Steven Winn and his wife, Sally, wanted to fulfil their daughter's dream of gettting a dog, so they adopted a scraggly terrier mutt named Como from a local animal shelter near San Francisco. But their daughter Pheobe's dream soon turned into a family nightmare.
"Come Back, Como" is the story of one man's quest to win the trust of an unruly dog. Through maddening adventures and terrifying events, Winn and his family discover the rewarding effects of learning to live with a rebellious pet in "Come Back, Como: Winning the Heart of a Relecutant Dog."
Author Steven Winn is a journalist and fiction writer based in San Francisco.
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Chapter One: How It Didn't Begin
I wanted Ecstasy.
That, it seemed clear to me, was the direct route to the other things I wanted, too. I wanted family harmony and companionship. I wanted laughs now and stories to tell later. I wanted rituals and something new to photograph on holidays. A reason to be outdoors and a potential bond with neighbors and strangers.
I wanted a twelve-year-old daughter made happy and fulfilled beyond all she had patiently imagined and a wife beaming back at me in the mutual glow of a marital mission accomplished. I wanted reunions and separations—and more joyful reunions. A counter to my own bouts of loneliness and isolation. An end to this endless search.
But most of all, and for all those reasons and more, I wanted Ecstasy—suddenly, unmistakably, irrefutably. And there it was, in matchless canine form, gazing up at me from a cement floor on the other side of a hurricane fence at an animal adoption shelter in Redwood City, California. Part beagle and part corgi, this was the dog, I instantly felt certain, that we had been looking for all along.
For a long, soulful moment we communed through the diamond-shaped openings between us. A little shiver, a tremor of cross-species connection, ran up my spine as our eyes locked through the fence. This was it. This animal would soon become part of our family.
She was, first of all, a delight to behold. Saucer-eyed and crowned with perfect isosceles triangle ears, she had a soft white coat touched here and there with irregular brown spots, like morsels of chocolate melting into a creamy dough. She was exactly the size and weight we were looking for—lap-sittable at something under twenty pounds.
She looked healthy and untraumatized, holding my avid, appraising stare without going into some needy spasm or fearful cringe or one of those teethbaring, cage-rattling fits that had startled and alarmed us on numerous occasions during our quest to adopt a pet.
This dog did none of it. To her great credit, in my estimation, she did nothing much at all. Seated about two-thirds of the way back in her narrow enclosure, she looked serenely untroubled by me, by the starkness of her environment (bare floor, dim overhead lighting, battered metal food and water dishes, ratty looking blanket, and stippled rubber barbell), or by the tumult of wild howls, frantic barking, and claws scrabbling on cement that lent this perfectly respectable shelter, like the many other respectable and some not-so ones we'd visited over the past three months, the air of an asylum for the four-footed criminally insane.