This is a tale with twists.
I am the sort of person who lurks at the pet store on Lexington Avenue at 63rd and convinces other people to buy the puppy they’re cuddling. Gentle reader, I confess, I also say hello to a cardinal and a raccoon in Central Park.
My first pet wasn’t a pet at all. He was a bushy, feral cat who lived on my aunt’s dairy farm 20 minutes from my house in Philadelphia. I passed intense afternoons trying to pet him. Farm cats frequently aren’t allowed in the house. They’re mousers whose rich coats are a result of hanging out in unheated barns. I’d toss food near the cat, and after he wolfed it down, I positioned tidbits nearer and nearer to myself. He inched over and ate. This went on until one day I was happily stroking him, and then he scratched me and ran.
Indeed, many pet stories aren’t cute. My first boyfriend gave me two ducklings that we eventually set loose on my aunt’s pond. After dinner one night, my aunt said I’d eaten my pets.
My next cat was a sleek Siamese with huge apprehensive blue eyes. He’d been abandoned in an apartment I rented one summer near Columbia. At night, he’d sleep curled into my neck. We were two of a kind. I remember our bus ride to graduate school in Philadelphia, the cat meowing nervously in a supermarket carton. (Siamese are big talkers.) I whispered back that things were going to be fine—and they were—even though I soon started wheezing when he settled into my neck to sleep. We compromised: he slept between my ankles.
When, I learned poodles don’t cause allergies, I bought a black standard puppy advertised in the Times. Rocky laughed by lolling his tongue foolishly out of one side of his mouth. He danced on his hind legs to Ray Charles. When we played hide-and-seek, I’d say, “stay,” and hide in the closet or shower until he found me.
I found my next dog Rocky 2 at the Harlem ASPCA. Every part of him was wriggling, but the manager said he was totally adoptable and promised to the North Shore Animal League, the Cadillac of adoption centers. When Rocky 2 (a poodle-schnauzer) got indigestion, I began cooking chicken, brown rice and vegetables for him. This diet, plus the fact that he was a small mixed-breed (now named a “schnoodle”), helped my companion live for 20 years. Your longest relationship, said an ex-boyfriend.
These days I live with a man and a fancy, silvery white Maltese named Tootsie. Tootsie had looked miserable, pacing in his cage at the Lexington Avenue pet store. (I now know little white dogs often have leaky sad eyes.) But when I asked why he was unhappy, a wily salesman said his brother’d been sold.
I brought the man I live with to meet Tootsie, but Joe Weintraub stormed out, saying anybody who pays this much for a dog is nuts.
Weeks passed. Every day Tootsie tugged like a pit bull on my sneaker laces. I finally paid two months’ rent to liberate the sad puppy.
In our apartment, he transformed into the happiest, most loving creature.
Here’s the twist de resistance. He’s a one-person dog—and his person is Joe. Tootsie’s bliss is sitting on Joe’s lap, his expensive chin hanging over Joe’s bare wrist. Maybe it’s male bonding, but I know Joe owes me big time.
Susan Braudy is the author and journalist whose last book, Family Circle: The Boudins and the Aristocracy of the Left, was nominated for a Pulitzer by publisher Alfred Knopf.
Trackback from your site.