Thursday, October 4, 2007

Results of canine cupids, 30 years later

Love in this branch of the Tanner family means going to the dogs.

On Monday, Oct. 8, husband Richard and I will celebrate the 30th anniversary of our first date.

We never should have met, you know. The odds were against us. I was a 33-year-old divorcee with two children living in Cambria. He was 18 years older, a widower in Reno.

Coincidences, a newspaper and five Shetland sheepdogs intervened.

Earlier in the summer of 1977, my two sons and I were on a weekend trip to Santa Barbara with my mom. As was her habit on arrival, Mom bought and read the local paper cover to cover.
This time, she held out an ad in the classified section. "Free to you, two Shetland sheepdogs," said the life-changing ad.

I had wanted Shelties since I was a little girl in New York, and Mom knew it.

So, sons Brian, Sean and I adopted the two previously abandoned dogs, naming them Bonnie and Bambi.

Then the boys wanted to know more about Shelties, and so did I. Catch-as-catch-can canine research done on our next vacation eventually led me to Richard in Reno. Really it did. (We tease each other that it took five Shelties, 429 miles and 27 phone calls for us to find each other!)

While stuck in a phone booth at 98 degrees, my marathon research call to the Reno American Kennel Club produced a referral to the collie club, for some odd reason. That person sent me to Richard, who had three Shelties and lots of experience with them.

Early the next morning, before all of us left for Cambria, Richard and I talked about dogs for an hour or so, despite his having just ended a graveyard shift as a Harrah’s Club pit boss. During our conversation, Richard took a stab at mapping Bonnie and Bambi’s heritage.

A few weeks later, I was able to confirm by mail that his hunches about the dogs’ ancestry were correct. Concurrently, he invited me by mail to a Bay Area dog show, where a national authority was to judge the Shetland sheepdog class.

Of course, I went. In the name of research. Yup.

Mom drove the motor home into Oakland, and headed for a nearby fire station to get directions to the show. (FYI: firemen, cops and medics are most apt to know exactly where a given building is and how to get there quickly.)

She and I didn’t know Richard was right behind us and had spotted our motor home.

I saw him when we both got out of our vehicles. Astonished, I gave him a hug and turned to get directions from the firemen. He swears that’s when he fell in love … "There I was on a clear day in Oakland, and I felt like I’d been struck by lightning." Such a romantic.

When my traffic-frantic Mom firmly announced she was getting out, out, out of the city, and would wait for me in Santa Cruz, Richard volunteered to drive me down there after dinner … in San Francisco!

He and I went to the dog show, then got trapped in the Columbus Day parade traffic in San Francisco. We had lunch in what turned out to be a gay deli in San Francisco (the menu listed "fresh canned fruit salad," so we’re not talking high cuisine).

We had dinner with two of his longtime friends who spent the evening trying to figure out how old I was. They were charming, but about as subtle as a mini-skirt on a gorilla.

We pulled into Santa Cruz way too late for him to drive back to The City, so he camped out in the motor home’s other bed. And whaddya know? He was on vacation, and he’d never been to Cambria. So it was both polite and natural to invite him down for a visit.

The rest is family history. You can never call Richard Tanner a slow mover.

Two days later, he proposed. Well, sort of. He said, "It may be next week or next year, but I’m going to marry you."

Three months later, he did just that.

In this case, going to the dogs was the perfect thing to do. Happy anniversary, darling Richard. Here’s to at least 30 more.

E-mail Kathe Tanner at

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