I saved three dogs in two weeks.

I'm very glad about this, though I wasn't looking to do it. Lately I've just been concentrating on getting my own three dogs through an hour-long walk each morning without incident. Not there have been any incidents, or even near-incidents, but being out with three animals a mile from your own house just makes you feel vulnerable. And sometimes I go out the door very aware that the overwhelming peace in my south Inglewood neighborhood is more precarious than I like to admit. That awareness has never turned out to be any sort of omen at all, by the way. It's just that some mornings I wake up bothered by things I've seen or heard in the previous 12 hours: the successive wail of ambulances and fire trucks, voices behind the grate of a screen door that escalated into an argument, the appearance of an old car parked on otherwise idyllic street near Crenshaw that looked abandoned--not resting, like most parked cars look, but dead. All of these mundane things encroach on a sense of walking freedom that is absolutely vital to my well-being, even though I'm as car-dependent as anybody else in L.A.

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Which is why my dog hour, vulnerable as it sometimes feels, is so transporting and affirming. And also why I'm more than happy to share its benefits, especially with other dogs. I saw the first stray late in the morning, rounding the corner on my way home, a black Chihuahua mix with an erect stance and floppy ears. He looked interested but kept his distance as my brood immediately barked their heads off. I took them home and quickly returned to the corner--but Bobo was gone (that's what I named him, or what came out of my mouth when I opened it to call him). Hours later I cruised the neighborhood in my car--walking felt inefficient at that point-- to look again. No luck. I was rounding the same corner I'd rounded that morning when I caught sight of Bobo a bit further down the block.

Standing in the middle of the wide street, he looked tiny and uncertain. I got out of the car, determined to get him out of that street even though I had nothing to catch him with. He was keeping his distance, but still looked interested. I couldn't risk going home and losing him again. I took off my leather belt, untied some tassels that hung from the buckle, and knotted them all together to make an impromptu leash. After about thirty minutes of coaxing, I led Bobo home to my garage.

He didn't stay there long. My neighbor, a compassionate but very tough-minded woman who hardly shares my love of canine-kind, fell in love with Bobo on the spot and took him in. Mission accomplished. A few days later I came home from shopping to find my husband sitting cross-legged in the driveway with stray dog number two, a little overgrown poodle I named Bernie (after my husband's father, who died years before we met). Bernie was dirty but very grateful to be at our house and in some kind of sanctuary. A few days later, a couple that we know who was looking for a dog agreed to foster him at their place in Venice. It was only a tryout, but I was elated--another mission on its way to being accomplished. After a trip to the groomer, dingy Bernie emerged snowy white, his ears and head fluffed like a Beverly Hills lap dog. The world was at his back.

Less than a week later, on a Saturday night long after I'd walked my dogs for the day, a neighbor came to my door--with a puppy at her heels. The gray and white terrier mix had followed another neighbor down the block, and now La Reese was passing it on to me. Her prickly German shepherd wouldn't stand for any company, she explained. "But I brought her here because I know you'll know what to do with it," she said hopefully. "You guys always do."

I sighed and put the pup in the garage in the crate so recently vacated by Bernie. I called this one Georgie. She was sweet but terrified, almost catatonic. Over the next few days she warmed up and made best friends with our youngest dog, Honey. But as swiftly as Georgy appeared, she was gone: after posting her picture online with a rescue group, we got a flurry of calls. The lucky owners wound up being a young couple in Gardena who were fixing up their house: rescuing a dog went with that fixing up, I guess. Honey moped about Georgy for a couple of days. (Last year we rescued Honey out of the street and posted her online too, for months, but in all that time almost no one called for her. She's a black Lab mix, and black dogs are known for being passed over at adoptions-- I call it doggie racism. Of course we had to keep Honey ourselves.)

The two weeks weren't all magic and destiny. Bernie got away. The first night in Venice, he dug under the fence in the backyard, and when our friends woke up the next morning, he was gone. They canvassed the neighborhood, put up signs, went to the local shelter. But they never found him. I hope somebody did. I hope somebody fell in love with the new and improved Bernie and gave him the Beverly Hills life he deserved. Or at least the sanctuary he was looking for.

The image above was taken by Flickr user SuperFantastic. It was used under the Creative Commons License.

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