By GORDON GLANTZ
GORDONVILLE – Rex.
Not the first name I would have picked for a dog.
Not the second, third or 35th.
I usually go for an Eagles quarterback and it seemed that Nick (or Nikki for a girl) would have had the best odds in Vegas.
But then again, Rex – a black lab mix at that awkward half-pup, half-adult stage of about 18 months old (according to his teeth) – kind of picked me.
And in the intervening week, the name he came with is kind of growing on all of us.
The dog on “The Waltons” (RIP, Ralph Waite) was named Reckless, so our official story is that this is a variation.
The actual story?
It all started on one of the Antarctic days when Laurie and I went to SuperFresh at the Centre Square shopping center to stock up on supplies for the snowstorm du jour.
A weekend day, it meant that the kind folks from Home At Last Dog Rescue in North Wales, were outside – braving the harsh cold – to have the dogs available for adoption interact with passersby.
We had been there before, often reaching over and under other people to pet a pooch while a volunteer pretty much ignored us.
No time for such frivolity that day.
Because we had an alternate agenda, I made it clear that we were not looking at any dogs, as tempting as it may be.
It was too cold, and we had to reach over and under people to get bread and milk and eggs.
I did add one caveat: Unless, of course, I’m struck by the same kind of thunderbolt that found Michael Corleone when he first locked eyes with Apollonia while on the lam in Sicily.
It happened that way back in 1990 at the Philadelphia SPCA on Erie Avenue. That’s when and where another black lab mix, Randall, looked into my soul from behind the bars of his cage.
He was one day overdue to be put down, and it was 10 minutes to closing.
He lived with us in three different places – from Northeast Philly to center city to the current suburban homestead – until 16 ½ and is still spoken of in rightfully revered terms.
We later added Kelly, who was more sweet and pretty than special and intelligent like Randall, but they – along with cat named Tyler – were like the three musketeers.
Kelly died first, battling through a litany of health issues to last until 10 ½, and Randall went while Laurie was pregnant with Sofia.
Tyler passed on to Rainbow Bridge, but new cats were added.
Somehow, despite being “dog people,” we became a three-cat household – with the current lineup consisting of Hank (5), Licorice (nearly 2) and Hershey (nearly 1).
We often spoke about adding a dog, as it seemed the last piece of a puzzle – along with a new kitchen and bathrooms – to make our house truly a home.
And with memories of Randall, we set the bar pretty high.
We felt Sofia was a year or two away, but there was no target date. Maybe her eighth or ninth birthday, or one of the Christmases in between, but nothing concrete.
It was going to come down to being struck by the thunderbolt, and that came that frigid Saturday in early February when a woman was walking Rex away from the crowd of volunteers and frigid shoppers and the dogs when we crossed paths in front of the Jade Garden Chinese Restaurant (our personal favorite).
His resemblance to Randall caught my eye, so I stopped to interface with him. Laurie was already half into the store when I called her back. The woman walking him began telling us Rex’s heart-wrenching story.
He was a recent arrival from South Carolina – Darlington County, the setting and title of a Springsteen song – and was apparently beaten in front of shelter workers there when his previous owner surrendered him.
From what I gather, he stole the hearts of the Darlington County people enough that they didn’t want to put him for a long period of time in one of their multiple-dog outdoor kennels where fighting is common and where any dog who fights – even in self-defense – is summarily put down with the aggressor.
An angel of mercy named Roz, who networks with the Darlington shelter, had seen and heard enough. She agreed to foster Rex and he was shipped to the frozen north (not that the south was much better) in a massive vehicle of small cages.
Roz, who had only had Rex in her care a short time, joined our conversation. By that time, a very timid Rex was warming up to us.
I looked up at Laurie for guidance. She looked at me with that “it’s up to you” look.
It’s a look that comes with consequences, because I was going to have to live with my decision.
But I had already been struck by the thunderbolt.
When we pried ourselves away to walk into SuperFresh, Rex started to follow us.
When we left, and loaded up the car with the typical haul to last 12 winters, Laurie wheeled the shopping cart back toward the store (we do that, unlike some others who would be named if I knew their names) and Rex spotted her and started pulling away from the next group of people fawning over him and waged his tail while looking in her direction.
I started the engine, turned on the heat to about 90 degrees and looked up again to see people engaged with Rex.
“Get away from my dog,” I muttered.
Yep, my dog.
He found me.
Went home, filled out the online application and he was with us a week later.
The prime directive is a lot of TLC, which is always on the menu as a blue-plate special at the Glantz Diner.
The vet, who gave Rex a clean bill of health, warned against spoiling.
But that’s how we roll.
All things considered, he is doing well.
Not sure if he realizes just how lucky he is to have it made in the shade with us, but we can take the satisfaction of providing him with a place to land.
Rex is generally mellow – when I’m weaving my written tapestries at the laptop on the dining room table, he usually lies down underneath it — but he seems to be coming out of his shell.
The housebreaking is … well … coming along slower than expected, but I blame that on the weather and the lack of places to walk that aren’t snow-covered.
He had an adventure after just a few days, staying overnight in a pet-friendly hotel (Comfort Inn in Montgomeryville) and was an instant attraction with staff and other powerless refugees.
My mother, who lives with us, has a phobia about dogs. She tried to be afraid of Rex, but it’s impossible.
She declared, upon getting him, that she won’t be joining me in the car to pick Sofia up from the school if he is there, too.
After three days, her butt was in the car while Rex snoozed in the back, only to perk up when his favorite playmate, Sofia, appeared.
Rex has also signed peace accords with Hank and Licorice. For some reason, he senses weakness and fear in Hershey and gives him a hard time, but we have seen recent signs of thaw.
Just like this bitter winter that was made better by one moment when time froze.
And the thunderbolt struck.