I wrote Eddie a song when he got sick. I listen to it sometimes, remembering he was right there when I wrote it.
I wrote Eddie a poem as well, something about his deep brown eyes.
I had him 15 years and one month, almost to the day. He was a beautiful Austrailian Shepherd/Border Collie mix. There was no other dog like him. Other dog owners would stop me in the dog park and comment on just how beautiful he was. They didn’t have to do that, but they wanted to. I always hoped we matched, like some people that look just like their dogs, and I would ask my fiance if I looked like Eddie. He would always say no, not really understanding why I wanted to look like my dog.
I wouldn’t know how to begin the story of his life. I got him at 3 months old when I was 16. He was at the North Shore Animal League in Long Island, with Kennel cough, on medication. I walked into the back room, where the sick puppies were, and he was in the first cage to my right. He was so beautiful. Tiny. Lovable. He came to the side of the cage and pawed at me. I pet him a moment and then looked at the other dogs. But everywhere I went in that room, that little dog followed, pushing himself as close to the side of his cage where ever I stood. He chose me. Continue reading
My two departed 19-year-old cats had been with me since they were kittens. I lost both of them about six months apart in 2010; they were brothers. Jupiter (aka Fluffaluffalus) was shy and loved to be scratched on the top of his head. Mr. Socks (aka Sockalockalus) was extroverted and would steal your egg salad sandwich if you weren’t careful. They were both exquisite purrers.
Titus Pullo looked like a warrior, with a scarred (but ruggedly handsome) face, the body of a prizefighter and a growl that — if you were unlucky enough to hear it up close — sounded like it came from the Devil himself. But under the brawny exterior was a goofy, cuddly mama’s boy who could charm anyone into giving him a belly rub. Titus enjoyed meeting people, but what he enjoyed most was going everywhere with his mom Colleen, and that he did: Titus visited more courthouses in Mass. than most of that state’s lawyers and he vacationed everywhere from my house in Upper Black Eddy PA to Soho to Cape Cod, Fire Island and Nantucket. Though I like to think that he was particularly fond of my porch at UBE, in reality his favorite place was wherever Colleen was, and he didn’t care if that meant sitting in the Cayenne for a 6 hour road trip or carving out his place in the ranks of our dog-heavy house in Fire Island (for the record he established himself as top dog pretty much immediately (sorry, Shamu, but it’s true). Wherever Titus went, he made friends, from the doormen at Trump Soho, to the waiters at Cipriani, to the folks at the Homestead General Store and the market in Duxbury and the bank teller at the drive-in window, who gave him treats and asked for him on those rare occasions that Colleen went to the bank without him.
Titus loved his owner fiercely. He wasn’t too happy about sharing her with me and let me know it right off the bat. It took a while, but gradually we came to an understanding about sleeping arrangements and PDAs and such, and although our understanding gradually turned into love, Titus and I never did stop jockeying for position at bedtime. Titus was 85 pounds of muscle and used every bit of it to control the center of the bed like an occupying army, but I never minded. I would gladly continue sleeping in the 12 inch-wide strip of bed that he grudgingly ceded to me at night just to have him still be here with us. Continue reading
Pets have a strong presence in my early memories—there are many reasons why, but one simple one is that animals and children spend a lot of time on the floor. Adults walk around and sit on chairs or couches, but our fat striped cat named Sophocles and our lanky old German Shepherd, Jess(i)e, were always lying around on the floor where I was constantly crawling and playing with Matchbox cars and Princess Leia. The animals lived in my world while people passed by like the legs in a Saturday morning cartoon.
If it seems strange that I don’t know how Jess(i)e’s name was spelled, she died when I was six, just as I was learning how to write and spell; her name was just a name spoken aloud, a name in the air. In my earliest recollections, she was already old: her back curved low and her legs stood wide as her hips betrayed her. I have so many memories of her struggling up the narrow red-carpeted stairs to our second floor apartment in a brownstone on Pierrepont Street. It’s a brutal experience that so many New Yorkers know: if you live in a walk-up, there is no way to avoid the pain and humiliation of stairs for old dogs. I guess my first awareness of death and the idea that death would happen, came from living with Jess(i)e.
Right after Halloween in 1984, my parents made the decision to put Jess(i)e down. She was almost fully blind and deaf and she could no longer make the trip up and down the steep stairs to go out. Clearly everyone around me was heartbroken. My older sister’s sadness in particular was a cue to how I should be feeling. She was a kid like me. But I don’t remember crying or being particularly sad. I do remember being terrified. My mother explained what ‘being put to sleep’ meant in the gentle, honest way that she had of talking to me. I was able to imagine the injection and the quick fading of life but knew it had nothing to do with sleep. When you are six, you go to sleep so that you can wake up again—it’s a temporary confinement imposed on your tiny boy body by your parents and by nature. It’s not sleep if you don’t wake up afterwards.
They took Jess(i)e to the vet and I stayed home and dreaded the fact that they would come back withouther. When my parents went out, they always came home with things: groceries, furniture, books, or new clothes because we grew so fast. This was the first time that they were taking something away, removing something. And not something—but Jess(i)e—with her wide milky brown eyes—who was definitely alive when she walked out the door. I wish I could tell you that I remember petting her or hugging her goodbye, but I don’t. I just remember that mixture of dread and relief: I saw how much pain she was always in. Even at six, I could recognize a half-life. Continue reading
My beloved Rosie (1993-2008) stuck by me through 2 cities, 5 apts, 2
graduate degrees and 1 break up. In addition to standard cat fare, she
was crazy about chicken tikka and coconut cake icing. She lost one of
her back legs and became a tripod in 2003 but hopped around for five
more years, every one of them more precious than the one before. Her
little black nose, movie star green eyes and wry sense of humor are
still missed every day.
Since I started this project, it seems only fair that Agatha and I go first. Here we are. She was a puppy. So was I. I was sick.
She may have been a little dog, but from when I was five through seventeen, Agatha was a great big part of my world. I’m an only child; she was my other – meaning she wasn’t really a sibling, she wasn’t really a friend, she wasn’t really my own little baby, she was all three. Her favorite snack: cat poop. Her second favorite snack: kid fingers (including my cousin Caitlin’s). She slept on my bed and, the neighbors would tell us, she howled when we were gone. She was feisty and funny and loyal. She once ate an entire bag of pancake mix from under the Christmas tree. She didn’t move for three days, but was, miraculously, fine. Most memorably to my parents and me, she proved a fine substitute for a horse – a tall order (literally) for a Scottish Terrier. Growing up in New York City, my little-girl dreams of waking up to a horse grazing in my pasture were dashed young and hard. So I trained Agatha to be my horse. She would run from one end of our house to the other and jump over my outstretched legs the way Laura’s horse Bunny cleared logs on Little House on the Prairie. I will never forget what she looked like airborne.
We knew when we woke up that she was dying. It was August 5th. I was seventeen. She was twelve. She was dazed and bloated and slow. We would learn later that a tumor had burst in her abdomen and her little body was filling with blood. It’s hard for me to admit this, but my mom drove her to the vet that day, alone. I went to to work instead, answering phones at my dad’s office, my summer job. I couldn’t handle the alternative. Before I left, I gave Agatha, who was lying outside on our deck, a long kiss right in that brindled soft spot between her eyes. We stayed there forever and I never saw her again. She was put to sleep a few hours later. My mom called to tell me. I left work early, lay on the couch for days, and watched soap operas for the first time in my life. I cried for years for that dog. Two decades later, I still have her name tag in my jewelry box; I can still feel her last brindle on my lips.