For me, August 23 will always be a special day because it’s the day that I chose as the first family’s dog’s birthday. We had adopted Dazé around Thanksgiving when she was twelve weeks old.
In fact, it was about a week before Thanksgiving, and when I did the math backwards, I hit the end of August. T-Day had been on November 22nd, which is the earliest date it can possibly fall. I think that we must have adopted her the Saturday or Sunday before the holiday, which would have been either November 17th or 18th. Calculating backwards, this landed me on either August 25 or 26, but I didn’t like either of those dates.
Since my parents didn’t really care either way — Dazé to them was “just a dog,” after all — I set her birthday as August 23rd, mainly because I’d read somewhere that 23 was a very important number, and the 23rd of August was when Sirius first appears in the Northern Hemisphere.
Well, more or less. But Sirius is the dog star, August 23rd is close enough for jazz, and so that was from then on Dazé’s official birthday.
If I had ever believed in astrology, I would have put that date back one day, because no way that bitch was a Virgo. Dazé was a little lion. But I don’t believe in that bunk. I do believe that she had the personality she was partly born with and the one that I nurtured in her.
I’ve mentioned this here whenever I’ve mentioned Dazé — despite the fact that she was technically my mom’s dog, since Mom was the one at home all the time while Dad and I were at either work or school, Dazé never saw it that way.
I was her human from the second we first laid eyes on each other at the rescue shelter, and that was that.
It’s kind of funny, because in a strange way she wound up actually being a kind of surrogate mother to me, since my own mother died less than three years after we’d adopted Dazé. I wound up being responsible for her — the walks, the feeding, everything — and she did an excellent job, when I wasn’t, of giving me gentle reminders.
“Hey, dad — what time is it?”
Now, my dad had to take over when I moved off to college and dogs were not allowed in the dorms — not that I would have wished that atmosphere on any non-human living being at all. Hell, I couldn’t even keep a goldfish alive for more than two months because while I was home for a weekend, my roommate decided to see if it liked beer.
Hint: Goldfish do not do well when their breathing medium is flooded with alcohol.
I don’t hold it against him, though. We were both kids, really. Young and stupid and with all of our own hang-ups, since we were thrown together at 18. We were kind of oil and water for the time we shared a 12’x10’ cinderblock-walled room, but I can’t help but think that if we’d first met after our mid-20s, we would have gotten along fine.
And maybe if I hadn’t run home every weekend because it was only 26 miles, we might have bonded during those wild Friday and Saturday night dorm parties. But I had to run home to see my doggy.
That was the only real reason. Honestly, I figured that my dad could survive without seeing me again until my first year ended in May, and I could always do laundry at the dorm, even though it cost a few quarters and I had to do it myself.
Okay, I still had to do it myself at home, but the machines were free and much nicer.
College passed and I moved on to adulting and into an apartment with two… well, acquaintances. I wound up stumbling into the deal because a college friend was living in a three bedroom place with these guys (he was in a band with them) but then he got stupid and proposed to his girlfriend (Dude — you’re 22!) so was ready to move in with her, leaving a spot open.
So I popped into the master suite of bedroom and private bath — a fair trade-off for the lone parking space, I think — and was there for about a year and a half. And the two guys were not total strangers to me, since I had been the manager of the band they were in with my friend.
But, of course, the band went “poof” as soon as he slipped his… er, slipped that ring on her finger.
I was really tempted at that time to move Dazé in with me, but something told me to wait and I did. Eighteen months later, my two roommates went their separate ways. Meanwhile, it just so turned out that three of my co-workers — a single friend and another friend and his fiancée — were looking to move as well.
We found a very old house in Van Nuys — I think it was built originally as a tenant-worker home on a rancho around 1919. The construction was basically lathe and plaster, which meant that it had absolutely zero insulation.
Also, although the front house had two bedrooms and a bathroom, it was tiny. In fact, I’d almost venture to say that it had fewer square feet than the one-bedroom place I live in now.
But… the kitchen was really nice, and my small bedroom also happened to have one wall with built-in shelves and drawers and the like which gave not only a built-in desk and storage, but no need to move any kind of bulky furniture other than the bed with me.
It also had a nice backyard, a very ancient garage that was just as likely to have held a horse and carriage in its early days as a car and which we quickly converted into a mostly sound-proofed studio — I was in a band with the non-affianced roommate, another co-worker, and a bass-player we’d found through an ad.
Finally, there was a guest-house in the back, where said single roomie lived. It was essentially a studio with a bathroom off to the side, but it was remarkable for its 1920s-era tiled kitchen and the probably 1950-s era leather banquette diner-style booth in the, well, dining area.
Oddly enough, it was a lot more accommodating than the main house for small gatherings, so all of us spent a lot of time there.
Once I was settled in, I decided that this was the right place for Dazé, so I brought her to live with me, and life was awesome.
We did have a lot of parties but, thanks to the front door lock being gnarfy, we only ever let people in through the garage gate and back door, so there was never really any worry of her wandering out.
Not that she would have been inclined. It was clear at these parties that she had two jobs. Number one was keeping an out for daddy. Number two was scamming food from people and stealing beers when they weren’t looking.
Oh, yeah. I was both annoyed and oddly proud of her when I saw that one. Cue a debauched 20-something evening, bunch of people I don’t know because they’re mostly our bassist’s friends sitting or standing all around the living room, and one guy who seems about to nod off sits on the floor in front of the far end of the sofa and sets his beer down.
CLOSE ON: BEER ON FLOOR
Suddenly, a white, furry snout pokes its way around the edge of the sofa, black nose sniffing. The snout has a goatee, which flutters as the nose exhales sharply.
The snout moves forward, followed by THE DOG. She scans the room, in full-on Ethan Hunt mode. Then, realizing it is safe, she zeroes in on the objective: The beer bottle.
She grabs it with her mouth and backs out of sight.
ANGLE ON: AREA NEXT TO COUCH
THE DOG settles back with her reward, adjusts the bottle so that its mouth is in her mouth, then tilts sideways and chugs.
REVEAL THE DOG’s DAD peeking around the corner to look at what THE DOG is doing.
Well, fuck me sideways…
A totally appropriate way to present it, since I fancied myself a screenwriter at the time. Ah, to be young, stupid, and in Hollywood — and without having worked out enough to just go right into porn.
But Dazé actually did steal a beer, one time. She got really hyper and really silly fast, then started wandering around bumping into things until she managed to find the bedroom and then she never tried to steal a beer again.
Meanwhile, she lived with us until stupid Dad managed to stick his dick in crazy and make the same mistake, slightly delayed, that the friend whose moving out had put Dad into these housing situations in the first place.
I.E. Dad agreed to move in with the first one-night stand who went out with him two more times.
Yeah, if I had a time machine, I’d go back and bitch-slap some sense into me, too.
Of course, what I didn’t see at the time was that this dude was manipulative, a total gas-lighter, abusive, and probably borderline psychotic, and one of his first demands was “No dog. I’m allergic.”
So what did I do? To my discredit, I thought with my dick and shipped Dazé back home to live with Dad again.
Fortunately, this little mistake didn’t last all that long, and by the time I threw his sorry ass out I was at least making enough to pay the entire rent on our WeHo studio so that I didn’t have to move soon, so Dazé came back and she was with me until her final breath.
That final breath was on April 30, 2001, and she had been with me through a ton of incarnations and ups and downs. And, despite all of the times I’d shuttled her back to my dad or nights I didn’t come home until nearly dawn, she never gave up on me.
Even at the very end, it was like she was hiding her pain and illness from me because she didn’t want to put me through it. And even though I happened to be unemployed (but with fuck you money) at the time, I did everything I could to try to save her.
It was not to be, and I had to let go of my best friend since forever.
And then, eleven days later, to fill the hole in my heart, I adopted Shadow, who was around a year old. I found her since I searched “American Eskimo,” since Dazé was probably American Eskimo and West Highland Terrier, and Shadow was presumed to be a mix of White German Shepherd and American Eskimo.
Shadow was only slightly bigger than Dazé, but the same shade of white, and even though the math didn’t quite work, her official birthday in my heart was also always August 23.
The big difference was that Dazé took care of me and taught me how to take care of myself. Shadow needed every single thing that Dazé ever taught me. Yeah. She was a needy girl. But so what?
So why did Shadow get Dazé’s birthday? Because it’s a special day for me and my dogs. On the other hand, Sheeba was the combo breaker in a lot of ways. I adopted her Labor Day weekend when she was eleven months old, but wound up pegging her birthday as November 14, mainly so that she wouldn’t have to share with Shadow.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention — my dogs always got crazy special birthdays — human food, as in “I’ll have what daddy’s having,” and a dog-friendly muffin with a candle. I used to let Dazé eat at the table with me because she was smart enough to know this only happened at special times.
Shadow and Sheeba, not so much. They got plates on the floor.
Meanwhile, it’s been way too long since I’ve gotten to celebrate a dog birthday, which I really wish I was doing today. Maybe, before too long, I’ll get to do it again.