How I found my dog: Bessie

“I’ve never seen a Chihuahua this color before.” “Beautiful tiger print.” “What do you call the pattern?” Walking with Bessie is a bit of a public performance, but I can’t blame people for their interest. Without Bessie’s coat, it probably wouldn’t have ended up with me.

I couldn’t have a dog. I lived in an apartment in Brooklyn – one that was quite large at 900 square feet, but still an apartment. I didn’t have a backyard and dogs weren’t allowed. But that didn’t stop me from wanting a dog. I had created an almost impossible portrait of my future mythical pup after knocking on the door of my childhood home in South Carolina and being greeted by a brindle Chihuahua. I got a tour of the house (which was much smaller than I remembered) and left with a mental checklist of my dream poop: from a shelter, an adult, and a larger mix of chi, roughly 10 pounds. Little did I know how demanding a list was, although it didn’t really matter since a dog was out of the question.

A friend suggested I sign up for dog walks with the Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition, my local animal shelter. So I filled out the paperwork on a Saturday and went back to work the same week after work. Most of what you see on the streets and in shelters in New York are pit bulls, so that’s what I was expecting. I love big dogs and was looking forward to being put through their paces by a pent-up piece of muscle. I was totally surprised when the staff member led out a tiny, limp-looking dog wearing a polo shirt. “You can tell she just woke up,” he said. Leash in hand, I wondered if they all started out small. Instead of being carried away by a large dog, I gently pulled a small one that was not interested in leaving the shelter. She wouldn’t take a single step. It was late so I picked her up and made my way to get in 30 minutes before closing.

When I parked her a few blocks away, she was sniffing, peeing, and doing the usual canine stuff, but without much joy. She had cherry eyes and didn’t smell particularly good. But here it was: a 10-pound brindle Chihuahua mix. When we got back to the shelter she was trembling so I picked her up again and this time she shifted her weight against me. “Can I ask you next time I come?” I asked when I handed it over. It was only two more walks and a plea to my landlord before I adopted Bessie.

I sympathize with strangers who react to her brindle coat as if they’d just spotted a unicorn on the streets of Brooklyn – after all, I still have trouble believing she materialized.


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