Many faithful readers will recall a few weeks ago when I wrote that our cat, who we have had a long, long time, began to step up to the plate as a dog. A year earlier, a lovely Bichon Frisé I’d had for many years died. I’ve never had a time in my life when I didn’t own a dog. But, I mourned Spalding for a year without getting a replacement. During that time, our cat, Hank, who for years and years lurked in the background, stepped up to the plate to take over. Hank would sleep in the crook of my arm. He’d meet me at the front door and march me in as I came home from work. He would curl up at my feet and stay there.
Many people told me it’s not unusual for a cat to replace a dog in a meaningful way like this. “Cats are very underrated,” said our vet, Dr. Turetsky. “Some of them.”
Three months ago, with the year up, my wife and I began looking for a dog. Eventually we adopted one from ARF. Her picture accompanies this article. What we know about our new dog, Bella, is that three surfers from Montauk were down in Rincon, Puerto Rico riding the waves, when Jane Lappin, a Hamptons resident who winters down there and rescues stray dogs, gave this dog and two others to the surfers when they were ready to return to eastern Long Island. They would bring them to ARF here in East Hampton, which they did, and it was there we met her, fell for her and took her home.
“Remember,” we were told, “if things don’t work, you can always bring Bella back.”
The reason I started this article writing about Hank the cat was because two weeks after I wrote about him (on the third day we had Bella) Hank died. We had brought Bella home, everybody was making a big fuss over Bella, the dog and cat sniffed each other and said it’s okay, and then, 48 hours later, we found Hank lying on his side gasping for air and clearly in extremis. He was just short of 20 years old—very, very old for a cat—but you can make a case, or I should say a good psychiatrist could make a case that Hank, having seen that his job was done, walked off into the sunset, as they say. Or, alternately that we broke his heart after bringing a new dog in who we seemed to make such a fuss over leaving Hank, as the jilted suitor, to pine away after all he had done for us by becoming a dog.
We miss Hank. But, we do dote over Bella. She appears to be about two thirds King Charles and one-third Jack Russell. She weighs 15 pounds. She has soft, sleek fur the color of a pinto pony and, upon seeing any other dog anywhere, has this sensational habit of issuing a happy bark and then leaping straight up in the air. All four feet leave the ground at the same time. She’s levitating. I’ve never seen a dog do that, but then, I’m told I’ve never been in the company of a Jack Russell, which does.
Bella is alert, mellow and playful. She has dog toys that, if you throw, she fetches. She’s had a litter of puppies, that we have not seen but we can tell. She looks about two years old. We take her back and forth between the city and the country on the Jitney (in a carrying case) and she prances proudly along in Central Park where, of course, when she poops we praise her grandly and pick it up with a baggie inside out (never touches our hand) and throw it in the trash.
So this brings us to the interesting story about Bella, that—happened today.
I am in East Hampton, my wife is in Manhattan. I have a lot to do today, but I will fit in what needs to be done for Bella. I will feed her and walk her on a leash in our yard. Then, I will need to bring a sample of her poop to Dr. Turetsky so he can examine it for worms. I also am supposed to give Bella a pill for worms, although that will have to be gotten from the good doctor when the time comes.
Bella has her breakfast. I have mine. And we go out in the yard for a walk. After messing around a bit, Bella poops. I gather it up in an inside out sandwich bag just as I do in Central Park. But unlike Central Park, I do not throw this in the outside garbage can. I intend to bring it to Dr. Turetsky. So, now I’m carrying it and it is swinging in my hand, a good sized poop, and then, I realize that there is a staff photo being taken this morning exactly at 11 a.m. in front of the new Dan’s Papers building in Southampton and I can’t be late. I look at my watch. Dr. Turetsky’s office is by the Ross School on the Sag Harbor Turnpike. A detour. I will not have time to do this.
I am now in the car, with Bella and Bella’s poop, thinking what do I do with this poop? I am not going to get this to the doctor until AFTER the photo, which might be two hours from now. I head out in the car. But, just down the road, turn around and come home. Two things. We do not need the full bag of poop, just a little bit of it. Also, I could get a Ziploc bag that would enclose this stuff more fully. Fact is, in the sandwich bag, I can still smell it. So I go home, get out a Ziploc bag, use a knife to take out a little bit of poop to put it in there, and then zip it shut. As for the sandwich bag, it goes in the garbage can on the way out.
I can’t believe I am telling this story. So NOW, where do I put the poop as I head back out? The glove compartment. I head out and we do the shoot. Bella is with me everywhere, so this is nice. But then, there are three scheduled meetings in a row I have to attend, which I do with Bella at my side and by that time it is past 4 p.m. and I call Dr. Turetsky and he is no longer open. I have to come tomorrow.
At this moment, it is evening and the poop in its bag is still in the glove compartment, but I’m beginning to think that my active little poop machine might manufacture something fresher between now and tomorrow, so should I throw it out? No, it stays.
Aren’t you glad you read this far? Well that’s this story and now there is one even better. Around 6 p.m., with dusk settling in at our house in East Hampton, I lie down on the sofa in the living room to take a 20-minute nap. I begin a nap by reading something from a book for a few minutes. It’s Walter Isaacson’s biography of Benjamin Franklin. And, I’m slipping away and realize I should take my glasses off. I do that setting them somewhere nearby. Bella then jumps up to find a spot between me and the sofa back and she lies down there to join me. Just as I am dozing off, I hear little cracking sounds. I am aware Bella is no longer on the sofa. I wonder what she’s eating.
Twenty minutes later, rested, I wake up and can’t find my glasses. I try the coffee table. No glasses. I try under the sofa, no glasses. I have a spare pair out in the car, but these that had been on my nose are very expensive glasses. I go out to the car to get the spares. Returning, I look at Bella. She is smiling and wagging her tail. “Did YOU take those glasses?” Now I am really on a tear. I take all the pillows off the sofa, try down in the seams. I look in the kitchen. I go upstairs to look by the bed. I come down and, crossing the living room rug, kick something that turns out to be my glasses. But, they are pretty much chewed up.
So here is the story, as I piece it together. I take the glasses off just as I am about to go to sleep but all I do is set them on the sofa in the space between my body and the back of the sofa. Bella jumps up and snuggles in that space. There is something poking her. I am now snoring. She finds the offending thing under herself, takes it in her mouth, leaps off the sofa and onto the floor and bites my glasses to death. She thinks she has just removed an offending object from where we were trying to sleep. She is smiling and wagging her tail.
“Good Bella,” say I.
I think of the poop in the glove compartment. I can take the broken glasses to Dr. Roeloff on my way to Dr. Turetsky. He could get away with just making new frames.
So this is all the good stuff just today about life with a dog. People are either for dogs or agin’ ‘em. I’m for them.