“Oh, come give me some sugar!” Miss Lois McLeod would greet us children when we’d arrive those summers to visit our granny. Nowadays we’d refer to Lois as a spinster. She was a bred-in-the-bone North Carolina Presbyterian lady. She worked as a secretary for Gulf Oil and for years she rented room and board from our grandmother, Miss Alice. If Lois had suffered in life, and certainly she had, with the polio, it was utterly lost on us children. We were always overjoyed to slam the old screen door, bound through the dining room which predictably creaked, and check to see if that special single case of bottled Coca-Cola under Granny’s sink awaited us. And of course we would give Lois some sugar, an exchange of welcoming hugs and kisses. She belonged there and she belonged to us.
Lois and Miss Alice are long gone, as are almost all our links to Aberdeen, North Carolina. But a month ago, some sugar came back into my life. I decided to adopt a little dog from the animal shelter. I named him Sugar Rum Cherry. It didn’t take long to get him to answer to Sugar or, informally, Shuggy.
This dog adoption had been noodling around in the back of my head since I had a gate put up to enclose the yard. Discreetly I had been online surfing the animal shelters, looking for dainty Italian Greyhounds or maybe a comical pug, something whimsically genteel, like me. At the West Valley facility I located what was listed as a Clumber. I know Clumbers to be jumbo spaniels, often calm to the point of listlessness. I thought I might check this unusual breed.
The Chatsworth animal shelter is gorgeous, and, sadly, it is full of pits and chihuahuas of every permutation. Eventually I inquired about “the spaniel,” which elicited a number of nods and smiles, though I learned he had been placed in isolation for kennel cough. I was taken to meet him. I could see that he might become a lovely animal, and better yet, my boon companion. He is a tricolor long-tailed late adolescent who resembles the result of a Cocker/King Charles Cavalier meetup. I just felt he was the one for me.
When we came home to Altadena, I made an appointment with the vet, filled out the microchip form, and began a serious relationship with Centinela Feed and Pet Supplies. I can say I have now become a Dog Person. I always nodded politely to the Dog People, but now I find myself willingly engaging in Dog Chats at the Rose Bowl or on the street when we are Dog Strolling. Perfect strangers remark, “What a cute pup!” and I beam as if I, Pygmalion, had designed him. But the truth is he is a good little fellow who just wanted a home, where he could lie inside under a computer desk and forget that he had ticks and matted hair and whatever else may have befallen him. And he doesn’t mind that I call him Sugar.