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  • Jimmy Broccoli

Lycanthropy: Part I

Updated: Jan 26, 2022

Lycanthropy: Part I

During a humid summer afternoon in 2011 I stood a few feet from the first cage I would look into that day. Within the large cage stood a big dog, grey and friendly, and I instantly fell in love – but I was looking for a small dog – so I stepped a few inches to my right and looked into the second cage. And then the third – and then the fourth. My feet kept inching slowly to the right, looking into cages, looking into faces, with a full understanding of what I was seeing.

There was lots of barking, lots of dogs sleeping in their cages, lots of humans talking, and me inching slowly to the right. And faces. So many faces.

The city pound is not a happy place.

I walked every row and then walked every row again – the smell of confusion, illness, and fear filled the large room. Technicians cleaned the excrement quickly as it happened – but they were unable to stop the trembling, reassure the scared, and calm the misplaced. Put food in the food bowls, make sure the water bowls are full, clean the excrement - try not to cry - put food in the food bowls, make sure the water bowls are full, clean the excrement.

A brown and alabaster shih tzu mix stared up at me from the middle cage on aisle 7. Amongst all the terror, all the suffering, and all the hopelessness, I swear he smiled at me. The name displayed on his cage was “Max”. I walked up to Max’s cage, closer than I had walked up to any other cage and said, “Hello Max”. He looked at me as I looked at him.

Moments later I was sitting on the edge of a cold, off-green metal chair filling out paperwork. Sometimes, among the ruins, the decaying structures and walls that have long fallen to the ground and among defeated architecture you’ll find new life. I, unexpectedly, found a dandelion rising out of my too-long sadness. It pushed its way up through the concrete, the rain-drenched unforgiving landscape, and the poisoned soil. Max was to come home with me the next day, and the sun hadn’t shined with that level of intensity (it was absolutely blinding) since memories long forgotten.

I drove home with an unusual and unexpected feeling of joy. When you are diagnosed with clinical depression, feelings of joy are difficult to fully embrace and comprehend. To people who are clinically depressed, joy is an unfamiliar language that mumbles and speaks in hushed tones. It functions more as a concept than as an emotion felt. But, on rare occasions, it’s definition and intensity are clearly understood, even if it be for short-lived moments.

The following afternoon I called the city pound. Sometimes the stars align, and a boy (man) is destined to find his canine companion and they really do live happily ever after. But, sometimes, life doesn’t work that way. Sometimes life isn’t fair – it’s a lesson we’re taught at an early age, but don’t fully understand until we are a bit older.

There was a mix-up in paperwork and Max had already been adopted by the time of my call. “Is he going to a good home?” I, seconds from tears, asked the technician over the phone, as if she knew every detail about Max’s future home and family. She said “yes, he is”. I hung up the phone and my roommate, hearing my end of the conversation, realized what was going on. From his mouth fell a well-worded string of profanity. My roommate was my best friend and he saw I was disappointed and he hated to see me disappointed.

Sometimes – though these times may be rare – a second dandelion arises from among the ruins and wreckage to embrace and strive towards a new life to recognize and appreciate the sun shining above. Sometimes a second dandelion, struggling to exist, suddenly begins to take on better color. The stem fights to survive and becomes a healthier shade of green and the tip of the flower (because dandelions are flowers, not weeds if you allow them to be) blossoms with a brilliant head of seeds waiting to fly in various directions and multiply. None of us are looking for dandelions but, if you take the time to look downwards occasionally, you’ll see they grow in the fields laid at your feet. And they are beautiful.

During a humid summer of 2011, due to a highly determined roommate and a second dandelion growing and thriving against all likelihood it would survive, I’d enter a period of my life some might describe as “happy”. An amazing canine boy was waiting for me. It would be a few days until I met him for the first time. And our first meeting was absolute magic. A week later, while he sat on the couch with my roommate and I, his name would be changed to Lycan – he was my boy, my love, the object of my attention, and my amazing new friend. On the evening of his adoption, the stars twinkled more brightly in the sky than ever before. The second dandelion fought against the poison soil and the already-known structural failures and refused to wither.

The story does not end here. It is just beginning. And it’s all true.

Pictured: Lycan with his new best friend Toby (as a puppy).

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