Curly Tail — by I. L. Janai-Ami

Curly_Tail.jpgCurly Tail
8 x 10 Acrylic on Wood
In Memory of my dog, Curly Tail
Copyright 2006 Janai-Ami
Private Collection of the Artist

Curly Tail and about a dozen other 8 x 10 Acrylics were done in October 2006 when I was living in Malibu. I did them in memory of Casey Bear and Curly Tail, both of whom died in August 2006. I had adopted Casey on January 29, 2005 and her brother, Curly Tail, shortly thereafter on February 23, 2005 from a shelter in Providence, then drove with them back home to California. They were both elderly when I adopted them, reportedly nine years old.

When I first met Casey and Curly, you could tell immediately how loving and well behaved they both were - but their family of nearly a decade didn't have time any more for either of them and left them at a city shelter to either live out their lives in the small cages with the hard cement floors, be separated not just from the only family they had ever known, but also from each other - or be euthenized if nobody cared to adopt a pair of nine year old dogs.

I had just relocated to the East coast for a job closer to the all important fine art markets of New York and London and Paris, and had suffered a traumatic loss of my beloved Sim while driving cross country with him in November. While I knew it would be a very, very long time before I would even begin to heal from his explosive and horrific death - I also knew that the greatest tribute to him would be to save another life. I just wasn't planning on two! I decided to look around some more.

I came close to adopting thirteen year old "Fred" - but when I went to see him a second time at another shelter, he was gone - off having surgery on his knees I was told. I returned to the Providence Animal Rescue League on January 29th and was surprised to see Casey - alone. Curly was nowhere in sight. At first I thought the worst. But I was told that Curly had been adopted.

"What? You separated the two of them? Why would you do such a thing?"
"I thought you weren't interested in them," came the reply.
"But how could you separate them? They've lost so much already."
"It was more important to get at least one of them out of here."
"Well, I'll take the old girl then," I told the staff matter-of-factly.

Truth be known it had been Curly who had gotten my attention - a big old German Shepherd mix whose mouth didn't close properly due to a problem with his bite - which gave him a constant appearance of being rabid. Whenever people saw Curly, one could be sure that they would cross the street! But in fact Curly was a real charmer. He tried to stick his head out of his small enclosure.

He captured my heart. I would have taken him instantly had there not been a second dog, Casey. But I didn't have the heart to separate them, and had to really think hard about adopting two large older dogs. And now he was gone and she was all alone. I couldn't possibly leave her there.

I took Casey home with me and added the middle name "Bear," to have my own part in naming her - keeping the first name that she had had for years so as not to confuse her. But Casey was very distraught. She sat in the corner and stared at the wall for nearly four weeks. She could not be consoled on all of her losses. She had no interest in any of the toys I offered her. She was a far cry from my loving Sim, as the two of us had been inseparable. He would not have thought to sit all alone in a corner and not even look in my direction. I couldn't seem to engage her no matter how hard I tried. And so the two of us sat in my small dark cold New England apartment and were miserable together.

A friend from LA called and I told her of Casey's sadness, and she suggested that I call the shelter and inquire about Curly. Perhaps if they could be reunited Gayle said, Casey could be cheered up.

"Nobody adopts a senior dog - and then returns them," I informed my well-intentioned friend when she called.
"Just call them anyway. You never know."
I hung up the phone and called PARL. It was the weekend, and they were already closed. I left a message.
On Monday morning I received a call. It was PARL. They were "shocked to hear my message" they stated.
"Yes. I know. It was sort of weird. I know nobody ever adopts a senior dog and then returns them. I don't know what I was thinking. But my friend suggested I call. Casey seems so depressed without Curly. It was really a stupid thought."
"Well, actually, we were delighted to hear from you! Someone dropped Curly off yesterday morning. They decided they don't want him after all. It's never happened before, but if you still want him, we can hold him for you. Do you want to change them out this week?"
"What do you mean 'change them out'?"
"You can bring Casey back and we can give you Curly if you want him."
"Oh, I could never bring Casey back. I would never NEVER do that!"
"But we thought you didn't want two dogs."
"I didn't. But obviously I have no choice in this one. They were obviously meant to be together, eh?! So who am I to stand between them?"

I drove Casey to day care, dropping her off at 6AM as usual en route to my job. I made arrangements with their staff to stay late, so that I could get to PARL after work and still make it back to get Casey. The Day Care and the Rescue were in opposite directions from my job, and both were a solid 30-40 minute drive. I told Casey on the way to day care that morning that Curly would be coming home tonight. At the mention of his name, she turned and looked at me briefly. Her brows went up and her ears stood straight up. I was quite certain that she recognized his name. But she couldn't tell what I was saying. Then she turned away again, as she always did. Casey barely interacted with me at all.

That night, when I went to get Casey, I had Curly with me. He bounded out of the car in his usual loping manner and into the Day Care Center. Rob, the proprietor went in the back to call Casey in from the yard. When she saw Curly, she ran to him and the two of them jumped up at each other rearing up on their hind legs paws in the air flailing all over the place, and ran in small tight circles around each other. It was a truly joyous reunion. Then Casey turned for a split second towards me. She ran to me, gave me a kiss for the very first time, then ran back to join her brother.
- - - -
Casey died in August 2006. When I returned home with her ashes a week later I was overcome with sadness. Try as I had to get through to her, Casey never truly seemed to be happy after having been left by her family of nine years at a shelter to die. Having Curly around eased her hurt to some degree. But there was obviously a huge hole in her heart. Curly seemed to know that Casey was gone for good and on that night, Curly too left - to be with her again.

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