By Qin Sun Stubis
It’s hard to believe that two-thirds of a year has flown by since Banjo, a long-haired Jack Russell terrier, joined our family. He finally had a home after spending three months of his young life in an animal shelter in New Jersey. The night of his arrival is still vivid. He was hiding in my husband Mark’s arms, his eyes darting and uneasy. He whimpered all night.
For the first few weeks, Banjo wouldn’t look at anyone for more than a second. He devoured his food at lightning speed, refusing to slow down and savor it, no matter what I gave to him and how hard I tried to persuade him with kind words and gentle touches.
The only person he followed around was the one who had taken him home, even though I was the one who fed him, cleaned up after his “accidents,” and took him for walks during the weekdays. There were moments I doubted if we’d ever get along.
That was Banjo then. Banjo now is very different. He is communicative, intelligent, confident, and adventurous. One thing he loves is food. Lately, he’s added French cheeses, steamed lobsters, and roast duck to his growing gourmet repertoire.
At some point during the last several months, I noticed that there was something very special about this puppy. Banjo was magnetic to the extreme. Canines came and rubbed their noses against his, tails up and waving. People gravitated toward him and showered him with compliments. Some wanted to pet him, while others wondered if he was a rare breed or ever in a movie before. One couple from Australia asked for our permission to take a picture with him while we were walking on the National Mall.
Banjo has a pair of adoring brown eyes that are capable of great feats of persuasion. He knows when and how to tilt his head and engage his gaze to communicate his wishes, whether it’s for a long walk, food from someone’s plate, or enticing complete strangers to start a conversation. Before I knew it, I was meeting neighbors and making friends, and discovering interesting connections that I would never have found on my own.
The other day, we were out for a walk when we met a beautiful older woman named Marilyn. “I wonder who is walking whom,” she smiled and commented, as if talking to an old friend, though we had never met before. Before long, she was petting Banjo and leading a conversation that took us all the way to memories of Santa Monica. It so happened that some 50 years ago, her late husband Stewart Tinsman was the District Math and Science Coordinator in Santa Monica where they met and fell in love.
With Banjo by my side, I can find the world in my backyard. I look forward to every walk with him, not knowing whom I’ll meet and what I’ll learn. Banjo is a little dog that knows how to connect the big world.
You can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Qin Stubis is a regular columnist for The Santa Monica Star.