100 Percent Handsome
He’s always been a soldier with those cigarette burns on his legs, his insanely defined haunches, and the single teardrop tattooed just under each tear duct. He’ll growl at you if you crowd him, but when he’s pleased with himself, he’ll strut around like a pimp in a lime green suit.
And the girls, they love him. The more articulate give him pet names like “Handsome Man” or “Golden Man” or even “Handsome Golden Man.” The others just pant and whine.
He keeps them mostly at a distance. Otherwise, “it’s Love American Style,” he says in his Cajun-flavored diction. “I get you pregnant, and you go on welfare for a while.”
His tail, broken at its midpoint, juts forward over his torso like a boomerang, its tip flickering at the slightest bit of interest as he sniffs a tree for his latest pee-mail. When he’s excited, it waves like a flag. Relaxed it sweeps the floor, the way I imagine his birth mother’s does more ominously while she suns herself on the banks of Lake Pontchartrain.
If you haven’t figured it out, we’re talking about Nubbin, half-Chihuahua, half-alligator, and 100% handsome.
# # #
My partner Gwin found Nubbin on Craig’s List. Nubbin’s rescuer found him late one night lying in the gutter on Figueroa Street, a five-lane one-way thruway in downtown Los Angeles, too weak to move. He had been living in a homeless man’s shopping cart, one of those Trader Joe’s models with the jammed caster wheel that flutters from side to side. According to Nubbin, the homeless dude, who smelled like the piss of ten dogs and three cats, was told by Kim Jong-il to let the cart go flying down the hill past the Bonaventure Hotel. If Nubbin hadn’t been hiding under all the newspaper and rotted outdoor furniture pads, he would have ricocheted across the road like a fossilized cow patty hitting a silver-tipped cowboy boot.
In those first few months, my dog Blanca, a Dalmatian mix, was able to coax some information from Nubbin who we had nicknamed “Shy Man.” Then during a family car trip to Memphis, when a dust storm in Arizona threatened to engulf us, Nubbin finally opened up. Yes, he confirmed, he was hatched under a mound of silt on the banks of the Mississippi River north of New Orleans. His mother, an alligator named Betty Gatus had relations with a Chihuahua from Veracruz, who immediately hightailed it out to Baja. When Nubbin was just a pup, Betty G swam him down around the Gulf of Mexico, through the Panama Canal, and then to Baja chasing after the deadbeat.
“How did you end up in L.A. then?” I asked him.
“She wanted me to speak the English.”
“Did she ever find your dad?”
“Naw, she still hunting for child support.”
“Why aren’t you still with her?”
“Hell, I’m a grown man now! And alligators, they have quite a lot of eggs,” Nubbin said. He reached out his paw toward my wrist and pulled it, his curled dewclaw catching on my sweatshirt. He keeps it long in solidarity with his prison brothers.
# # #
Nubbin is skeptical about me writing this profile. “Will I sound cool? Because if I don’t sound cool, change my name,” he says. “Change it to Bubbin. And my momma ain’t Betty Gatus, she’s Debbie Batus.”
“Should I say she’s a crocodile?” I say.
Nubbin continued, ignoring my quip. “Betty’s had some unfortunate incarcerations, and she might not appreciate me using her real name.”
Blanca, who is sprawled out over both dog beds, stretches out her snout so that she can sniff the base of Nubbin’s tail.
“Woman, just because you smell what I’m about don’t mean I got to tell you my life story!” Nubbin says.
“How does he smell, Blinks?” I ask Blanca.
“Awesome! Like asshole and corn chips!” she replies.
Nubbin falls prey to flattery. He stands and bows. “See? I am so pimping clean. Put my hat on. Let’s take pictures. Let’s go stand by the car.”
He runs to the window barking because the Pomeranian from the apartment across the street is peeing in front of our house.
“Fall in love much?” I ask him.
He looks back for a moment trying to be cool. “Hell, anybody can fall in love. With the ho on the barstool next to you. ‘You are so beautiful. I am so fucked up. Are you driving?’”