Robert Heald is about as imposing as an ex-Marine comes. He’s got tattoos up and down his brawny arms, and a piercing gaze. He’s the kind of guy you probably don’t want to get on the bad side of. But then, there’s Baby Girl. Start talking about her, and well, he melts.
Heald had been working with the Maine Department of Transportation on the Goose River Bridge project in Rockport. He’s a flagger for the DOT, and the patching of the bridge that spans the river which empties into Rockport Harbor lasted about a week, just long enough for the regular local dog walkers to mention that there was another dog in the mix.
Every day, the motley mix of dogs and owners follow their regular routes around the harbor, and Baby Girl was greeting those who happened to pass by, with her signatory Chihuahua yip.
On Tuesday, Oct. 24, she sat in Heald’s small SUV, parked off to the side. She goes to every job site that Heald works at, winter through summer, cold through hot. She would be offended and heartbroken if she didn’t. She is like the supervisor of supervisors, standing on her short legs, confidently reaching out the window to eye the progress.
“She won't jump out,” said Heald, sitting behind the steering wheel. He was waiting for the rest of the crew to show up and start the day.
“She can, but she won't,” he said. “I've always carried her.”
Yes. Baby Girl is spoiled, and well should she.
Heald rescued her at four weeks of age from a home that likely would have put her down. She was of a litter of seven. Her mother was a purebred Chihuahua; her father was mixed breed, so she is not entirely a purebred Chihuahua, but she looks the part.
Her father, who had been found enclosed in a garbage bag, near death, has short legs, too. He was going to get thrown over a bridge.
This is the world of dogs in the world of humans — cruelty, depravity, neglect are human characteristics, and animals suffer from that.
And then, along comes someone like Robert Heald, who makes our hearts sing again, when it all seems so depressing.
“People are stupid,” he says, simply shaking his head.
Heald put the four-week-old Baby Girl into his pocket, got baby formula, and began nurturing her. She took to his care, and grew. Now, she’s almost two years old, cocky as they come, and keeps Heald on his toes.
“The only place she doesn't like is the car wash,” he said.
But he doesn’t have to worry about her running away at the job sites. He carries her everywhere. Everywhere! She won’t even jump down off the bed or couch. She is a queen, and expects only the best service.
Which means Alpo. Because Alpo supposedly does not put propylene glycol (a cousin of antifreeze) into its dog food.
“A lot of others have antifreeze in them,” he said. “She's a little dog. Would you give your kid something like that?”
The other guys rib him.
“Why are you bringing your dog to work,” they ask.
Eventually, however, they end up playing with her on the grass during breaks.
In the summer, Heald parks in the shade, and Baby Girl’s water bowl is always filled on the floor of the passenger front seat.
Heald grew up in Belfast and Winchendon, Mass., and is the Class of 1983. He joined the Marines at age 17 and saw much of the Pacific — Thailand, Korea, Okinawa, the latter is his favorite place.
He’s glad to be in Maine, on a sunny morning, with Baby Girl in the car, as she sleeps or watches the procession of life on the Midcoast.
Does he want to get another dog to keep her company?
“She's enough,” he said. With a hint of a smile on his face.
Baby Girl gives a little grin, herself. She knows she has it good, and she plans on it staying that way.
Reach Editorial Director Lynda Clancy at firstname.lastname@example.org; 207-706-6657