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Travels with Carli the dog - Gerry Yandel

I have considered Carli a Godsend, ever since she showed up at the door, just a scared and confused kid looking for love from whomever would hand it out.

She had big sad-looking eyes, even though she rarely gets sad, and the sweetest little face you've ever seen.

Luckily, the door she picked belonged at the time to my ex-wife and daughters, all of whom are complete and utter suckers for poor defenseless stray animals.

Even more luckily, my ex, Fauve, thought immediately of me and called me up. "Come over and see what we have for you," she said.

At the time, I was at a particularly low moment in my life, one of those times when futility, despair and uncertainty about the future crush you under the awful incapacitating weight of loneliness, hopelessness and self-pity.

So 20 pounds of pure unadulterated unconditional love was just what the Big Shrink in the sky ordered.

Carli and I took to each other right away. I recall how, after her first night in my apartment, I hopped out of bed in the morning, like a kid at Christmas, to go find my puppy.

I followed her around in my bathrobe, coffee in hand, chuckling to myself as she snuffled around the baseboards, checking out her new surroundings.

Isn't that cute, I thought, until I realized what she was REALLY looking for and ran for the paper towels.

We've been together for about a year, almost inseparable, and I take her with me wherever I go, if possible.

Oh, sure, we've had our differences. Like the time she did the taste-test on my leather jacket, or her encounter with the driver's seat of my car. (The seat lost, badly.)

I can't begin to tell you how many times I have come home from a hard working day, ready to kick up my feet and veg-out in front of the TV, only to walk into the kitchen and see my garbage strewn about the floor like a crime-scene investigation. She helped me discover how many beanies are in a beanie baby (billions).

But, I could never stay mad at her for long... say more than 10 minutes, and she always looked like she felt so badly about her misdeeds. (I've since figured out that she ALWAYS looks like that.)

So, Friday morning, when she didn't come when I called her, like she had every morning for months, I became very frantic very quickly.

We had been on the north side of Atlanta meeting some friends, as I do frequently at a place in the Buford Highway and N. Druid Hills area. Carli knows my friends there, and they all know here, and our morning routine was for her to run and play around the back of the parking lot exploring in the woods and splashing through the creek nearby.

During the three or so hours I spent hanging out waiting for her to return, driving around looking for her and knocking on doors of businesses in the area, I was fascinated by how quickly and darkly my mind could turn.

Suddenly, everyone I passed seemed like a potential dognapper, every dumpster became a monstrous death-trap. The world, in the space of very little time, became a very evil place.

My day, needless to say, was shot, and, eventually, I headed back down to Stockbridge, distraught at having to leave my defenseless, and probably scared, friend behind in Atlanta.

As I sat in rush hour traffic, the emotion and stress of the day started pouring out of me, and I resigned myself to possibly never seeing Carli again.

But, in an instant, the cold, cruel uncaring world was filled with sunshine and light when I heard my voicemail. A man had found Carli and, fearing she would get hit by a car, had called her over, where she promptly hopped into his car.

I contacted the guy, and he just happened to have a friend who lived in Hampton and was going to be stopping in Stockbridge that night anyway. By 9 p.m., Carli was safely ensconced back in my den and the traumatic events of the day seemed like they never happened.

Of course, there are countless messages to glean from the experience, not the least of which is not taking things for granted.

But I'd also like to thank the people who saved my dog, Michael Held and Terry Frye, the wonderful folks at the Humane Society, and even the guy at the DeKalb County kennels, who got up from his desk to ask around about my dog.

That gum-popping and unfeeling loser who answered the phone at Fulton County Animal Control, however, can just go to hell.

Gerry Yandel is the city editor for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or gyandel@henryherald.com .