I had let Batu out into the back yard like I had done a thousand times before. But this time, when I called him, he didn’t come. I had just had arthroscopic knee surgery.
I went outside and called Batu’s name again and again. Nothing. So I started looking. I grabbed my crutches, and started hopping around the neighborhood like a fool, looking everywhere. I ended up walking for miles. I started to panic as night fell. I had no idea where he was, or what had happened.
Batu is not a street dog. He doesn’t know about cars and traffic, or anything like that. He did have a bright red collar with my name and number on it, but nobody called. As night fell, I started making calls to every shelter, every vet, and every place I could think of.
Nobody had seen him. Batu is hard to miss. He’s a unique looking dog. He’s a bull terrier; there are only about 1,500 in the U.S. I hardly slept that night. So I got up and made a poster. I put them all over town – Baltimore, Maryland. I lived in the city, in a neighborhood called Roland Park. The house had a creek out back, with woods and a trail. There was a tiny alley in front of the house.
That second night was hell. I checked my phone a thousand times.
I had no idea what had happened to Batu. A neighbor told me she heard he got hit by a car in the alley and had bolted into the woods.
Finally somebody called. They told me they got the number from Batu’s collar. My heart soared.
Until they told me Batu was not attached to the collar. They had found the collar in a shopping mall three miles away. Somehow, the collar had fallen off his neck. They got my number off his dog tag, which was still attached to the collar. My heart sank.
I got on my bike and rode over to where the collar had been found, and started calling his name, handing out flyers to anyone who would take them, posting them anywhere I could. That night, the third night, I couldn’t sleep. I got on my bike. I grabbed a flashlight. I started riding around, calling out his name.
I’m surprised I didn’t get shot. I love Baltimore, but the murder rate is fairly high, and that rate gets higher when you have a crazy person riding around on a bike at 2 AM, screaming “Batu!” in the dead of night.
Still there was no sign of Batu. I was sick with panic — it was an extremely hot summer, and Batu didn’t do well in the heat. Plus, he had a heart condition – an enlarged heart. He was on medication, medication that he needed.
I called pet detectives, including Sherlock Bones (true). I called pet psychics. I called every shelter and every vet over and over. I even rented a large animal trap and put it where Batu was last seen. I put up more posters. I placed classified ads.
Two girls called me up, Rebecca and Angela. They saw one of my posters and offered to help. It was clear that these two attractive young ladies loved dogs, and somehow felt a connection to Batu. We started canvassing the city. We coordinated our efforts. We went neighborhood by neighborhood. We drove. We walked. We biked.
Still no Batu. It was now four days.
Every vet, every pet detective, every professional dog person I contacted told me that after three days, I might as well give up hope. Hardly any dogs are recovered after that long. It didn’t stop me from looking. I tried twice as hard. I went to the best neighborhoods, where there were only mansions. I went to the worst neighborhoods, where there were only crack houses. Seriously.
In both places I got funny looks – a crippled white guy on a bike handing out flyers offering a reward for a missing dog. I didn’t care.
Rebecca and Angela were in constant contact. They helped whenever they could. We were becoming friends. But there was still no Batu. I was terrified. Five days with no food, no water, and without his medicine. I searched high and low. Night and day. I lost ten pounds. I was limping from my operation. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep.
When Angela and Rebecca got off work, they’d help me search. Six days turned into seven days as time crawled by. I was depressed and desperate. I called my friend, Tim, who was a meteorologist at the local TV station. He made a mention on the air.
Day eight. I got a call that night. Someone had seen Batu in their yard in Guilford, one of the nicest neighborhoods in Baltimore, about three miles from the Slim Shack. I drove like James Bond over to the sighting. Rebecca and Angela met me there. We looked behind the house and there was Batu. I called out his name.
He bolted. Took off like a cheetah. We chased after him. He got away. We looked for hours. Angela and Rebecca went home. I kept looking until dawn. Then, I went back to the Slim Shack, printed up more posters, and papered all of Guilford.
I’m surprised I didn’t get arrested. But I didn’t give a shit.
After that, I went back to the shack and crashed. I hadn’t slept in days. Then my phone rang. It was Baltimore City Councilwoman Maggie McIntosh. She introduced herself, and then told me she had seen Batu in her neighbor’s backyard in Guilford. I jumped in my Jeep and burned rubber.
When I got to the house, Maggie McIntosh was there. She pointed to the neighbor’s backyard. There was an iron fence around the yard. Batu was inside. How he got in is still a mystery.
I called his name. He didn’t even know who I was. But when I held out one of his treats, he came running. I loaded him into the Jeep.
Batu ate the whole box of biscuits. No wonder. It had been nine days. No food, no water and no medicine. I called Rebecca and Angela. They met me at the Slim Shack. We had a little party. We drank, we laughed, we cried, and we danced.
Actually, it was Angela who danced. Turns out, this really attractive, sexy, dog-loving Italian babe was also a belly dancer. Madonna mia. So many prayers answered in one day!
After our little celebration, I took Batu to the hospital. They put him in the DICU, the Doggy Intensive Care Unit for four days. He was emaciated, dehydrated, malnourished, had some internal injuries. He really needed Intensive Care.
So did I when I got the bill. It was almost four grand. My cousin helped me out.
And here’s how it all ended…
Rebecca confessed to me that she was gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Some of my best friends are gay. What a doll!
And Angela, well I had a secret crush on her. But, I was involved, and she was involved, then I got uninvolved, and she got more involved, and eventually she got married.
I send Rebecca and Angela Christmas cards every year. Hope they still live in the same houses!
Whenever I think I’m down on my luck, I remind myself of this story.
Whenever I think a situation is hopeless, I remember this story.
Whenever I think of giving up, I remember this story.
SLIM MAN’S COD PIECES
In Baltimore, where I spent most of my Slim Boyhood, almost every little grocery store had coddies –codfish cakes—on the counter by the cash register. The two ingredients were codfish and mashed potatoes. The coddies were displayed on a tray, along with Saltine crackers and plain yellow mustard.
I loved ‘em.
When codfish went on sale a few weeks ago at the local grocery store near Slim’s Shady Trailer Park in Palm Springs, California, I thought it would be a great time to create my own codfish cake recipe. I call my new creation…Slim Man’s Cod Pieces.
6 cups water
3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 2-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
1 pound codfish filet, skinless, cut into 2-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons butter
Fresh cracked pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
½ cup of panko breadcrumbs (I used Progresso Panko Italian Style)
Flour (1/2 cup should do)
Here We Go…
When almost tender — it took mine about 10 minutes after the water came to a boil — add the fish cubes. That’s right, put the fish right in the boiling water with the potatoes.
Cook for 5 minutes.
Drain in a colander.
Put the fish and the potatoes in a bowl, add 1 tablespoon of butter, and salt and pepper, and mash coarsely. Keep it chunky! If it’s too smooth, the codfish cakes won’t fry right.
Let it sit until it’s warm to the touch.
As it cools, get a sauté pan and put it over medium heat. I used a 10-inch pan.
Add 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
When the butter starts to bubble, add the garlic and shallot.
Sauté for 3 minutes until the shallots are clear and the garlic is pale gold.
Add the rosemary and stir a few times.
Cook for 2 minutes.
Take the shallot/garlic/rosemary mixture that’s in the pan and add it to the codfish and potatoes.
Mix it up.
Grab your egg, put it in a bowl, and beat it.
Add it to the codfish and taters, and mix.
Add the breadcrumbs and mix by hand.
If the mixture is too liquid, add more breadcrumbs.
When the mixture feels right — not too wet, not too dry – make cakes.
I like my cakes about the size of a tangerine. This recipe yielded 8 codfish cakes.
Put the codfish cakes on a plate.
Take the sauté pan that you used for the garlic/shallots/rosemary.
Put it over medium-high heat.
Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
As the oil heats up, get a flat plate, and put the flour on it.
Lightly dredge each codfish cake in the flour. Make sure each side is lightly dusted with flour.
When the olive oil is hot, put the cakes in the pan, and sauté for 3 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown.
Flip ‘em over — be gentle – and cook on the other side for 3 minutes, until golden brown.
Place on paper towels when done.
Serve with spicy brown mustard, or plain old yellow mustard like we used to do in Bawlmer!
In Bawlmer, they eat them on saltine crackers. I like ‘em plain—but what the hell do I know?