It was a simple question.
“Which Dalmatian do you think will be the toughest to get adopted?’”
Dana Dulaney didn’t hesitate for a second. It was A.J.
Turlock’s patron saint of Dalmatians who runs the Save a Spot Dalmatian Rescue gave me the run down. Dana had saved A.J. from being put down. The male Dalmatian - perhaps 2 years old - appeared happy go lucky. But every time someone tried to pet him he would quickly pull away. The animal shelter staff had come to the conclusion that there was little hope for A.J. He had even developed a habit of his teeth clattering to show his nervousness.
She had brought him to Save a Spot about a week earlier. She said he had gained 10 pounds yet he still looked as if he was a tad too skinny.
“He really wants to be loved,” Dana said as I crouched in the pen letting A.J. sniff my hand while I tried to figure a way to pet him without making him jumpy. Dana was also trying to get a lead on him. A cat and mouse game went on for about 15 minutes until we were able to get the lead on him.
Whenever I see spots I have a tendency to fall head over heels. But this time it was different. I stepped on to the rural road west of Turlock hoping to see if he liked running. The most amazing thing happened. Not only did he take off like a rocket but he was running with the explosive energy of a 12-year-old kid scampering through the countryside on the first day of summer vacation. A.J. was willing to be a kid if someone would let him. How could you not love him?
Cruella - my 3-year-old female Dalmatian warmed up to A.J. real quick. By the end of their first day together they had developed a routine of sorts leap-frogging over each other whenever I opened the slider.
In just a few days, he’s already developed a bit more trust. He’ll still pull away when you go to pet him but then he comes right back.
The only thing that I had to change about him was his name.
I do not know if whoever named him A.J. made him skittish. But I figured I didn’t want to remind him of anything unpleasant.
The list of possible names was fairly long. Diablo. Spreckels. Splash. Snoopy. Astro. Flash. Dante. Menace (as in here’s Dennis and his Menace). Sparky. Dot.com. Pongo. Teca.
It didn’t take too long for Dante to float to the top.
Dante, of course, was the famous Italian Middle Ages poet who penned The Divine Comedy.
My granddaughter’s boyfriend Sawyer actually suggested the name. Dante’s View was the first place we started hiking on last month’s trip to Death Valley. Sawyer figured since Death Valley was my favorite place that it only stood to reason Dante would be a good name.
After mulling it over, Dante sounded perfect. Dante, after all, depicted his imaginary trip through Hell and Purgatory to reach Heaven in the Divine Comedy. It mirrors what Dante aka A.J, had been through. He survived Hell to have an angel guide him into Purgatory and hopefully onto Heaven.
As his tail challenges the sound barrier with his incessant wagging - a far cry from his tail being between his legs when we first met - there’s a good chance that Dante is in a much happier place than he spent the first part of his life. Hopefully as he gets used to a running harness I’ll be able to step up the bliss factor for Dante although I’ve got a feeling that Cruella and Dante might just be the equivalent of trying to run behind twin jet packs.
In a way Dante aka A.J. represents the road that is available to those of us who get around on two legs. We may get caught in earthy Hell of some type growing up. As we get older and more in control of our lives we enter into the emotional equivalent of Purgatory. All it takes after that to put our lives on a more heavenly track is seizing an opportunity when it comes along and not being so chained by our fears that we don’t take a chance. Dante was right. Sometimes you have to go through Hell and be delivered to Purgatory before you can reach Heaven.
As for me, Heaven clearly has plenty of impish angels that are covered with spots.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209-249-3519.