Leave it to me to drop my 14-year-old daughter off among the stray dogs between the Triple Nickel saloon and the Bail Bond boutique on Very Lower Industrial Boulevard, a fairly easy AR-15 shot from the county jail. But most of the year Jenny lives in Fort Collins. Colorado, about as close to Norman Rockwell Land as you can get. Whan she spends the summer, or spring break, or a few weekends with me I Figure she needs Big City stuff. Her favorite movie, after all, is Boyz n the Hood,

We started going to die SPCA three summers ago. Since she was old enough to talk, Jenny has wanted to be a veterinarian, like my dad was] Our lives have been filled with as many) animals as hot meals. More, when she’s with me.

At first the SPCA seemed a nifty babysitting gambit. As a single dad, it was always tough finding ways to keep a girl-child entertained without turning her life over to Nickelodeon. As she got older, and her horizons broadened, mine narrowed. And after moving to Dallas from Austin, I couldn’t count on Jenny having a set of friends to pal around with.

We went to the SPCA one summer afternoon mostly to took for a puppy, but while we were browsing among the bowsers Jenny wondered if she might be able to get a day job as a volunteer, She was too shy to ask, so, like a good dad, I pushed her into it. To her surprise, they said come on down.

Now, the SPCA is the first place she wants to go when she gets off the plane, other than a cursory stop-off at home to get licked and pawed by Sarah, the lab/pointer we got that summer, and Domino, the lab/retriever from the Humane Society in Austin.

Maybe it’s good the SPCA is set amid such urban desolation. There’s not much evidence of the noble side of life along skid row. And some days it doesn’t seem so much better in the “S,” as we call it. That’s the truth. Jenny has saved lots of puppies, kittens, dogs and cats. With her official apron and bright smile she can attach the most jaded North Dallas single to that sadeyed boxer whose owner gave him up because the landlord didn’t allow pets.

But they don’t all make it to safety. One of the back rows in the SPCA kennels is for the big dogs that nobody wants. They’ve been there past the cut-off date, or they came in too far gone, or they have a disease, or maybe they’ve just turned mean and there’s nothing to be done and there’s no space and no time in the big city for that many animals. So there’s the needle.

I picked Jenny up one afternoon and she was very quiet and on the way home across the Trinity bridge she started to cry. She’d been in the puppy room-her favorite- and noticed a little shepherd mix in one of the cages with a cough. So she did what she should have, reported it to one of the staff. One look and the staffer took the puppy, and its litter mate, to the back room.

They put Jenny’s puppies to sleep.

“I thought I was helping and they put them both down,” said Jenny, reverting to the idiom of her English mother. “It’s not fair.” She drought she had killed them.

We talked it through and she felt better. As better as you can feel about things like that, Life and death among the puppies. It’s not for everyone. But I’m proud it’s for Jenny.


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