When I walk into Fizz, on Market Square, I might as well be invisible—all the beautiful, sleek women turn around to stare at my companion. Cole has locks of dark, fashionably unkempt hair falling over his brown eyes, and he glances briefly at the women with just enough interest to keep them fawning over him, and just enough indifference to drive them mad. He shakes his hair back and the women ooh and ah among themselves. Cole is chic, looking somewhat Parisian with the black and white silk scarf he wears loosely around his neck.
“You are so adorable,” a woman in a tight, black dress and high stiletto heels says, rubbing her long, red fingernails through his thick hair. He walks with confidence back and forth through the store, looking at the beautiful women and the wonderful, handmade garments that are soft to the touch. Finally, he sits down and looks up expectantly. A bit of a treat whore, he is always confident that more will be coming wherever he goes.
Cole is a 25-pound dog—part Scottish terrier, part mop—but this is one black, shaggy creature who knows exactly what he is about and where he is going.
“I found him under someone’s porch in Wyoming,” says my friend Chloe. “The owner of the house told me he had stolen all manner of things from the neighbors to create a nest for himself—a couple of pink slippers, a brown leather shoe, a fake fur jacket, a plaid wool blanket, and odd socks and bones. There he created a home.”
Chloe brushes her hair out of her eyes. She is beautiful, with eyes that startle with their blueness and a directness that can penetrate the secrets of the universe. She is as fair as Cole is dark.
“What was he doing there in the first place?” I ask, remembering how cold the winters are in Wyoming.
“I guess he got loose when someone was vacationing there and when they couldn’t find him when they got ready to return home, they just left him.”
“I wonder why someone didn’t just take him in,” I muse. “He’s so adorable.”
Chloe lights a cigarette and inhales. “Well, he wasn’t that easy to catch, apparently. Every time the animal control would try to catch him he would skedaddle down into the woods. It took them months to catch him. So if animal control couldn’t get to him, neither could a potential owner.”
We look at Cole, who is trotting around Fizz looking quite the little man. Katherine, the owner of Fizz, walks in and oohs and ahs over Cole. “I keep telling you that you need to start a high-fashion doggie boutique downtown,” I tell her, and Katherine laughs her wonderful laugh, neither agreeing nor disagreeing with my idea. My dog, Mallory, already wears fabulous head-bands and bandannas from Fizz to match mine when we go around downtown.
When we get back to Chloe’s apartment, I try to get Cole to snuggle up with me. He resists then finally lets me curl around his small body, at first reluctantly, then all warmth and surrender.
We have been listening to oldies all afternoon, and when “Many a tear has to fall, for it’s all in the game…” comes on, I pick Cole up and waltz him around the room. He looks up at me as if to say, “What the hell’s the matter with you woman?”—but since I am considerably larger than him, we dance on. As soon as the song is over he runs back to Chloe and snuggles in her lap, as if telling her he was not at all happy dancing with another, that she is the only one for him.
After a while, I go to get Mallory and we release the two of them from out of the apartment and into the hall. They race madly down the hall barking, with Mallory clearly in the lead. Someone opens a door nearby and says furiously, “You need to stop that right now. It’s two in the morning and I’m trying to get some sleep.” Chloe and I look at one another and laugh uproariously, for our day has just begun, and when we are together, time has no meaning.
“Well, I guess I’ll take Mallory home before we get in trouble again,” I tell Chloe, putting a leash on Mallory, musing that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get one for myself. As I look back to say goodbye, Chloe and Cole are preparing to have a game of fetch with the small rubber ball Mallory left behind. “Whatever he might have been before—lone bachelor, man about town, thief—he’s clearly all yours now.”
In the morning, when Chloe wants to sleep in, Cole lets me take him out, but when we return to his floor he leaps out of my arms and goes flying down the hall to his mom, his savior, the only person that really matters to him. It is a memory I will hold inside of me for all time: Cole’s tiny, shaggy body running with all the speed and dignity he can muster, away from me and toward home.
I close the door gently, look out the window at the darkening sky, and lead my own true companion, Mallory, slowly and quietly toward our home just down the hall as the residents of Summit Towers turn over in their beds, preparing for another day in downtown Knoxville.