Driving south through the dark of the Central Valley on 99 I look in the rear view. My artist and his musicians are asleep like little 4-year-old boys on a car ride. They had been working day and night, performing at radio stations, doing live on-air interviews and ending the days with shows.
We are headed to Bakersfield and I realize we need gas. We are nowhere near a real gas station like a Shell or a 76 because, well, we are in the middle of nowhere.
I see a gas station sign ahead and I know I would never venture to that sort of old, run down stand alone at night. It is in the middle of the fields with transient broken down housing dotting the side road. But I feel safe with the guys.
I take the exit and the guys wake up. One begins to pump gas while the others shuffle inside to grab a water. I see 2 small brown dogs milling around.
One approaches me with caution as I call out to her, a little female. The male is obviously more feral and keeps a far distance. I can pet the female, and she wags her tail and looks up at me. It is obvious that her eye is badly, painfully ulcerated.
I go into the gas station to ask about the dogs, but no one understands me or cares. I buy a bag of dog food, get a bottle of water and a paper cup and set them out on the side of the building away from traffic.
We leave. We have interviews in the morning and a show to do after that. This is a business, not a rescue mission.
We drive off and as I glance back the female is standing in the middle of the road. Watching. Tail down.
We hit Bakersfield a few hours later, where I check the guys into their rooms, help unload the van and give them an 11:30 lobby call for a 12 noon radio interview. We head off to our rooms looking forward to just a few hours rest before we hit it again.
Exhausted, I toss for a while and know what I am going to do.
I am soon in the van again, alone, wondering where I am going and what the hell I’m going to do when I get there.
So I pray, hard. I didn’t write down the exit number. I knew we were headed south. I didn’t notice any landmarks, except I did see a church steeple in the distance as we drove out. That gives me faith, and I ask God, like the song says, to take the wheel and bring me to where I’m supposed to go.
About 90 minutes pass, and I’m beginning to doubt myself and it is beginning to get light when I see it. A church steeple. I rush off the exit and there in front of the store door are the 2 dogs.
She sees me and wags a “hello” and shows me an “I knew you’d be back” grin.
Again I go inside and try to ask about the dogs and finally at least get them to give me a cardboard box.
The female is not easy to get, but with the power of beef jerky, prayer and soft words, I grab her. I set a drum set on top of the box to keep it closed but she seems to know this is not a bad thing. She seems to have more faith in me than I do. I go to work on getting the male. Time is slipping by.
I have to get back to meet the guys and I’m beginning to get desperate. I do the only thing I can think of which is to call Shirley. I think I wake her up, but she is calm and logical and tells me what I already know, which is that you can’t save them all. She tells me to call the local ACC and give them all the info I can on the location. I do that and they promise to come for the male. I leave more food and water and drive away in prayers and tears while the female stays quietly in a box under a drum set weight.
I realize I need a plan, so I call the emergency vet in Bakersfield and after promising them my car, my house, my cd collection and all my credit cards they agree to see her and keep her until the afternoon when I can pick her up.
I make it to the hotel lobby on time…. JUST! The guys take one look at me and say, “You went back, didn’t you????”
I’ll wrap this up (although we had so many more adventures!!) by saying the pup made it the rest of the road trip, smuggled in and out of hotels in my carry on bag, riding in a newly purchased carrier wedged between the guitar cases, being as quiet as can be when she was left in a hotel room, knowing a bark or a whine when left alone would rat all of us out!
The Bakersfield Vet office was amazing! Once they realized I wasn’t going to drop her and run they provided all sorts of meds and showed me how to care for her eye until it could be removed.
When I finally put the guys on a plane back to Nashville and pulled into my Sebastopol home, Shirley had already lined up vets to look at her eye and determine the course of action, which was what we already knew-ultimately to remove it.
Kern County ACC promised me they had impounded the male. I pray they did.
My best friend named the newly one-eyed pup “IRIS”!
And on a check up visit my Vet fell in love and now Iris has a vet momma, a new dad and several dog siblings … and her very own little boy whose first words were not ‘momma’ or ‘dada’ but “…. Eyewoss”!!!!
Thank you Shirley Zindler for being the voice of reason in an unreasonable situation and for helping in all the ways you do….” For The Animals”!