We’d been married about eight months when Cynthia asked me what seemed like a fluff question.
She wanted to know what my favorite dog breed was.
Cynthia had a small mutt named Axel. While we were dating, one conversation turned to what type of dog I had growing up. When I replied I didn’t have a dog as a kid and never have had a dog, she said something about every boy should have a dog.
Nothing much was said about dogs after that except when she asked if I had bought dog food, whether I had fed Axel or if I had made sure the chicken pen Axel was left overnight in sometimes with the cats was secure so the coyotes couldn’t get in.
That may sounds like a strange question but for the first six months we were married we lived in the house she had rented for years in an almond orchard on North Ripon Road. Every night like clockwork when I got home at 1 o’clock in the morning and turned off the back floodlight the coyotes would come in from the orchard and converge on the chicken pen to see if it was going to be their lucky night.
When she asked about my favorite dog breed I admit I had none because having a dog was never on my radar. So I gave her the first dog breed that popped into my mind which was a Dalmatian. It happened to be somewhere on the top of the heap of questionable information we retain as a few days earlier someone asked me how often I went to the movies. I said not often and proceeded to share how the release of “Star Wars” in 1977 was the first movie I had gone to see since Disney’s “101 Dalmatians” cartoon flick back in 1966.
Two weeks later I found out there is no such thing as a throw away question.
She had a surprise for me. When we got to Marvin Roots’ house — he was the pastor of Valley Presbyterian Church we were attending at the time — I was ushered into a room where Cynthia told me she wanted to surprise me with a dog and that I had the pick of six of the eight in the litter.
To be honest I really had no desire to have a dog but Cynthia was ecstatic that she was able to surprise me.
So I took my pick. It was the scrawniest puppy with the least amount of spots.
Cynthia later shared how she was a bit disappointed as she hoped I would pick one with more makings and one that looked like he might be able to keep up with me on runs I took in the country. We had no inkling at the time about week-old Dalmatian puppies and the fact you can’t tell how they will develop “spots”. I also had never given any thought to running with a dog let alone owning one.
Imagine our collective surprise when we returned several weeks later to pick up the puppy and found out he was no longer the scrawniest of the litter. When we entered the room, he was wedged under a dresser trying to wiggle out as his rear end flipped back and forth at warp speed. He was also the puppy who now had the most spots making Pogo of Disney fame appear anemic in that department.
After we freed the puppy from under the dresser she asked what I was going to name him. I blurted out the obvious answer — at least to me anyway — without thinking.
“Zebra,” I remember saying rather stridently.
Everyone in the room looked at me as if I were nuts.
It made complete sense to me. The puppy was black and white, I graduated from Lincoln High in Lincoln where the mascot was the zebras, and served on the school district board for eight years during which time I had a personalized license plate that read “ZEBRA1”.
Much to my surprise a couple of months later I decided I wanted to take Zebra with me on a jog. I was hooked in less than a minute heading up North Ripon Road.
Zebra, who redefined the concept of rambunctious for me, took off like a jet forcing me to try and rein in his enthusiasm so I wouldn’t end up being dragged.
We have been going on runs for about three months when the first of many moments occurred when I was with Zebra where people that saw what happened still recall them today while laughing their heads off.
We were on an edge of an almond orchard along East Highway 120 heading toward Jack Tone Road when someone who knew me honked as we approached each other. I turned my head and waved. Just as I did that Zebra, who for some reason would pee like a female dog, stopped suddenly to do just that. Within a second I stumbled over Zebra. Given he was on a leash the forward movement I was making in a bid to avoid a face plant, caused me to trip a second time just I was about to right myself. As I came up from that stumble and just starting to slow down, I ran face first into a low hanging almond tree branch that — given it was early September — was laden with nuts.
Several people pulled over when they saw me do my Dick Van Dyke imitation I assume to help since this was before the days of smartphone cameras and the primal need to embarrass someone in a bid to get 100,000 likes from strangers. I waved them off as I got to me feet all the while that Zebra was licking me and jumping all around like I found another game to play.
What brings this up is last weekend I decided Dante— a Dalmatian that adopted me five years ago from Save a Spot rescue in Turlock — needed a pal.
Dante hooked me after I was told he wouldn’t probably come to me because he was super timid but did so within a minute. Then when I took him for a “test run” he almost yanked my arm off. It is safe to say I like dogs with a bit of energy to burn.
This time around I decided out of the gate I wanted a runner. That is why today I have Patches — a Dalmatian mix. At about a year and 45 pounds she’s a happy go lucky puppy that has been trained a bit to direct her energy without quite having the ability to sit still for a reasonable period of time.
I get why she was named Patches. I’m not too sure I’ll keep the name when I decide in the next few days what to call her when I license her with the city.
I’ve taken her on a few test runs on the Tidewater Bikeway at the edge of my neighborhood. Judging how she takes to running like a fish does to water and does so with a strong pull that makes a Body Pump workout class make my muscles feel like I’m taking a nap, I’m giving T-n-T, Bullet, and Dynamite some serious consideration for a name.
Her love for running, strength, mischievous and rambunctious personality and being able to act like a lady in the car makes her a keeper and then some.
She’s just what I like.