The Yearbook Office
Writings on staying alive
 

Charlie Trotter is napped to score at Westnorthsouthland
Will Run Fast will run fast at Fastwill Run.
This week's best bet is Michael Showpony at The Mall.

My third foster dog, Hank the Tank, had the biggest balls I've seen in my life. When my friends found him, he was ambling down the sidewalk in Chicago's Albany Park, marking pavement, bushes, and sides of buildings every few feet. When they knocked on my door in a panic because they wanted to help but couldn't keep him in their house with their neurotic German Shepherd, he stuck his fat head out the window of their Subaru and a long string of drool stretched almost to the ground. When I finally brought him home, after a visit to the vet and a consultation with my rescue group colleagues, he peed on my big blue chair. A gentle scolding left him sulking for the rest of the night, and he was house trained from that moment on. Hank had a big, dumb face, but he learned fast.

We did everything the legal way: a found report filed at the city shelter, signs hung all around the neighborhood, and a Craigslist ad reading Found Dog. Must describe to claim. I walked Hank with my own Ralph the Girl-Dog all around Albany Park and Lincoln Square. If anybody was looking for him, surely they would see us and let me know. Mostly people took a wide arc to avoid us coming down the sidewalk. We were a meaty group: Hank the Tank, all brindle, jowls, and spring-loaded thighs; Ralph the Girl-Dog with her hard stare and blue wizard eye; and me, the fat girl with dirty jeans, fresh off a long shift at doggy daycare, stomping around the neighborhood with two fists full of pit bull.

After the legally mandated grace period (two weeks), after it became obvious nobody was looking for him (one day), my rescue group was officially responsible for finding Hank a loving home. I was working at two different doggy daycares at the time, wearing down roommates like bars of soap, and not telling anyone how scared I was about the possibility of not finding yet another person to move in, not finding a cheaper place, and not having anywhere to go with my own pets when we got kicked out. My home was plenty loving, but it was not suitable to be Hank's forever.

The hazards of fostering are as follows: disruption of resident pets; damage to home and property; about a week of high stress and little sleep if you're lucky; several months of high stress and little sleep of it if you're not; and the ever-present threat of falling in love. Hank rolled in shit at every opportunity. He tripped over his own thick feet. He was quiet and dopey and fit in perfectly with Ralph and the cats. I fell for him hard.

The family downstairs was already afraid of Ralph, so when Hank hit the scene, all hope for harmony among neighbors was lost. I hosted improv rehearsals in my living room, they played loud norteƱa records every Sunday after church, and we avoided eye contact when we passed on the stairs. During Hank's reign, I carried their garbage from porch to dumpster every week to save them the worry of running into us in the three-flat's tiny yard. Ralph and Hank played as pit bulls do: loud and rough, with lots of teeth. Neither one of them would ever intentionally hurt a person, but they monopolized whatever space they were in. Hank was 65 pounds of enthusiasm and heart, and he would barrel across the yard and hurl his mass at the object of his affection. I understood the neighbors' concern.

I have the perfect picture of Hank and my cat Richie sharing the loveseat my third roommate left behind: Hank and Richie face to face, curved towards each other like parentheses, Richie's paw resting lightly on one of Hank's enormous balls.

Another picture, from the woman who took him home for good: Hank the Tank splayed frog-legged on the floor, with her four-year-old nephew in his underwear beside him, both of them grinning like they've just won the biggest pile of shit.

Of all my foster dogs to date, Hank was the one I wanted to keep. I wanted him more than I wanted Radar, my actual foster fail, the dog who stuck around despite my best efforts to find him a home more suitable than mine. Radar stayed for months, and then it was over a year, and then no one was going to adopt him (and I wouldn't have let them, anyhow) so now he's mine. Hank stayed for months, and I didn't try particularly hard to find him a different home, but the universe brought him his human and I had to let him go. In the weeks before he left, I took him to be neutered, and when the sutures became infected, I held a warm compress against his swollen scrotal sac. Our last days together were spent in an intimate arrangement of dog and human limbs, helping each other heal before going our separate ways.