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Pet Diaries: The Abandoned Dog That Taught Me The Rewards of Responsibility
by Josh Fadem
Introducing Pet Diaries: Life lessons learned from our pets. This 9-part series is brought to you by GOOD, in partnership with Purina ONE®, and explores how having a pet can change your place in your neighborhood, community, and beyond. Check out more stories at the GOOD Pets hub.
I’ve always been an obsessive dog lover, but not a dog owner. I’ve had childhood dogs that I’ve been madly in love with, but in my quasi-adulthood, I didn’t feel up to snuff in terms of being responsible enough to have a dog. By random chance, that changed a couple of years ago in Los Angeles, California.
On my way back home from an audition (I’m an actor and a comedian) in 2010, I noticed a white blob frantically running alongside rush hour traffic on the 110 freeway, only a few feet from the street. Definitely panicked, definitely not safe. Luckily I was near a shoulder of the freeway where there was a grassy area I could pull into. So I did.
The dog at this point was cornered by an overpass structure making it impossible for him to escape. He looked at me and growled with a scared face. I didn’t know if he was a biter, so I grabbed a sweater from my car to protect my hands. When I returned to our greeting place he was still in the same position, minus the growling. Perhaps he had time to reflect. Hey maybe this guy’s not so bad. He gave me some space, now he’s coming back with a yellow sweater. Slowly he let me put the sweater around him and pick him up. I was polite, he was polite. I didn’t bite, he didn’t bite.
The next day I took the dog to the vet to get him scanned for a microchip and ding ding ding he had one! I was so relieved I could get this dog back to his home, I immediately rang the number on the chip expecting to speak to a panicked dog owner. The exchange went something like:
“Hi, is this (I’m keeping the guy anonymous)?”
“Guess what, I found your dog!”
“Um, what dog?”
…Um what dog??
“A small white dog…”
“Oh. Uh… Well I gave the dog up a few months ago to my aunt who was gonna find him a home…” the guy on the line said.
“He seems like a nice dog.”
“Do you want to keep him?”
“Oh I don’t know. I can’t really take care of a dog.”
“Well let me see if my aunt’s around. I’ll, um, call you back."
“What’s his name?”
“Bobi.” (Pronounced BO-BEE)
Bobi!? No dog should have to endure being called “Bobi.” I can’t recall the exact time frame between that thought and my decision to keep the dog, but spoiler alert: I changed his name to “Bobby.”
Word traveled to my friend and fellow comedian Jonah Ray that I’d found a dog. He had done a bit of work with animal rescue and he rang me up telling me I should keep it. My immediate response was, “Well, I’m a mess and not responsible, it’s a lot of responsibility, blah blah blah.” He listened and replied with a very rehearsed-sounding speech:
“There are millions of reasons not to have a dog and not to keep a dog, but when you experience the joys and love of actually owning one, all those other reasons just sort of melt away. Just foster him for a month and see how it feels.” My initial response was a silent, “Ugh...”
Obviously, not everyone is going to have a friend this generous, but the next day Jonah took me to PETCO with Bobby and covered the basics to set me up: food, treats, greenies, leash, tag, Frontline, etc. I will never forget it.
Bobby embedded himself in my lap the whole ride. He wasn’t going to let me go. Within about a day there was no question that he was my dog, and that rehearsed-sounding speech of Jonah’s was absolute truth.
In general, people often say that the key to sanity is having some sort of structure and responsibility in your life. I'm pretty disorganized and scatterbrained. Also important for any person who pursues a creative profession is to stay busy doing the thing you are pursuing, even if someone isn't necessarily paying you to do it daily. It’s clichéd, but exercise, eating right, and hard work DO pay off. And Bobby plays a role in structuring my life. He gets me out of the house. Walks intended to be 20 minutes magically turn into a pleasurable two hours! And I hate exercising! Is Bobby my personal trainer?!
On the creative side, Bobby is a great writing partner, very easy to work with and bounce ideas off of. I find myself talking to him a lot, if nothing else, because he genuinely makes reactions where he looks like he tries to understand. I know he's probably only thinking a series of things like "Food?" "Play?" "Toy?" "What?" and "Treat?" and the conversations don’t go very far, but it’s exciting to watch him try to listen. And when Bobby and I team up for live comedy routines, he does this bit that involves him running around in the audience and sniffing the floor. In addition, there are a series of (what I proclaim to be) very enjoyable Funny or Die videos that Bobby and I have collaborated on.
Some days the creative juices are a dry well, other days they’re a faucet. But even on those dry days I have no trouble composing heartfelt, dog-inspired vocal ballads. There are hits such as "Bobby is a Dink" which involves me basically repeating the title over and over. There's "He's a Good Boy," which is also pretty much the only lyric. For when he whimpers in a car ride, there's "Why Would He Cry?", which is kind of a sad one. I'll sing it to you if we ever meet. I should mention that each song is sung in a high-pitched, shrill dogtalk voice. Someone get me in the studio to lay down these chart-toppers, stat!
But in all seriousness, Bobby is an extension of me. Having him around makes things better. He’s my best friend and sidekick. And, sure having a dog is a responsibility, but when you love the dog, it doesn’t feel like it.
Consider fostering a pet. Click here to say you'll DO it.
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