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My dog once took a bullet that was intended for me.
A bullet that ripped through his chest, narrowly missing his heart, and exited through his shoulder blade, effectively shattering it. This left him unconscious on the floor of my home. Amazingly, this bullet did not kill him.
Ten years ago I adopted Blue as a present to myself after I broke up with my boyfriend one hot, early summer night with the windows open and the neighborhood listening. The next morning I went straight to the pound in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Articles on buying your first dog tell you never to buy a dog on impulse. They want you to be prepared for this new member of your family, to understand the responsibilities and challenges of owning a dog. Going to the pound because you need something in your life that's worth holding onto is rarely, if ever, mentioned.
I asked the man at the pound to show me the biggest dogs they had. He showed me some seven-week-old Rottweiler-German shepherd puppies that he said would grow to be quite large. Then he showed me a six-month-old shepherd that would get pretty big. Then he showed me Blue, the largest dog they had.
The man called him a Collie mix and he was stuffed into the biggest cage they had, but he didn't fit. He was as tall as a Great Dane but much skinnier, with the snout of a collie, the markings of a Siberian husky, the ears and tail of a shepherd and the body of a wolf, with one blue eye and one brown. Crouched in a sitting position, unable to lie down, unable to sit all the way up, he looked at me from between the bars, and I fell in love.
"He's still underweight," the man in the blue scrubs told me as we looked at Blue. "I'll tell you, lady, he's pretty but he's skittish. He sheds, and I mean sheds. I don't think you want this dog." But I knew I wanted him. I knew I had to have him. He was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
Blue cost me $108. I brought him home, and we lived together for years. He was, for most of our relationship, my only companion. But when I first met Blue, a lifetime ago now, I had family and friends. I worked at a crappy coffeehouse. I was young and lost; I was normal.
Back then, at the beginning of this story, before I'd ever seen a corpse, before Blue saved my life, before I felt what it was like to kill someone in cold blood, I was still Joy Humbolt.
I'd never even heard the name Sydney Rye.
P.S. The dog does not die.
Beware: If you can’t handle a few f-bombs, you can’t handle this series.