Adios, Chico

My big black dog Chico is gone. I drove him to the Willamette Humane Society shelter in Salem on Saturday and “surrendered” him. Now I can only hope and pray that a wonderful family adopts him and enjoys his loving personality until he’s an old dog with a gray muzzle. Ironically, this was Chico’s 23-month birthday. We almost made it to two years.

He was eager to go for a ride, but as the curves piled one on another during our two-hour journey, he rested his head against the back of the car seat with an expression that said I don’t feel too good, but I will endure. As I drove, I pet his soft fur, felt his massive paws against my thigh and tried not to cry. He had been an angel lately, obeying every command, looking for what I wanted him to do next. He lay his big head on my knee while I worked and put up with wearing a leash every time he went out. I could not help but notice that he appeared to be better looking, more loving, and more obedient than his sister Annie, whom I am keeping. If only Chico hadn’t learned to jump so high that no fence could keep him in. If only he hadn’t tried to kill other dogs. If only my chubby wide-eyed puppy hadn’t gotten so big that he could easily pull me off my feet. I had spent the last five weeks trying to find someone who would take him. Everyone was leery of his size and his half pit bull heritage.

A young woman took him away as soon as I got to the counter. “Bye, honey,” I said, barely able to speak. That was the last I would see of him. The Humane Society will not give updates on what is happening with dogs that have been surrendered. He’s not mine anymore. I feel as if I have totally betrayed him, but I know I had no choice. With everything else that’s going on, with my husband in a nursing home and no one to help me with these big dogs, I had to let him go.

The Willamette Humane Society is a large property with lots of space for dogs to run and play. It was jammed on Saturday with people looking for pets and a Girl Scout troop on tour. The woman who went over my paperwork assured me that they have good luck finding families for surrendered animals. Last year 600 were adopted. She knew it was hard, but I shouldn’t worry about Chico, she said.

Oh, but it hurt to walk out alone. I drove to an empty lot outside a nearby construction warehouse and sobbed. I cried all the way to Philomath, where I bought myself an ice cream cone at Dairy Queen. Vanilla dipped in chocolate. A childlike reward for doing something so painful.

By the time I returned to South Beach, it was dark. I stopped at the Post Office and took down Chico’s poster, tossing it into the recycle bin, then went home to begin life as a duo, just Annie and me. She climbed into my lap, licked my face, and sighed.

Author: Sue Fagalde Lick

writer/musician California native, Oregon resident Author of Freelancing for Newspapers, Shoes Full of Sand, Azorean Dreams, Stories Grandma Never Told, Childless by Marriage, and Up Beaver Creek. Most recently, I have published two poetry chapbooks, Gravel Road Ahead and The Widow at the Piano: Confessions of a Distracted Catholic. I have published hundreds of articles, plus essays, fiction and poetry. I'm also pretty good at singing and playing guitar and piano.

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