It was nine years ago to the day when we were driving back from watching fireworks at our friend’s house. As we drove down a very busy and–at the time–extremely rowdy North Hollywood main street, I saw a little white blur zipping between the vehicles, almost being run over multiple times. “Stop the car!” I yelled to my wife.
As fireworks continued to blast into the night sky and cars whizzed by, I scanned the street looking for what was scooting through the traffic. There it was: a little white dog, fleeing for freedom on Independence Day, fittingly, but looking panicked and out of his mind. Trying to stay on the sidewalk and out of the zooming traffic, I ran to get closer while yelling for him. He gave me a look that basically said, “who do you think you are?” before darting further down the block and into more mobile mayhem. I was absolutely certain that my children, still in the minivan, were about to be permanently traumatized by watching this poor little creature get flattened by one of LA’s ubiquitous white BMWs.
My teen son nimbly jumped into the chase, while my wife channeled her inner Formula One driver and maneuvered the Noble White Kia Minivan into action, waving away other cars as she tailed the mutt.
It was then I noticed a group of people across the street who had picked up on the impending tragedy, and they, too, were waving frenetically and trying to get the terrible tyke’s attention. One of them was able to slip through a pause in traffic and chase the doggie onto the sidewalk. By now, even more people had joined in, and we succeeded in scaring the pooch away from the speeding autos and down a side street, which just happened to be the very one on which our house is located.
After more madcap comical chases and breathless dashes to cut him off, we finally, as a group, managed to corner the wily beast in someone’s driveway. One man tried to grab the little guy, and was promptly bitten for his troubles. During this bloody battle, I was able to sneak in and grab the furry maniac by the back of neck, and although he did get one good nip at my hand, we were able to restrain him and prevent him from chomping on anyone else.
We all took a breath and looked around at each other, congratulating our by-now sweaty, gallant group on our unbelievable bravery. It was the quintessential, feel-good LA story: there was a tattooed pierced skinny woman, a hip dude in leather who had clearly intended to be partying right now instead of chasing dogs, a graying but incredibly handsome man (me), my glowing wife and our four kids, some middle-aged couples from the neighborhood. A diverse crowd had come together to save a little canine life — what could be a better Hollywood ending?
The adrenaline was still flowing; we’d won! Except… now what the heck do we do? I’m standing in somebody’s driveway with a panicked, bite-happy doggie in my hands. My quick-thinking better half smartly told our son to run to our house and get a doggie carrier.
The crazed canine now safely in the crate, we all smile broadly and take a deep breath. “So, who’s going to take the dog?” my wife asks.
Startled looks between our new LA friends. “Uh, can’t, I’m on my way to a party…” was the most common refrain. Within minutes, my fam and I were standing alone… except for the psycho dog in the bag.
Psycho pooch did not whimper or bark for three days, and we assumed something terrible had happened to his voice. He would flinch if you tried to touch him and was extremely wary. He was quite dirty – we think he’d been out there a long time, and the ratty collar had no tag. We already had two dogs, one of them a little–shall we say–aggressive, but we were surprised that they seemed to tolerate our newfound housemate.
Being good citizens, and frankly not wanting another mouth to feed, we painted the town with “Lost Dog” fliers and phoned every vet in the area, assuming we would find the owner within a few days. I had wanted to name the little monster “Snowy,” after Tintin’s dog, but we soon realized this little nine-pound ball of fierceness was no Snowy. No, he had to be named… Scrappy. And so he was.
But the phone did not ring. No owners appeared at our doorstep. The veterinarians were silent. I began to notice that the kids were falling just a little too in love with our wily, white monster…
This dog wasn’t going anywhere. We were stuck with him.
Eventually, he became our little pride and joy, and it turned out that he certainly could bark, which he did enthusiastically and often. He only bit me one more time, when I surprised him in the night, but the little terror did continue to escape regularly despite our best attempts. Once he was found in a school parking lot over a mile, and several big boulevards, away. No one knows how he got there. (If you notice the large collar around his neck in the photo, it’s a life-saving product called Puppy Bumpers that prevent your L’il Sneaksters from fitting through those pickets in your fences made to keep them at home.)
The thing about two dogs is that when they’re a pair, they’re a part of the family… but three dogs become a pack. They basically ruled over the joint, and when sirens sounded—which is often in the City of Angels—they would gather at the front door to howl in a cacophonous chorus. Scrappy, despite being by far the smallest of the three, nevertheless quickly became pack leader and ruled the roost with an iron fist. No one in the house ever dared to cross The Scrapster.
When a few years later he began to show some health issues, we were surprised to find out from the vet that he was much older than we thought—he looked like a puppy, he certainly acted like one, and we thought we’d have him for a long time. Unfortunately, that was not to be. While we miss him, we were honored to have had such a little fighter in our lives for the time we did, and we’re heartened to know we were able to give him a few happy years too.
Remember as you celebrate this Monday to keep an eye on your canines—fireworks scare the #*&^ out of them. (One year, our other dog, Blaze, destroyed five sets of window blinds because he was so freaked out.)
Every Fourth of July, we are reminded to be grateful for our adorable Scrappy the Wonder Dog, and you can bet we’re thinking of him today.