UNITED STATES—I’m taking DeVille out for a walk or he’s taking me. I cannot tell which. We go up Cahuenga to the dog friendly market (my Jack Russell terrier/chihuahua can go in and smell where he was last time and pee). It’s kind of gross but still lovely to go to a store in comfort instead of trying to emote that the little white and faintly dappled fella is a service dog.
The trip up is wonderful; the sidewalk goes literally and imperceptibly uphill like so much of Los Angeles’ topography, which becomes obvious to cyclists. Women coming out of bars lean down to cuddle him. Random guys say ‘what a cute dog,’ or ‘he’s so smart.’ Going up Cahuenga is a jovial journey, a tribute to all aroused in humanity at the sight of a puppy, and I am the perfect picture of a contented dog owner.
The return trip from the store is often another matter: it provokes my pessimistic side, so at odds with all the curiosity DeVille is indulging, as I am impatient to get home: DeVille sniffs, he finds invisible trails, he plunges deep under chainlink and into leafy privet and the leash is caught in the twigs. I get down on my hands and knees to extricate him. I fume and curse, fearful of being overheard. I expect someone to say, “That nasty man doesn’t deserve to own a dog.”
But just when I reach leash’s end, I recall the golden chain.
A few weeks ago I walked DeVille one too-bright morning seen through hangover eyes. On Homewood I took the sidewalk opposite the side where new people have pitched tents. A lot of debris was strewn across the sidewalk: dried leaves, condiment packets and strands of dental floss. The dog and I kept walking. From the debris on the sidewalk a gleam entered the side of my eye.
The momentum of my body lunged forward, bent on continuing to Vine Street, but something inside, encouraged by the dog’s stopping to sniff enthusiastically at a turd, bid me to go back and scrutinize the cruddy debris strewed across the sidewalk’s concrete slabs.
Between the dried leaves, the dust and condiment packets, was a gold chain, the kind associated with slick drug dealers and players. It shined yellowly in the harsh hazy sun. It had weight. The chain was crafted from finely furrowed spirals into a fairly thick braid of 18 karat gold. My daughter detected that valuable information stamped on the clasp, and she immediately wanted to borrow the chain.
I shouldn’t mind: it’s not my style, but I cherish the gold chain all the same. I wear it and cherish it for what it represents: treasure found amid the trash. Overlooked, unseen by all who rushed by on their way from wherever to wherever. There the prize was just a few feet from the folks hibernating in the tents. One of them would have coveted it; the chain was worth a lot of meal tickets.
I cherish it for the story and for the dog who led me to gold, albeit indirectly. But I’m not so sure the dog wasn’t the principal cause for the find. They are so smart, you know. Smarter in ways we cannot always see.
After tonight’s walk I am so chastened. This article almost turned into DeVille’s obituary. Drawn to and confused by a lady sitting on the Popeyes corner, munching on a biscuit, he wiggled out of his collar and ran across a sidewalk of Hollywood Boulevard on a still green light. I heard drop “Shit,” from the lips of an onlooker. It was the sincerest expression of shock and grief. Forget the blinking red light, I ran like hell.
Maybe the onlooker went home thinking the dog was doomed and told his roommate what I dreaded having to tell my daughter: “The little guy slipped out of the dog collar, and a car ran over him.” Harrowing to think about.
To know this fate was averted, that is motive enough to be submerged by wave of happiness.
Hollywood humorist Grady Miller is the author of “Later Bloomer: Tales from Darkest Hollywood” (available on Amazon).