard a few feet past The Viper Room, my employer. I was the resident DJ on Wednesdays, known for spinning quality underground dance rock. Normally I drove to work alone but this night came with a passenger crashed out on route, my upstairs neighbor, Dave.
Dave and I had a decent friendship after living in the same building in Silverlake for years. Like a tinker Santa Claus, he would pull up in his truck with the bed full of scavenge and hand out random items from his sleigh. A vintage lamp, an antique six-pack of empty Coca-Cola bottles, a broken chair. See, Dave was a tweaker. A veteran user. Up for days at a time. Polite and well-kept but beholden to a massive addiction.
He wanted to go to the club with me. So, we went.
I ran into him outside on the sidewalk after my set. “Where did you go? Why did you leave me in the car?” he shouted. “Dave, you were sleeping so soundly, you looked cozy. I figured you wanted some peace and quiet,” which was the truth. “You’re not gonna be happy with me,” he whimpered. “Why, what did you do?” as I walked over to my car. So far, so good. That’s when I saw the black marker scribblings covering the windshield. Mad scribblings all over the seats. The driving wheel had been stabbed. He had no idea why he did it. “I’m sorry. I need help,” as he broke into tears. “You’re a mess. WTF! This is it. I’m done,” I screamed. “Can you take me to the bus station downtown?” he whispered. “Yeah, that’s the last thing I’ll do for you. Get some help. You need it.”
There are times to choose forgiveness quickly. It helps us on the journey. Keep your forgiveness at the ready. You never know when you will need it but need it you will.