We call it our “dogaversary.” The day, nine years ago, when two homeless dogs came into our lives and my family was introduced to the world of dog rescue: a weird, wonderful and apolitical (theoretically) world. Weird, because in my line of work, I don’t get much of a respite from politics. And wonderful for exactly the same reason.
As Arizona heads toward a contentious midterm election season and the race to replace Jeff Flake in the U.S. Senate, I’m desperately trying to hang onto anything apolitical that won’t devolve into divisive rhetoric or finger-pointing. And trying to keep my dog rescue world a place where Democrats, Republicans and Independents can operate together with political impunity. It’s hard work. Actual dog rescuing, yes, but so is keeping it clean of political bickering that seems to be corrupting every other part of society.
A few weeks ago, I was on my way to the supermarket with my 2-year-old in the backseat when I saw what appeared to be a large rodent coming toward me down the sidewalk on Thunderbird Road. I quickly realized that it was, in fact, not a rat but a tiny, brown Chihuahua, utterly exhausted from the heat. I pulled into the entrance of an apartment complex and jumped out of the car to keep him from running into the road.
In retrospect, I probably caused what I was trying to prevent – which is to say, I’m pretty sure it was the sight of a large biped charging toward him that made him decide to cross Thunderbird. His fears were soon confirmed: Now the crazy human was playing wacky traffic cop – arms waving wildly, jumping up and down and yelling at passing motorists to stop and provide him safe passage across the road.
Moments like that make me glad that we haven’t given our kids cell phones. “My Crazy Dad” isn’t how I envision myself going viral. #InsaneSignSpinner (sans sign and standing in the middle of the road instead of the sidewalk) isn’t a good look for me. Of course, the kid who was in the best position to capture the mayhem was our toddler, who would never be allowed a phone at that age… Wait! The 2-year-old! She was still strapped in the back seat of my car!
Before you think what I really am is a #BadDad, I’d like to point out that the scenario (waving arms and all) played out over the course of about 20 seconds, and the baby biped was in air-conditioned comfort the whole time. As we drove into the church parking lot across the street – where the renegade pup ran as fast as his little legs could take him away from the whacked-out homo sapien, I called in reinforcements.
Finally, with the help of my wife and two sweet church ladies, I was able to corner “Owen” (as my 5-year-old later dubbed him) and load him in the car. Less than 48 hours later, Owen was in the hands of Chiquita Chihuahua Rescue, a dog rescue primarily run out of the home of Roberta Gottlieb.
A few weeks and a couple of surgeries later, Roberta brought our little 3.5-pound discovery by for one more visit before he went to his “forever home.” Right before her arrival, I remembered to not discuss that which should never be discussed in polite society or among dog lovers: politics.
You see, the president of the rescue group my wife and I joined back in 2009 (after adopting our first pup) drove a hybrid SUV with a Clinton-Gore sticker on it. Other members of our group drove pickup trucks with V8s and voted for the likes of two men named Bush. Despite differing political leanings, the members coexisted peacefully because of a shared love of canines. Through this group, my wife and I fostered around 45 dogs, but things changed in recent years.
Having children ended our ability to foster. But it was politics that ended our membership. Shortly after the 2016 presidential election, our group’s president said some nasty things on Facebook about people who voted for Trump, and it was all downhill from there. It’s why when Roberta left our house that day, I made sure that I understood even less about her politics than Owen understood about why large humans jump up and down in the middle of Thunderbird Road.
Jim Sharpe is the host of Arizona’s Morning News on KTAR-FM 92.3 (weekdays 5-9 a.m.). Visit ktar.com to find more information about his on-air work.