My Wife and I Did Not Rescue A Dog. She Rescued Us.

Joel Eisenberg

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Photo: KOKO Eisenberg

I once wrote a letter to my dog. Yeah, owners sometimes do absurd things like this. Can anyone relate? Thing is, though, in real life I could never call her a “dog.”

You’ll see why in a minute.

I turned 57 last week. We adopted KOKO on my birthday ten years ago, and I appreciate her more and more each day.

The following letter was written with tongue firmly in cheek, but it actually meant a great deal when I sat to compose it.

I am sharing this to celebrate all those rescues around the word today who have helped their parents truly add to their quality of life …

***

Dear KOKO,

Let’s talk. It’s time for a KOKO-daddy chat. You were orphaned for so long; I’m compelled to fill in the gaps. This way, you’ll never take your world for granted, and you’ll understand what “love” really means.

I met your mommy on my 36th birthday. You, having since become our wonderful four-legged hairy daughter, adopted us on my 48th birthday.

It’s a few days shy of my 54th birthday. So why is our head bitch in charge barking a storm in the living room this morning? Are you sending me a message?

Are you celebrating? I hope so.

I can barely work; you’re so damn loud. But, you know the drill. Neither mommy, nor I, would have it any other way.

(Don’t ever tell her I shared that with you, by the way. She’ll worry you may take advantage.)

KOKO, you know I use “bitch,” above, with tongue-in-cheek affection. I’ll be defensive; no sexism is implied. I can never call you a “dog,” as to me that’s akin to a racial slur. No, “KOKO,” you are our “double knockout,” a boxer-pit mix who’s as energetic today as you were when we brought you home for the first time.

There are many “dogs” in this world, you see, but only one KOKO.

My unique baby girl, as we’ve discussed, you are possessed of nine nipples because you once had a large litter. Mommy nicknamed you “Rin-Tin-Tits.” I followed suit. We’re Jewish, so we had to jazz up the nickname a bit: “Nipsy Ripsy Rin-Tin-Titsie,” “Nipsolah Titskolah,” and, our favorite, “Gesheftinator Shenazal” (after all this time, if you have to ask … don’t).

I love you, my mutt for life. Any way you slice it, KOKO, you have been our rescue, and not the other way around. Mommy and I used to have silly arguments, like many couples. You came into our lives and disrupted anything that was not purely happy.

And I will always thank you for that.

You recently stared at me blankly when I mentioned your “childhood.” You seem to have forgotten those early days, so let me fill you in.

Here’s the truth: KOKO, you were once named “Persia,” and you were considered (“cough”) a shelter dog. Mommy and daddy had no children, and we had discussed adding another member to our family. As we were both highly allergic to cats …

The decision was made. We traveled to our local shelter.

And we fell in love with you.

“Persia,” we were told, was going to be euthanized if she was not adopted within the month.

You were completely healthy, KOKO, and you had all of your shots, but you also had a full tail and shorn ears.

That made you special to us.

You were in the same cage for six months. Nobody wanted to bring you home, and that would prove to be their great loss.

But we, your future mommy and daddy, could not resist your punim (KOKO, you make me feel more Jewish; why, I have no idea.). We decided we were going to adopt you. We knew as soon as you winked at daddy.

The shelter manager informed us that you arrived six months earlier as a “dog” raised to fight. “The prior owners brought her in with a studded collar,” we were told. “She does not get along with other dogs, and is not social.”

No matter. You were ours, risks be damned. We completed the proper paperwork, and brought you home. “Persia,” you became “KOKO” in a hurry.

No one else would name our child. Fuhgeddaboutit.

Adopting you, KOKO, has been the best decision mommy and Daddy have ever made. KOKO, you’re shy in your way, I get you, and I see that you socialize better around other hairies when you’re off-leash in a park. I appreciate that fact. When you see another quadruped walking on a leash, you tend to lose it. Off the leash, okay. On the leash, it’s as though you take it as your business to free them from a life of captivity.

Or something like that. We’ll just chalk it to your big ol’ heart.

I don’t understand you fully, but I pretty much get your essence.

I tell people when you’re around mommy and daddy that you’re a lover, not a fighter. That’s why we take turns scratching your belly. We honor you. You lean alongside us when we’re trying to sleep, and that’s all good too. You’ll bring us the leash when you want to walk, and you’ll bark if we’re running late for your breakfast. Or your lunch.

Face it, though. You can be a pest. I can too. But that smile, it melts.

I’ll admit it. mommy and daddy have our own demands. If our KOKO wants a treat, you need to jump up and kiss daddy on the lips. Well, actually, you don’t need to, but you’ve been doing it since our first meeting, and so I’ve run with it. KOKO needs to sit for mommy when mommy attaches the leash to her collar.

Decorum 101.

We’ll play with you, KOKO, until we’re all exhausted because we’re nuts about you. We’ll roughhouse, and then you’ll lie alongside us and lick our faces.

And, you’re a hellacious manipulator. You sure you’re not from Brooklyn like you’re poppa? You’ll stare at us with those gorgeous browns, you’ll smile …

You want your damn treat, and you want it now.

KOKO, you will always win.

I confess. Sometimes I tear up when I’m away on business, wondering how my baby girl is doing back home. I love you, our hirsute honey. Mommy and daddy will continue to treasure you, as we know you will not be here forever.

But you’re here now. And though daddy is writing this letter, we both want you to know we’re crazy about you.

Happy anniversary, KOKO. Don’t ever change.

Love,

Daddy

***

And with that letter, my heart was full.

KOKO is doing very well today, three years since I expressed my love to her with the above words. She is a bit thinner than she was back then, but she remains as energetic as ever.

It's tough sometimes keeping up.

For those of you considering a pet adoption, or rescue, but are reluctant ... you would be missing out on one of life's great joys if you do not take advantage of the opportunity.

KOKO is one of the happiest, most well-behaved four-legged hairies I've ever known. She knows full well how beloved she is, as we tell her every day. We kiss her, she kisses us. We talk nicely to her, expressing our feelings, her tail wags and does not stop.

And she manipulates us for treats, of course, because she can.

I look at the photo atop this article and smile. That is my KOKO's perpetual expression.

Adoption meant the world to her.

I strongly recommend it.

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I am an award-winning author, screenwriter for film and television, and producer. My mission on News Break is to share socially important perspectives on both culture and pop-culture. Member of PEN America, and the WGA.

Northridge, CA
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