September 7, 2006, a day that will live in memory.
The initial players were Sheila and Rebecca. They were soon joined by others.
As I entered Murio’s and approached the rear pool table, Sheila raced past me into the back room where patrons are not supposed to enter. “Empleados Unicamente” is written in large red letters along with a translation.
But the gate-type door, horizontal bars with cross members, is never locked. Lining the walls behind the gate are stacks of beer kegs and a refrigerator full of tiny pickled white onions, olives and the bright red Maraschino cherries that a bar rack typically holds.
I saw Sheila set something down on the cement floor, hurriedly back out pushing the door closed behind her and turn to Rebecca who was carrying a tumbler full of liquid. It turned out to be water and Rebecca appeared to be rather flustered.
Sheila set the water glass down inside the dark room and they conferred briefly. My curiosity was piqued. When Sheila went to the front of the bar, apprehension on her face, I walked over to Rebecca. She was the worst off of the two. She could not stand still, had a cigarette out even though you are not allowed to light up inside the building. She fumbled it, dropped it, picked it up, fumbled half heartedly with it as I came near and asked, “What’s going on?”
“It’s that obvious, hunh?”
“Oh, yah. Want to tell me? I’m curious what’s behind that door.”
Rebecca was not afraid to tell me, in fact, she and Sheila would tell quite a few other patrons in the next hour that they had just hidden a six month old puppy on a leash behind the door.
“Sheila took it from a homeless person on the street who was abusing it.”
The full story went something like this: Sheila is a dog person. In fact, she has built a local business of dog walking and has done quite well for herself. She now complains how much she owes in taxes and has hired a number of Murio’s customers to perform this duty, dog walking, when Sheila has her hands full, as it were.
As she was walking to the bar tonight, she saw this puppy running free although he had a leash. She realized the animal was thirsty, although how one can tell a dog is thirsty simply from watching it on the street is beyond me. Somehow she also figured out who the owner was. He was among a nearby group of people on the sidewalk, although Sheila declared them all to be homeless.
There is a difference between “street people” and “homeless” even if the distinction seems moot or minor. I don’t know how to tell that difference.
When the owner was not paying attention, Sheila simply grabbed the leash and walked away.
I came in just as the women were getting the animal safely behind bars, into the dark sanctuary of Murio’s back storage room. When they started looking for a way out of the situation, preferably the back door, they discovered it opens on a land locked lot with an exit that goes nowhere.
Unless she hopped fences, Sheila would not be able to get home with or without the puppy.
I heard Rebecca tell Sheila, “He’s drinking like crazy.” So the dog was thirsty after all.
At this point Dave, Rebecca’s boyfriend, was brought into the conversation. I don’t know if he had been briefed before, but he quickly became a willing co-conspirator. Dano, who works at the local pet store, and Shamira, his girlfriend, were also apprised of the situation and perhaps one or two other people. Dave went out and did reconnaissance while the others conferred. He returned to say the homeless people still had not figured it out, they did not even miss the dog yet.
At this point I was curious to see the creature. Through the bars I made out a small, perhaps two or three foot long puppy, for that is exactly what he was, a baby dog, a very young example of the breed, a black and brown colored animal with wrinkled skin that might actually have a blood line, that could grow up to become either a Doberman or a Labrador, I could not tell which at that young age, nor was I certain either of my two assessments of the strain was correct.
Time passed and the bar began to fill. Dano and Shamira each had a glass of wine and Dave went back and forth from the street to the pool table area giving his reports. Rebecca went outside in front to smoke and Sheila kept a careful eye on the dog. The great fear was one of the homeless might have seen her enter Murio’s with the dog in tow, but as time passed that seemed less and less likely.
Nonetheless, the owner was still out there, according to Dave, and he had finally started looking for his pet.
At that point Dano and Sharmira apparently agreed to take the animal home to Dano’s house which was a block and a half walk up Shrader Street. They shrouded the animal in Shamira’s coat to the point where nothing showed. It was a light weight dog, not ten pounds, but it was a half frightened creature and I saw it squirm as she petted it and soothed it with small words and covered it entirely so that no part of the animal was visible outside her arms or her coat.
They proceeded out the front door. I followed. It was the sort of drama that made me want to watch as it unfolded. It was also the sort of stupid action I would never have taken — pick up a dog off the street — but as the event of it played out I was fascinated to learn what would happen next. So I followed them.
They were merely a couple exiting a bar with a big black coat sticking kind of straight up in the air in the woman’s arms. Parked directly in front of Murio’s front door was a white van with no side windows. Dano and Shamira made a jay out the door to the right aimed toward Shrader, but were immediately within the ranks of five or six young people, the street people who may or may not be homeless who hang out near Murio’s front door and are often chased off by AJ sometimes brandishing his recently acquired K-Bar.
Dano and Shamira were not under suspicion by any of the street people, but the crush of them forced the couple with their bundle right up against the side of the white van where they took some seconds to gather their wits before proceeding.
The punk was on a small bicycle with 20” wheels and a 12” gooseneck with risers. He was so close to them he could have reached out with his fingertips and touched them. But he didn’t. Instead, he reared on this back tire and screamed, “I’m gonna kill the mother fucker who stole my dog!” When his front wheel dropped to the ground he shot off up the street, past Shrader, as Dano and Shamira held still and watched him depart.
I let out a breath I did not even realize I was holding as they started their trip home, perhaps a five minute walk. It proved uneventful.
The next day I called and Dano answered. He said the puppy had been taken to the pound where it would receive its shots, be neutered and then adopted. He knew the way things worked so when I asked if the dog would be euthanized, Dano was emphatic that it would not.
But he did say the punk who once owned the puppy could go to the shelter and get him back. But nobody believes he will.