I came down with a serious case of puppy fever in the spring of 2016.
It was not my fault. I had really done what I could stave off the illness for a long time. I already had a wonderful dog, Yankee, whom all agreed was, ironically, the cat’s pajamas. He was well behaved, friendly, obedient, loving and understood more words of English that most Trump supporters. He was more than a companion. He was my best friend.
Also, my wife, whom I had married only a few years before, was not a dog person. She was a cat person. In fact, our home in Rio in addition to having a cat named Alice was decorated with 100’s of representations of cats. Everything from some statues to pictures to photographs with my wife petting Cheetahs. Even though she adored Yankee, although admitting that he was the first dog that she had ever loved, it was clear that one dog was more than enough for her.
So where did I catch the contagion? How did I let it seep into my blood and eventually overtake me? Like many things in my life, I blame my sister. Prior to that spring she had been spending a lot of time on animal rescue sites considering adding a dog to her family. Eventually, on Fluffy Dog rescue, she had come across an adorable black dog with a white blaze on its chest and she had fallen in love. Eventually the dog would be named Bosco (a thoroughly adorable name) and my sisters’ family eagerly awaited his arrival with Bated (my sister’s married name is Bates) breath.
Their enthusiasm was hard to ignore. It reminded me of the period of time between Yankee’s birth and his arrival in New York City. How I had arrived home from work each day to watch endless shows on dogs and vets. How I had consumed book after book on dog training and would constantly stop dogs and their owners on the street to coo at the dog and ask questions about local vets of its owners. How on the fateful day that Yankee arrived in New York how it had been love at first site and how they first night I slept on the floor next to his crate so he would not be frightened. And the smell. The glorious smell of puppy came flooding back to be and it is then that puppy fever took me over.
I had to get a puppy. I required a puppy. Without a new puppy my life would be shit.
I knew the first obstacle I would have to overcome is my wife’s reluctance to add another dog to her life. Considering her feline proclivities, it would be very difficult for her. I knew I needed to provide her with a rational that was both logical and emotional. It did not require any stretch of the imagination to come up with a convincing argument. Yankee at the time was nearly 14 years old. I explained to her that he was very elderly in dog years and that the likelihood was that his decline, when it did happen, would be quick and that the thought of a household without a dog filled me with dread. On top of which, Yankee being such a superior dog, could help me train the pup and be a comfort to him.
I am not saying that convincing her was easy. It was not. She is after all a lawyer by training but eventually after a lot of back and forth she agreed. I contacted Yankee’s breeder and asked her to reserve a puppy for me. That I didn’t care what sex nor color although Red would be ideal. On June 4, 2016 I received the news that I wanted to hear. Our puppy had been born and the breeder wanted to know what I wanted to name the puppy. This was complicated. Yankee had been named because he was a doodle who was born on the 4th of July. Even a Red Sox fan such as myself had to name the dog Yankee but I had sworn that after years of taking shit from Yankee fans about the name of my dog, my new puppy was going to be named for my beloved Sox. Many names were considered. I was very partial to the name Fenway, but my wife could not relate to the name. So we added the name Rose for her color and we agreed upon Fenway Rose or Rosie.
The next 12 weeks were among the longest summers I have ever spent waiting in anticipation for the new addition to our family. We would celebrate every update, every photograph, every video of Rosie we could get. One video I recall was on one of Rosie’s first outside playdates with her litter mates. The breeder sat on a blanket with the puppies surrounding her as she cooed for each by name. When Rosie’s name was called she just stared at the woman who called her name for a second as if deciding it was worth while responding and then seeing another puppy jumping onto the breeder’s lap she galumphed her way to the woman, pushing the other puppy out of the way, demanding the earned love from the breeder.
Rosie arrived at Newark Airport on September 4 and from the time I saw her black nose sticking out through the grill of her shipping case I was totally in love. She smelled like puppy. She wagged her whole body not just her tail. She smelled like a puppy. And she wanted nothing more than to be loved by you.
But two truths became self-evident early on. First, that owning two dogs was not as simple as I thought it would be. Second, that Rosie was a very different dog than Yankee.
The first is best illustrated in housebreaking. The nature of being a puppy is that mistakes happen. Often when you are not looking. This results in a small mess or puddle that needs to be cleaned up and de-scented and a more vigilant eye. The problem is that when you have a male alpha like Yankee who is trying to teach this little bitch who is boss a mistake made by her is often covered by him and thereby compounding the mess and reinforcing to the little girl it is okay to piss on the floor.
That they were different became apparent on the first night. I had arranged for Rosie to have a crate separate from Yankee’s. I thought that it would be better if, at least for now, that they would sleep separately. I was as I had with Yankee been quite willing to sleep on the floor next to her as a comfort to her in this new place. I expected that she would respond as Yankee had. That is, after a few minutes of whimpering she would calm herself and would fall asleep near my proffered fingers. She did not. She cried all night. This didn’t disappear. I used to be able to leave Yankee the whole day in his crate without any problem. I could not leave Rosie for 10 minutes without receiving angry calls from our neighbors. It was months, after lots of consulting, aggressive training and frustration that we hit on a solution: putting Rosie and Yankee in a crate together. It seemed that our little girl hated to be alone.
A new pattern was soon established in our home. Yankee became the reluctant older brother to a very bratty sister who required all the attention. If any affection was shown to Yankee it needed to be immediately shown to her. If that love for Yankee lasted anything longer than the bear minimum Rosie would place her body in between you and Yankee suggesting that she needed to be the center of everyone in the known universes attention. She even had her own theme song. Alexa Ray Joel’s notice me whose chorus was.
Notice me, notice me, notice me, notice me
Face it, baby, you need me, don’t pretend you don’t see me, baby
Notice me, notice me, notice me, notice me
You can be the one to please me, honey
What was also apparent to everyone who met her was that she was a joyous dog. She loved people. She loved other dogs. She loved to play and was easily trained in most regards. She especially loved going to day care where she would the spend the whole day exorcising her inner puppy and come home to sleep her energy depleted.
She, along with Yankee, were great office companion. As I often worked from home and would spend the vast majority of my days without seeing and sometimes talking to another living soul, this was quite comforting. When I would work at my desk she would often go to sleep on my feet in the well of the desk. Or if I were reading or think very deep thoughts while horizontal on my couch she would often petition to be added to the bio mass already reclining.
Then one afternoon in March of 2018, Rosie inadvertently stepped on Yankees rear leg. His howl let me know the seriousness of his injury and I rushed him to the Vet. He was diagnosed with bone cancer and the next day we had to let him go. The devastation of that day is hard to describe but even two years later it is impossible to write or think about without tears.
The loss was hard all on of us and no doubt Rosie suffered. But she also saw how I suffered. She was a constant companion demanding that we love her and showering us with love. She would, while I was sitting on the couch, often jump up and lick my face furiously or when she would find me staring vacantly into space place her head on my knee to remind me she was there and she cared. She had figured out how to comfort us while comforting herself.
Over time, our days became routine. Just at or just before dawn I would wake and take Rosie for our early morning tramp. She being a late sleeper did not easily get out of bed but once outside she, like me, would revel in participating in the breaking of a new day. Me, enjoying the suns relighting the world often in vivid pinks and oranges and her exploring all the scents that had been left over night and re-establishing her dominance over the world by leaving reminders of her presence.
After breakfast we would retreat to the study, where I would endeavor to work, and she would endeavor to find the most comfortable position on a couch often twisting her body into impossible positions with little care that it was unladylike. Noon would bring another walk, usually a different route than the morning where she reasserted her dominance and challenged other dogs to play or signaled them that she was the toughest bitch in town.
Afternoon, when I could work no more, I retreated to the couch to take a nap. She seeing her space was taken would contemplate the situation and then crawl up over my body and find a nook I had not occupy to fall asleep. Often, I would go to the gym late in the day and leave her in the crate while I sweated the toxins of the day away. On my return she would never fail to give me a piece of her mind reminding me clearly that she didn’t enjoy alone time. This often produced a late afternoon walk where she fiercely defended me against the affections of other dogs letting them know I was her man beast.
When I cooked dinner she was my assistant in charge of anything that happened to fall on the floor. She assiduously watched me eat my supper even though her evening meal had been prepared at the same time until I gave her a treat.
After a relaxing evening there was one last walk where she again marked her territory letting any who cared to know that this neighborhood was protected by her. Once I made it to bed, and if Elaine was in Brazil, she would wait until just before I fell asleep to place her front paws on the bed to signal that I had the obligation to pick her up and place her in the bed. I almost always acquiesced which would result in an unwanted session of face licking until she would find her 2/3rds of the bed and fall asleep.
She became over time, as good dogs do, mans best friend. My best friend.
When I would travel, either for work or to visit Elaine at our home in Brazil, I would send her off with her good friends at “The Farm” run by the wonderful Jessica Valentino and her staff from Wonder Dog studios. There Rosie would revel in the open fields and the chance to play to her hearts content. Jessica would send me photos of a happy dog dashing about with other dogs literally having the times of my life. Instinctually, I knew that she would much rather be playing with her friends than with hanging about with me but whenever we were reunited, she never failed to show much joy and happiness at my arrival. That is before she went and found the couch and passed out from her exhausting time at the farm.
I left for Brazil almost a month ago with the strictest intentions of being home ten days later. But the world intervened on my plans and like so many Americans Covid 19 trapped me far away from those I love and cherish not the least of which is Rosie. My man’s best friend with whom I spent almost everyday over the past 4 years. I miss our walks. I miss her hogging the couch and the bed. I miss her bitching about leaving her alone. I miss her facials even when her tongue gets in my nose. I miss the sense of peace I get when she falls asleep with her head in my lap.
Considering all the things that are going on in this world, the 100,000’s of deaths, the millions made ill, the multitudes of un or underemployed, the nations and continents that are under protective stay in place orders why I am spending so much time talking about a dog who, considering the outstanding time she is likely having at the farm, may not be missing me at all. Because the greatest gift Covid 19 has given us is time.
Time to spend thinking and evaluating all we hold dear. Time to spend contemplating all things we value. Or as Queen Elizabeth stated so eloquently yesterday to take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.’
It is time to be grateful for all of the things we have in our life…even if it happens to be a bitch.