The dog briefly known as Carrot.

September 24th, 2013, 12am

What you have to understand is that I’ve never had a proper pet. Childhood happened in a string of rented houses where animals were impossibilities, forbidden by unseen landlords probably concerned with preserving the state of the carpet more than anything else. Well, no- there was a single, ill-tempered cat in my very early years. We had an uneasy truce. Then he died. Then we moved. After that, it was just me and my parents - then just me and my mom - trying to fill the house-that-wasn’t-quite-ours all on our own.

Of course, I knew that other people kept pets. Neighbors were forever circling the block, fluffy golden retrievers in tow. For a while, another person’s cat used to bring my mother gifts of rat intestines, left pristine and steaming on our door mat, because she would stop to pet it on her way to get the paper in the morning. I even volunteered for an animal rescue foundation during high school, ostensibly to rack up volunteering hours for college applications, but secretly, in hopes of learning to understand animals and the odd power they held over friends and strangers alike. I was tasked with cleaning out the cages of nearly-feral rescued cats. Needless to say, my plan backfired slightly, and I ended up with more scratches than deep feline connections.

Which is all to say that it took me a while to get the whole animal thing. Americans spent ~53 billion on pet-related products last year. (Seriously: I could hardly bring myself to pet passing dogs (so much energy! so many teeth! did they want to play fight or bite my face? how were you supposed to tell?) I didn’t understand.

And then: Carrot.

I wasn’t there when they found him. According to my housemate, he was cowering in an alley in Fruitvale, whimpering, when they walked by on the way to dinner. He was still wearing a harness. They knocked on doors and tried the number on his tags, but it went straight to voicemail. It was late; there were no other options. Someone held him the whole BART ride back to the city, feeding him scraps of turkey to stay silent.

When I came home a few hours later and a tiny dog greeted me at the door, I was a little baffled. Our lease doesn’t allow pets. Someone must have seen my face, so they quickly explained the temporary nature of the situation. We fed him some more turkey. We tried to call his owner again. No luck. “What’s his name?” I asked, finally. “The tag says Jeffy, but we’re calling him Mr. Splinters,” I was told. I looked at the small dog. His eyes told me this was wrong. “No,” I replied, “His name is Carrot.”

And so he became a dog with three names. We continued our search, but couldn’t find the owner. The ASPCA who chipped Carrot had the same contact information we did; craigslist returned no information. I watched him warily, trying to decipher his moods. Would he poop on the furniture? Better to remain at a safe distance, and let the others handle it.

One night, inevitably, we were alone. I was worried. When the others left, he cried for 30 minutes, running back and forth between the door and the window. I resolved to pretend he didn’t exist. I curled up in a chair to read. Eventually, he got tired of waiting for the others, climbed into my lap, and promptly fell asleep. I was pinned to the chair for hours, unwilling to move him as he snored. I took a picture to send to my mom. Then many pictures. I posted them on Facebook. I contemplated buying him chew toys and dog treats. By the end of the night, I had basically decided that Carrot was mine.

Of course, we couldn’t keep him. The person watching Carrot while his owner was out of the country finally found our contact information. Apparently, he’d escaped from the backyard. (Unsurprising. Carrot was feisty.) Just as quickly as we’d found him, he was back in Oakland, once again Jeffy, a dog with a single name and a single (very grateful) owner.

I’ll never see him again. The lease still doesn’t allow pets, so he won’t be replaced. Still, sometimes when no one else is home, I flip through his pictures and remember. Oh, and when dogs pass me on the street, I stop and scratch behind their ears, just the way they like.

Daniel, Robin, Craig, John and 11 others said thanks.

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Zoelle Egner

Digital literature. Alternate reality games. Science fiction. Cocktails. Octopuses. Excessive pondering. By day I do the technology thing. (Sometimes by night, too.)

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