Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Gone to the dogs

This photo was taken in =the early 80s and it still looks like the height of the luxury of affection. I was dog-sitting for a friend who traveled frequently and who also had a great fondness for Jack Russells.  The guy on the left with his left paw on my reclined shoulder was Sparky who was the leader of his pack, a tough little guy who was an excellent ratter in the landscape of Beverly Hills where the vermin population rivals NYC. The little one under my left arm is Sweet Pea who was every bit as tough as Mr. Sparky but demure in gait and gentleness when not playing with the boys. The Shih Tzu on my lap was Polo (whom I nicknamed Po Po) who showed up at my door one rainy day in Los Angeles complete with collar and identity. When I finally got in touch with his master (who lived around the corner from me) and took him to his home, the “master” – a talent agent met me at the door still in his bathrobe, said to me: “you wanna dog?” and that was that. Polo was 8 years old at the time.  And underneath my right foot was the shy and sweet little Rum Rum who was Sweet Pea’s boyfriend and constant companion and came to live with me and Polo after his mistress had been away long enough.
Wednesday, November 9, 2016. The Day After the Election. Very mild weather here in New York as I write this at close to midnight 11/8/16. Sunny all day yesterday with temperatures hovering in the low to mid-60s.

The city was comparatively quieter than usual for a weekday because of the election. Some offices were closed for the day. There were long lines at many of the voting places. I went to lunch to interview Diana Picasso at Sant Ambroeus on Madison Avenue between 77th and 78th. It was jammed  (and very loud). I saw Erica Jong and her daughter Molly Jong-Fast in the crowd. Diana is being honored on Thursday night at the “Breaking the Rules Gala” at BAM where there will be the premiere performance of Jonah Bokaer and Daniel Arsham’s piece, Rules of the Game, with Original Score by Pharrell Williams. But more on that tomorrow.
Election parties all over town. Last night I had an early dinner at Sette Mezzo with my friend Kathy Sloane, who is one of the city’s major private residential real estate brokers and a long time friend of Hillary Clinton whom she has known since the Clintons’ Arkansas days when Kathy’s husband Harvey Sloane was mayor of Louisville (KY) and one time Congressman from the state. Kathy had already been to one election party and after we finished dinner, she was going on to potentially two more at the New-York Historical Society and the Javits Center.

Traffic last night mid-evening was exceptionally light, almost like a midsummer night when so many people were out of town. I could only conclude they, like Kathy, were at parties or at home glued to their TVs.
Gone to the dogs ... and cats. At this pivotal moment in American life and politics, since NYSD stays clear of any kind of partisanship for reasons having to do with Common Sense (you-go-your-way-I’ll-go-mine to quote Nobel Prize Winner Bob Dylan) and the media has the story, we thought it would be a good time to discuss another important matter in the lives of millions of us, and that is our four-legged friends in need (and otherwise).

I recently received a sweet book from the Humane Society called “Rescue Me” put together for the Humane Society by photographer Richard Phibbs, journalist Richard Jonas, and artist, author and illustrator James Victore about the canines and felines that have passed through the portals of the Humane and been adopted into homes like mine and JH and his wife Danielle.
There have been dogs and cats in my life since my earliest memories, and looking through the book tugging on my heart strings, I was reminded of all the great furry quadrupeds who have shared life with me over the years. I also coincidentally received a New Year 2017 calendar from the ASPCA on the same subject. And so I am sharing with you some of the characters and creatures from both the Humane and the SPCA in their publications, as well as those in my life and in JH and Danielle’s life.
Looking back, I have had quite a few dogs and cats in my now long life. All of them were initially gifts of friends or strays or members of litters that needed homes. I’ve always loved animals and at this point have concluded that (almost all) children can thrive on having them when growing up because they are perfect outlets for developing natural affection and for understanding the value of loyalty in relationships. Dogs and cats wear it naturally, and so can we.
When Polo died at 12, living in Los Angeles, I called a shelter and asked if they had a Shih Tzu that needed a home. I was told they had a two-year-old female who was “a biter.” I had a vet out there who had once told me that it was very difficult to break a dog of that because it was usually developed when a dog is a pup and abused (and defending itself). I decided to take her, and take a chance. The first night I had her home, we had an earthquake about two a.m. She was in the bedroom and frightened, and had taken refuge in a corner. When I went to pick her up, facing her, she snapped at me. I put her down and noticed that she was immediately remorseful and frightened. Evidently she experienced this before and expected punishment. So instead of punishing her, I stroked her coat and gently told her it was “all right.” She calmed down. I learned that the danger was in surprising her or getting too close to her face. She never bit me again although I discovered that people often put their noses in dogs’ faces which can frighten them. I never did that, and never would. I named her Fa Fa which was the funny nickname of a girl I knew when I was a child. I called her Mrs. Fa Fa. She was a sweet little thing. When I moved to New York, she came with me, along with ...
Rum Rum and another little guy name Boyzie Woyzie whose picture I didn’t have. Mrs. Fa Fa lived to be 12 and died of congestive heart failure which unfortunately is not uncommon among her breed.
This is little David, age two years, sitting on the lap of his beloved Aunt Natnie with his first family dog, a gentle mutt named Brownie. Natnie and Brownie were my introduction in life to unconditional love.
This is big Dave about sixty-odd years later on the beach in Southampton with little Missy (whom I often called Madam because the name fit) and Buster who came to live with me from the Center for Animal Control where he missed being put down by one day.

Missy came to me through a neighbor who had purchased her as a companion to her much older Shih Tzu but Missy was so aggressively playful and affectionate that her initial owner was worried that it would be hurtful to the feelings of the older dog, and I took her. Missy died, age fourteen, earlier this year, and was a great loss. Buster died at my feet one very late night when I was at my desk in 2007.
And here is Missy/Madam with Jenny whom I met at one of the ASPCA’s annual Bergh Ball galas. Jen Jen, as I called her, was 12 when she came to live with us, and nearly blind. She was very self-isolating and shy. Wherever she had been for the first twelve years of her life must have been very difficult and harsh for she was not used to any kind of affection, and spent most of her time in her little dog bed except when she was fed and when went out for walks where she flourished at the smells around her. Jen died four years later at age 16. She had a good comfortable life despite her self-isolating for the last four years of her life.

And next to her on the right was little Byrone, a sweet little guy whom I met at the Humane Society. Byrone was two when he came to live with us, and was madly in love with Missy who liked him too although after a little rough-housingshe could take him or leave him. He didn’t mind; he was loyal. The sweet little guy died almost six years later in 2013 from congestive heart.
When Byrone died, I met Tobey at Bide-a-Wee. He was about a year old and like little Byrone, Tobey was mad about Missy/Madam, and although he liked him, and liked playing with him, she could take him or leave him after she’d had enough.

After Missy died, I called the Humane Society and asked if they had any Shih Tzus who needed homes. They told me they had two. When I went to pick them up, I met Willy, the little guy on the right. Willy is definitely not a Shih Tzu (he’s a Yorkie Poo), weighed four pounds, less than a year old and very slow in getting house broken, and ...
... along with him I was introduced to Rosemary, about a year old and definitely also not a Shih Tzu (but how could I say no) and possibly the most energetic dog I’ve ever had. She’s Willy’s best buddy fellow devil-dog getting into mischief. She eats twice as fast as the boys and twice as much, and when she’s finished, she goes after their bowls (while they’re eating – unless I say NO!). On walks she’s the toughest dog in the neighborhood and often walked only on her hind legs since Dave has to restrain her from threatening any dog who she passes by with her growls and barks. When disciplined, she rolls on her back and wags her tail vigorously like the innocent little one she isn’t.
The gang all together.
This is Oliver Hirsch who met his master JH at an ARF benefit in Southampton in 2000. Ollie was two or three or four and had had three homes before JH. It must have been simply that he was waiting to meet JH because he was the sweetest, most adoring (and clever) dog once they met. Ollie left us a few years ago.
And standing next to Ollie is Ewok who was a feral kitten when rescued by Danielle’s mother several years ago. When he’s nice he’s very very nice (and has the loudest purr of any cat I’ve ever known), and when he’s bad, he’s ... horrid (but it doesn’t last).
And here’s the old boy with his girlfriend Sophie whom JH and Danielle met through an NYSD reader who found her in her hallway and couldn’t keep her because she had two much older cats who were not pleased with her presence. Little Sophes has the patience of Job when dealing with Ewok/Shmee.

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