A blackjack player, or any other type of gambler, experiences a wide range of feelings and emotions after repeated wagering. Sometimes the feeling is sheer exhilaration, other times it is a disappointment beyond belief. One of the absolute worst feelings occurs when you quickly lose your entire bankroll after having been up hundreds or thousands of dollars just minutes previously. If you gamble long enough, it happens. When it happens to me while playing blackjack, blaring and irritating thoughts immediately fill my head. Why didn’t I quit ten minutes ago? Why was I so greedy? I can’t believe I lost it all.
I had this ill feeling crop up on me unexpectedly while playing at the MGM Grand casino in Las Vegas. I was up $900 and lost eight of nine hands while the true count was high. In the course of a few minutes, I lost all the winnings and my entire $400 bankroll, a $1300 swing. I was hot. Everything I saw after that pissed me off: The ninety-four year old lady jumping up and down because she just won $50 on the slot machine nearest to the table games, the security guard near the men’s room telling me to “Have a nice day,” the ten-second wait for the elevator to arrive from the second floor, and the fifty-something immigrant custodian cleaning the ashtray canister. I just lost enough to pay your salary for a month. The everything-was-pissing-me-off theme continued. The sign inside the elevator advertising the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet, and the mini-billboard in the parking garage promoting the Englebert Humperdink shows on August 28th and 29th. Screw Englebert, and screw Mr. and Mrs. Humperdink for naming him that. While I’m thinking about it, screw the month of August, you hot bastard with no holiday! I was hot, and getting hotter. The loss of thirteen black chips, coupled with the 110-degree heat, combined to create a satanic-like sweat that emitted from every pore of my body. I couldn’t imagine feeling worse—until I saw the puppies in the covered parking garage.
Five puppies were crammed inside a kennel cage barely big enough to hold one of them. Some grade-A, uncaring, moron had left five infant animals caged in the back seat of a thirty-year-old, piece of crap Impala. Left them with no food or water. I was fuming. The car was shaded, and the window was cracked a few inches, but the interior temperature must have been near 125 degrees. The puppies were lifeless. I had to quickly get these puppies some water and food, and then find the idiot responsible for their predicament. I ran back into the MGM Grand. Luckily, I had been away from the confines of my home-court gaming establishment, the Sandia Casino in Albuquerque, otherwise Yong and the rest of the water police would have given me grief. I snagged six bottles of water from the self-help concession stand, holding them in the upturned bottom of my linen shirt. I also grabbed the styrofoam bowl used to hold an ample supply of Sweet-and-Low packages. Damn coffee drinkers. Because of you and your need for artificial sweetener, laboratory rats had to die. Everything was pissing me off. Finally, I grabbed a plate of half-eaten french fries from the dozen or so small tables just outside the main gaming area.
As I ran back to the piece of crap Impala, I hoped that the shit head who abandoned the puppies hadn’t yet departed. Nope, the car was still there. I yelled proudly, “Don’t worry, babies, Bobby Boucher is here with some fine quality H20.” If you weren’t aware, that was a reference to Adam Sander’s movie, The Waterboy. Why don’t you watch a movie with your kids once in awhile instead of gambling? Geez, everything is pissing me off! As I yelled, a couple of the puppies sprang to life. Although the Impala doors had been locked, it only took a few pounds of force to push down the partially opened window. Was I breaking and entering? I doubt it. Any police officer or judge would sympathize to what I was doing. I poured a bottle and a half of the water into the styrofoam Sweet-and-Low bowl. The dogs knew what was coming. I opened the cage door. It was like someone turned on a happy meter inside the car.
I placed the bowl of water on the backseat and watched the fireworks. The puppies immediately quenched their thirsts. One of them, whom I had named “Mark Spitz,” actually got all four legs into the styrofoam Sweet-and-Low bowl and did half a lap before getting head-butted out of the way by another puppy. I called that one, “Bull.” Each time I had refilled the bowl, the puppies playfully competed to get a drink. Rightfully so, they went nuts with delight. At this point, I figured it was safe to add french fries to the menu. “Mark Spitz, no swimming for twenty minutes after eating.” Dinner concluded with the puppies licking my face through the partially opened window in appreciation. I was happy. They were happy. It was a wonderful after-school-special moment.
I basked in the glory of my friendly deed. What now? Maybe these little guys didn’t deserve their current situation. Maybe these puppies were destined to leave the prestigious MGM Grand parking garage with me. I quickly dismissed that scenario. As much as I would have liked the immediate adoption, our family was about to go through another one of those wonderful moves that the Air Force believed in putting us through every two to three years. Plus, we already had a large Black Labrador at the time, Barkley. He wouldn’t want to be a momma. He liked the current one-dog-to-four-person ratio in the Wiggy household. Finally, I thought about the security cameras in the parking garage providing damning evidence in the dognapping case that could be filed against me. Nah, these dogs would have to stay with their current owner, as sad as that person might have been.
My second idea was better. I once heard that puppies had to “go” only ten minutes after eating and drinking. What better place to go than the floorboards and seats of a powder blue, rust-accented, piece-of-crap Impala. I waited and watched. No kidding, as soon as I thought of the impending pee sessions, one of the puppies immediately started leaking on the back seat. I named that one “Squatter.” The rest of the puppies bolted in every direction and found a spot of their own to urinate or defecate. The largest one jumped through the open window into my arms. I named him “Jumper.” I gave Jumper one last kiss before returning him to the Impala romper room. I then raised the window almost back to its original state, but gave the puppies a few more inches of breathing room than they had previously.
My plan worked like a charm. All of the puppies eventually “made” inside the car—five number ones, and two number twos. Plus, one dog produced a small amount of vomit that looked remarkably similar to my Grandma Wielgoleski’s potato soup. And as an added bonus, two of the puppies started gnawing on everything in sight. The styrofoam Sweet-and-Low bowl was the first target. It lasted only a few seconds. The next target was the fake lamb’s wool cover on the driver’s side seat. I was hoping that the cowboy hat adorned with a “Win in Vegas” pin on the passenger seat would be next. Not to be. Naps were now in order. One by one, the puppies snuggled into various nooks and crannies of the Impala interior, then feel asleep.
For the first time since leaving the blackjack tables, I was calm. I would have loved to stay and confront the idiot owner of the puppies, but it was time for me to mosey along. What if the owner, built like one of these WWE wrestlers, found me outside his car with the discriminating evidence of empty water bottles and puppy saliva on my face? Or worse yet, what if the owner was a burly woman packing a handgun? She might have just lost a stack of black chips too, and would be seeing things that pissed her off. Yeah, it was definitely best for me to leave the canine crime scene undetected at that time.
As I departed the parking garage in my rental car, I made a final gesture to ensure the safety of the puppies. After all, who knows how long they would still be in the overheated vehicle? I flagged down a security guard.
“Hey, you might want to check on that old Impala over there. Someone left a bunch of puppies unattended.”
The guard asked, “Do you want to leave your name and make a formal complaint?”
“Nah, I just want them to be okay.”
As I drove back to my hotel, I realized I hadn’t named all of the puppies. Let’s see, there was “Mark Spitz,” “Bull,” “Squatter,” and “Jumper.” I decided to name the last one, “Holy Shit,” because I had imagined that would be the first thing that the Impala owner would say when returning to the car. I laughed at my overall dog-naming abilities, nearly forgetting the evening’s $1300 disaster. As far as I could recall, it was the only time I ever had fun losing all my money at the casino. When I walked into our hotel room, my wife said, “I know you won. I can tell by your expression.” I didn’t correct her.