Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Webster's Story

Photo by Marissa De La Torre

I needed a dog.

I wasn’t completely sure why I needed one, but I knew I did. I also wasn’t completely sure I could afford one or find the time to take care of one. But I knew I needed one. I was 23 and working my first post-college job in journalism. I wasn’t earning much, and my dive of a Hollywood apartment cost far more than it should have by any standard. It hardly had enough room for me and my roommate, let alone a dog. But none of that mattered.

On Labor Day 2008, my neighbor Z and I visited the home of a lady who ran a small rescue group in Long Beach. Upon my arrival, I knew the dog I’d seen posted online wasn’t quite right for me, so I asked if she had other small dogs I could see. She hesitated and then said she had one but she didn’t think I’d like him.

She brought him out in a towel because he had poop on his tail. Having never been too keen on dog smell and slobber and shedding in the first place, it’s safe to say I was apprehensive about holding a dog with poop on his tail. But I held him anyway.

And he melted into my arms like a tired baby, leaning all of his 9 pounds against me and resting his head on my arm. He never made a sound, and once he was settled, he hardly moved.

I couldn’t put him down, so I filled out the adoption paperwork with one hand while I held him with the other. I paid the rescue fee, and he was mine.

I named him Webster, after Webster’s Dictionary. After all, I was a copy editor at the time. Having been born in 1985, I had no idea there had been a hit ’80s TV show of the same name. Oh, to be that young again.
One of the first pictures I took of the little guy

The three of us drove back to Hollywood and stopped at Petco to buy all the supplies we needed. With what money, God only knows.

By the time we got home around 11 p.m., I was in love. Terrified and immensely broke, but in love. Webster, on the other hand, was not.

But who could blame him? As soon as we got home, I whipped out my newly purchased flea shampoo and dumped that little rugrat in the tub. After scrubbing and combing and washing him as much as I could, I used the blow dryer to dry him off. I doused his neck in Advantix and then finally, around midnight, I let him out of the bathroom. After all that, I'd hate me too.

What happened next is still a blur, but somehow someone opened the door and Webster took off down the filthy, dangerous streets of true Hollywood. Barefoot and in my pajamas, I frantically ran after him. So here I am, a barefoot, young (probably crazy-looking) woman running down a Hollywood street at midnight. Awesome.

About two blocks down, I caught him. And I shook with relief. I almost lost him once.

A month or so later, it was clear Webster would never intentionally leave me again. I became his very best friend and he became mine.
Photo by Marissa De La Torre

It is clear that every risk I’ve taken for him has been worth it.

Webster has helped me through countless breakups and heartaches, career frustrations and tragic deaths. He has (anxiously) made two moves with me and made each new place feel like home. He snuggles with me when I need it and he gives me space when that’s what I need instead. He is my quiet, calm, snuggly little buddy, and I can’t imagine another dog being more perfect for me.

On Sunday, I took Webster into the vet for sudden increased appetite and unexplained weight loss. All signs pointed toward diabetes, the vet told me. I had feared this would be the diagnosis.

As I waited for test results, thoughts of daily shots and extremely regimented schedules danced through my mind. Though I surely make more money than I did right out of college, the extensive lifelong costs of a diabetic dog ran through my head as well.

But just as he has been worth those other risks, so also would he be worth this one. We’ll take this next step together, I realized.

The call came yesterday that he did not have diabetes but simply needed a diet change. And I cried I was so happy.

Far too often, it takes the dread of something terrible to make a person appreciate how good they have it. Today, I’m grateful for Webster. I’m grateful that at least for today he’s still healthy. He’s still mine. And I am his. He is worth it.
Photo by Marissa De La Torre

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