You may have noticed I’ve been absent from this space for almost a year. It’s been an interesting year for me, to say the least, full of life changing events. I’ve been still been around online, playing on Tumblr and maybe making you laugh on Twitter. I’ve finally gotten a print shop up on Big Cartel, and I’m really excited about that. Please visit it!
But I’ve missed this space. A lot.
So let’s get right back into things, shall we? And by things, I mean I’d like to use this space to show you my corner of the world, the way I see it. Whether it’s photography, food, art, culture, fashion, the people I meet, the work I’m doing—these are my stories, and I’d like to share them with you. Maybe once a week, maybe twice. Probably not on Fridays, but today is a special day, with a special story.
It’s the story of a man and his dog.
Are you familiar with the city of San Leandro? San Leandro is a city that’s sort of a suburb of Oakland. It runs from the bay up into the San Leandro Hills. Much of it is an older city, one of those places with amazing signs and old storefronts that harken back to a vibrant—literally, in some cases—America and American economy. The one that evokes a curiosity and deep nostalgia, even for those who weren’t there to experience it. Dusty corners of a time gone by share space with shops serving newer populations, shops that selling bright communion and quinceañera dresses, or shops that sell nice coffee drinks in strip malls. There are parts of San Leandro that feel neither quaintly old nor updated and modern, but caught somewhere in between. A place stuck in transition.
In 2009 I went to San Leandro a few times to visit a doctor who had an office there. The doctor’s office was across the street from one of those strip malls, and I dropped by to get a coffee. I stood in the window sipping my hot beverage, when an older gentleman walked by me with a dog in a pouch strapped to his chest like a baby carrier.
Do you ever have a moment when you know you need to do something—when you know exactly what you need to do—but you’re not sure you have the cojones to do it? As soon as I saw this man with his dog in a sling like a baby, I knew I had to get a photo of him. It’s one thing to see a young woman with a tiny dog in a bag. But to see a man who appears to be past retirement age, a man with short, tidy hair and horn-rimmed glasses, regular comfy trousers and no-nonsense shoes, heading to Popeye’s to get some lunch WITH A DOG IN A PAPOOSE? It’s a no-brainer.
Walking up to a stranger and asking if you can take a picture isn’t easy. It’s awkward and uncomfortable, especially if you’re not in the habit of it, and I wasn’t. To be honest, I’m still not, which is a shame. But I had to do it.
The gentleman had just ordered and was stepping away from the counter to wait for his food to be ready. I walked up to him and said, “Excuse me, I’m doing a project on the relationships people have with their pets, and I was wondering if I could take a photo of you and your dog.”
Here’s a secret: I didn’t intend to say that. It just popped out. I wasn’t doing any such project before I walked up to him, but I sure wanted to do it after I saw him—and I guess the photo of him started the project.
(Anyone want to pose for me so I make this project bigger than one person? Email me.)
He looked at me and said, “Sure, you can take our picture. For a quarter.” I looked at him and paused. He laughed. “I’m only joking. Of course you can!” We stepped outside, the man, his dog, and I. I snapped a few photos. I asked him about his dog.
The dog’s name was Rusty. He and his wife had gotten Rusty about a year or two ago, when a friend of his had called and asked if they’d be interested in fostering a rescue.
At first they were hesitant. Their beloved dog had recently died, and they were pretty heartbroken. “Plus,” he said, “rescues. You never know how they’ll be.” He and his wife were retired. They weren’t so young anymore. What if they got a tough one? What if the rescue was too much for them to handle?
Of course, if they didn’t take the dog, it might not end up with a home. So they took a chance on Rusty. And Rusty turned out to be the most amazing dog they’d ever known. He brought them enormous happiness.
“We thought we were saving Rusty’s life. But it turned out he saved ours.”
With that he realized his food was probably done. “Rusty’s getting hungry, so I should get our lunch and get home.” I thanked him, and he went into Popeye’s to collect their food. I turned and went to my car.
It wasn’t until I was I’d started my car and was just heading out of the parking lot that I realized I’d never thought to ask his name. What a dumb mistake. I looked over to find him as I sat at the entrance of the parking lot and that’s when I saw the best thing of all. There was Rusty and his owner, standing next to a large scooter. Rusty had his little doggles on, and his owner was getting his helmet ready. His owner saw me and waved, and then swung his leg over the seat. Rusty at the prow, the bags of food secured, off they drove for lunch.