The Dog From Antonito

The woman dropped him off July 5th.
A stray, she said, but shelter women guessed
he was hers. Five-day grace period passed—
no one claimed him. July 11th changed that.
He was mine the moment I saw him
calmly greeting visitors through his fence.
No jumping or barking, no shit in the gravel.
Sweet, respectful, deferential to my old dog
who had to approve first. He did. I did.
80 bucks later he hopped in the front seat,
scanned the horizon heading north.
Stoic, no ventured names perked his ears.
I guessed he might be deaf, but a finger snap,
a quiet clap, lifted his tan brow. He blinked.
Leaping into the house like it was always his,
he stopped cold in the entry, wouldn’t budge.
At first we thought he balked at the sight
of Dorell, but, no, on the porch he leaned
against his legs, sat upon his giant feet,
tongue smiling. Inside, was he wary of new walls,
the potted tree, strange people, foreign smells?
No, the ceiling fan. Skirting the family room,
watching the whirly gig above with worried eyes,
soon enough he learned it was benign.
As was he. Even the reclusive old Siamese
strangely bore his curiosity with sharp swats
and low roars of warning, holding her seat.
Undeterred, he nosed and nosed her, finally
friends. Kennel-rank, relaxed in his first bath,
he slumped, weary refugee savoring water,
heat and sudsy scratching, clogged the drain
with endless black fur and swirling dirt.
Dry, he lay there like a preened teenage girl,
leaned into the brush brushing, brushing tufts
of matted fur from thighs into a wispy pile.
Witnessing his gentle way, intelligent eyes,
obviously once loved by a human being,
imagine my surprise when he wouldn’t Sit!,
wouldn’t Sit!, wouldn’t Sit!, no matter the offered
treat or pushing down of reluctant butt.
Three days he gave me bright, blank stares
with each command. Sit. Sit. Sit. No recognition.
Distant face. Until it hit: this dog is from Antonito.
I dug deep for the word. ¡Siéntate! I said. He sat.
We laughed and laughed, hearing ourselves speak
Español to one dog, English to the other, confused.
Now when we cuddle on the hairy couch, I cradle
and stroke his silken face, murmur in an accent
my high school maestra would absolutely admire:
Qué lindo, qué lindo, buen niño, buen perro,
mi amor. His native tongue becomes a door.
I enter, see his body go rag doll in the hands
of my voice, eyes soften in the syllables of home.


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