“A sixteen year old dog was surrendered to Animal Control Saturday. He needs a home.” said my computer.
If you’ve read my earlier entries you’re probably waiting for me to say it was a sign. But no, it wasn’t. To be more precise the plea came out of my computer speakers, and it belonged to Maria Milito, the DJ and animal advocate on New York’s Q104.3 classic rock station.
She’d planted a seed of an obsession in my brain. When it comes to obsessions the soil of my brain can be most fertile, encouraging them to take root and send out tendrils and vines that strangle any rational thinking that might be attempting to send up a shoot or two. Usually these seeds involve cutting my hair or finding just the right pair of flip-flops.
“Did you hear that?” I asked my co-worker, Laura.
She hadn’t, but after hearing it in my words, said “You don’t want a dog. You don’t have time for a dog.”
She’s told me this every time I’ve mentioned that maybe I need a dog. And usually that’s all I need to hear. But a sixteen year old dog? The poor thing. Who could anyone do that? The more I thought about it, the more I realized, this might just work. After all –
- Sixteen?” How long was he going to last? This way I could see if a dog would fit into my lifestyle. It would be kind of an experiment.
- Sixteen? How much energy would he have. He’d sleep all day and I wouldn’t have to worry about him hurting the cats.
- Sixteen? That probably meant he was house trained.
I checked out the New York City Animal Care and Control website . He was easy to find, the only sixteen year old dog who had been surrendered on Saturday
“Laura,” I whined. “Come here.I’m in big trouble. Look what his name is!”
She crossed the room and bent over my computer screen “Yeah? Marcos.”
“Don’t you see? Marceau, Marcel, and now Marcos?”
Now I was seeing a sign.
I e-mailed Maria and she was more than happy to put me in touch with the outreach person at Animal Control who, in turn, promised to have the kennel manager get back to me. I needed to know Marcos’ temperament since my main concern was how he’d get on with the cats. I never heard from the kennel manager so there was nothing left but to see for myself. Friday I emailed Maria once more to make sure he was still there.
Yes, she replied. She’d been there the previous evening, working with the volunteers and saw him. Her only comment was that he’s very thin.
Saturday turned out to be a day of October gold, a picture perfect backdrop for an apprehensive me to drive into the city, hoping I wasn’t bringing an earthquake home to Fremont’s World. I reminded myself I could turn around at any time. I didn’t have to do this. But my obsession was set in drive I couldn’t not do this.
NYCACC is a fortress-like multi-story building abuzz with noise and movement. I showed the website print-out to a man at the information window. He looked at the number A317 and directed me up to the third floor. I took the stairs and upon opening the door marked 3, found myself at the end of a long cinder block corridor punctuated by doors that opened to rooms lined with chain link runs. I seemed to be in the pitbull/rottweiler section. Barking vied with the metallic clanging of fences and the smell of damp concrete rose as kennel workers hosed down the floors, switching dogs from one run to another. Amidst all this, a parade of prospective adopters flowed in and out of the rooms clucking, whispering, and wiggling finger at dogs who caught their fancy. And this was only one of four floors; no wonder the kennel manager never got back to me.
I found a young woman in yellow rubber boots and showed her the profile .”A rescue group is taking him,” she said.
“Rescue group?” I asked. “Aren’t they going to have to find him a home. I am a home.” I followed her to a computer terminal at the end of the corridor where she clicked a few keys and told me “Nope, they took him yesterday.”
I went back out into the orange autumn sun, my spirits floating like a feather. Yes! I had tried. That’s all that mattered. it just wasn’t meant to be. The world was good. I rewarded myself with a trip to Trader Joe’s and returned home.
On Monday morning, I e-mailed Maria to tell her of the happy ending. She replied immediately.Do you want me to find the rescue group?
Alas, my craziness had only been lying low. I typed yes
And so I made the acquaintance of Linda Vetrano, the wonderful woman who, with the help of her network of foster parents and generous veterinarians, runs Posh Pets Rescue. She adopts dogs on Animal Control’s kill list, sees that they are given any necessary medical care, and a temporary home until a permanent one can be found.
“Marcos is presently at the veterinarian with a terrible case of kennel cough”, she told me in her East London accent.” He’ll be staying there until it is cured. We only place healthy dogs.” Her five-day estimate turned out to be ten, and the foster mom she’d hoped would be able to test him a night or two in her multi-cat household had to bow out when one of the cats came down with a urinary tract infection.
As these delays piled up that subversive voice reminded me “This is giving you time to change your mind.” But did I listen? No. On another beautiful October afternoon I retraced my trip into Manhattan, but his time to a veterinary office on Second Avenue. I found a parking space on Eighty Sixth and Third, three blocks up and one block over from the vet’s office which in terms of NY parking is a gift. After all, this was the Upper East Side on a Saturday afternoon.As I hurried along ( I only had a 30 minute meter) I found myself worrying, one, would he be able to walk these five blocks, and two, could he could make it up to the front seat of my truck. Maybe if I got all the paper work done I could come back, get the truck and double park. They could bring him out and help me lift him into the truck.
The veterinary office, like most in Manhattan, was a store- front operation. The front room was filled with waiting clients and their fluffy little poodle types and cats in carriers. Rafael, the technician came out and suggested he bring Marcos out through the side entrance. I found that odd but agreed, handing over the thin woven leash and camouflage collar I’d bought. He took one look at the leash and said, “You’d better get a longer leash. He’s going to pull you all over town with this. “And he was gone in a flash, leaving me to match up these words with my image of Marcos. I didn’t have to wonder long.I waited outside for a minute or so when I heard staccato nails and maniacal panting. The door flew open and Rafael handed me the taut leash. At the other end was a raring to go sheath of muscle and ribs, declaring to all the world that he’d been sprung from the joint.
“This is the Posh pets dog, right?” I asked Rafael as he re-entered the building.
“Yep,” he said. “Marcos.”
Our walk back to second Avenue can best be described as a tug of war. Me, trying to establish dominance, and Marcos, a dog on a mission and in a hurry to get there. When we arrived at the truck, I opened the passenger door and he was on the front seat in one graceful leap. He stood, in perfect pointer stance, facing front for the entire one hour ten minute drive home. He never moved. Months later I related this at a family gathering and my brother declared, “He was memorizing the way back.” Don’t you love little brothers?
We arrived home and I led him to the door. I peeped through the glass, and as usual, Marceau and Marcel were at the door, ready to welcome me home.
I tightened my hold on the leash, pulling Marcos close, and opened the door slowly. They saw him before he saw them, and if he did catch a glimpse, it was of a whirl of black and white legs, hightailing it up to the loft. I led Marcos into the spare room which was to be his until I could judge the climate. He took one look at the bed and leaped onto it, perching there as if to say “yeah, my kind o’ place.
I secured the thirty inch gate I’d purchased, and walked through the living room into the kitchen.The cats recovered their composure at seeing me in the kitchen. If I was in the kitchen, it must be to feed them. I opened the fridge to get cat food and froze at the sound of a thud followed by a rush of nails tapping over my living room floor.
“No! No!’ Put him down,” I screamed as Marcos stood wide mouthed over Marceau.I don’t know if it was my hysteria or Marcel’s protective hissing and growling but he skidded back to his new bed, clearing the gate in one graceful arc, and stared back at me as if I’d imagined it all.
“Sixteen years old, hmm.” I muttered, as I stacked books under the gate to raise its height.
And then I recalled the other thing Maria Milito had said when she’d told me Marcos was very thin. “He definitely doesn’t look his age.”
To capsulize the last four and a half years:
When Marcos entered The House of Mars, he weighed 46 pounds.
He is now sixty-eight pounds.
but he was observing and biding his time. When he finally approached Marcos it was with a one-two to his tail.
For the most part, Marcel stays above the fray
while Marceau has become a stalker
prone to nudging his Marcos out of his own bowl at chow time.
On our first visit to the vet he made an estimate that Marcos was more like eight or nine years old. On our last visit, in October, I commented that Marcos had gained twenty-two pounds in his three years with me. The doctor looked at his chart and said, “According to my notes, you’ve had him four years.”
Time flies when you’re having fun I guess. And so you have The House of Mars – Marcel, Marceau,Marcos, and yes me, my middle name is Margaret.