December 8, 2005 -- La Canada Valley Sun


By Anita Susan Brenner

Winston Churchill once said, "Dogs look up to you. Cats look down on you. Give me a pig. He just looks you in the eye and treats you like an equal."

Our dog, Audrey Hepburn, came to live with us in March of 2004. Actually, our son got her. Andrew was home on medical leave, having just started a new round of experimental chemo. Andrew figured that if treatment worked, he would move back to his place with a dog. And if it did not, then his parents would have someone to take care of.

None of us knew that Andrew had only two more weeks.

It was a busy time, but also a time of hope. Naval Academy classmates visited on the weekends. Friends from Prep stopped by nearly every night. Random Marines, mostly Majors, showed up for dinner. The Thursday Club ladies kept us supplied with good food.

Time stood still those last days. There were moments of great peace, joy and good fortune.

So when our daughter, Rachel, came home the next weekend, she steered Andrew toward the Pasadena Humane Society website They decided upon a female Black Lab-Chow mix, allegedly 3 years old.

The Humane Society interviewed us. Their staff spoke with Andrew by telephone, but the rest of us trooped down to Pasadena to be evaluated. Their many questions about fences should have alerted us, if we had any brains.

Andrew wanted to name her Dogzilla, but I was stuck on Elizabeth Taylor, the dog from Sex and the City. Somewhere along the way, Andrew suggested Audrey Hepburn, and we compromised.

Two days later, Andrew was unexpectedly hospitalized. For the next 10 days, the Naval Academy classmates, the high school friends and some Thursday Club ladies came to our house. They took care of the cats. They watered the plants. And they tried to take care of Miss Audrey Hepburn. We later learned that Audrey repeatedly jumped the fence, growled at all the men and had several potty accidents on top of our kitchen counter.

In the months that followed, Andrew's friends began to find dogs, or perhaps the dogs began to find them. One young lady, whose parents live in Pasadena, found a stray brown puppy. She put up posters but no one came forward. She checked with various humane societies, but there were no takers. There was some discussion with her landlord, so, she brought the dog to our house, where he immediately used his nose to dig a large hole. "Andrew sent us this dog," she said. "What about your parents?" I suggested politely. Her parents have never forgiven me -- their garden is toast, but the brown dog lives the good life in the Crown City. They named him Dogzilla.

And then our second daughter, Ana, found Dune, an energetic mutt who has kept veterinarians busy from Pennsacola to Whidbey Island, and many points in between.

What all these dogs have in common is that they get us up in the morning, even on the bad days. They drag us back into the world, even when we are not sure if we want to go. They follow us around and wag their tails, especially when we are sad.

Which is why, even though I call her Audrey Hepburn, Len still calls her Andrew's dog.

Anita Brenner lives with her husband, Len Torres, Miss Audrey Hepburn and a cat.

copyright December 8, 2005 Anita Brenner, Los Angeles Times La Canada Valley Sun