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Ramona Guitar Wolf Jackson
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When they led the dog by a rope leash into the back, well, that was when the problems really started. A vet tech with a needle went to give her a shot. The dog’s eyes went glassy, staring unblinkingly at her. And then the dog lunged, lip curled back, teeth out, barking, snarling, growling—ready to tear the tech apart in order to defend herself. I grabbed the rope and pulled the dog back and told her, “No!” and for some reason, she didn’t bite me, but instead took shelter behind my legs. And so the people at the shelter told me to have her killed. They wouldn’t work with her, and said that my only option was to drop her off at Animal Control.

I walked her outside. She was uncomfortable on the leash and kept stopping and tucking her tail between her legs. As I led her back to my car, scared she might turn on me at any second, I suddenly noticed she’d been scouring the ground and had picked up a Snicker’s wrapper. She was chewing on it frantically.

I took a breath.
I put my hand up next to her mouth and grabbed the wrapper. She didn’t growl at me. She just looked up with those sad, sad, bloodshot eyes. She was feral—wild—homeless, like I’d been. She wanted help, she just didn’t know how to accept it. I bent down next to her and she hesitantly licked my cheek.

I got her back in the car. I wasn’t going to Animal Control. I drove her home. She spent the first few days outside in our little back yard, huddled beneath a covering of bushes.We managed to get her a bath and out to another vet, though she had to be muzzled so she wouldn’t go after anyone there.

I wanted to name her Guitar Wolf, of course, but my girlfriend wouldn’t go for that, so she picked out Ramona and we put Guitar Wolf in the middle and then Jackson at the end, ’cause that’s the best last name ever. And so Ramona Guitar Wolf Jackson became our dog.

She was bad. I mean, so totally bad. She chewed up our house, ran away, jumped on people, lunged at all large men and anyone who ever tried to bum a cigarette off me.

She woke me up early and in the middle of the night and I had to walk her all the time.

Actually, it was really our walking together that made me fall in love with Ramona. Teaching her to trust, to understand that the world didn’t need to feel so threatening any more. I cared for her, like all those people had cared for me—taught me how to live and really participate in life again. So we’ve just walked and walked around Savannah.

Ramona and me…or, I.

Eventually, she’s learned to play off leash with other dogs in the stretching out parks. I gave her another chance, you know, and now she follows me everywhere.

This is my penance and one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever known. So when Ramona gets scared and comes cowering up next to me, I rub her ears and tell her to hold on. ’Cause that’s the same thing I tell myself.
Just to hold on.
Hold on.
It’s gonna be all right.
I know it will.
And that’s the truth.

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This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 49: Jul/Aug 2008
Nic Sheff is the author of Tweak, a chronicle of his life and battles with addiction. His writing has also been published in Newsweek and Nerve. nicsheff.com

Illustration by Lee Whittle

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