Taking the Chance, Taking the Leap
Reader, I Married Him
As Elton John once sang: "Someone Saved My Life Tonight."
I don't think he was talking about a dog. But I must admit my own personal savior had huge, black liquid eyes, four paws and a fluffy, black and white tail.
It was one of those Sunday Afternoons. I was wandering aimlessly around New York City, having my ninth Existential Crisis of the Day, when I passed the Trump Pet Store, a fancy place on Manhattan's Upper East Side.
And it was there that I saw them. Four tiny puppies that burrowed their way immediately into my heart. The elegant, commanding black woman who worked there saw me watching them. "Oh honey," she said. 'Just do it."
Twenty minutes later I experienced what some mystics meditate and wait their whole lives for: The much sought after and elusive Opening of the Heart.
It happened at a Puppy Palace just up the block. There was a Shih Tzu puppy there and once I held him, nothing was ever the same. He burrowed into me and looked up with such trust, such love. When I finally pulled myself away, I had the feeling of being wounded -- that my heart was slowly being broken apart -- torn piece by torn piece.
There was only one problem. This particular dog causing such havoc in my heart cost alot of money. As in $1,500. And I didn't have a job. And there was hardly any money left in my savings.
So, after spending a week in a Doggie Daze, making phone call after phone call, I took two subway trains and a bus all the way out to a place called Bellerose, Queens to find the rescue organization called Noah's Ark.
When they brought him out, he was emaciated and his black and white coat was matted. He looked like a very forlorn skunk. And when they sat him down on my lap, his weary bloodshot eyes looked up at me with a simple acknowledgement -- that Yes, We Were Meant for Each Other.
He lay down in my arms, his small body trembling. I held him. I stroked him. I walked him.
And despite everything he had been through, he held his head and tail high -- a kind of jaunty sway to his walk.
That's when I knew. This dog had Style. This dog had Funk. This dog had Sex Appeal.
The rescue people told me his name was Spot -- or just Baby. But I knew, right then and there: He was the One. His name was going to be Lucky.
"He doesn't usually take to people like that," the tall black guy named Vernon, who worked in the shelter told me. We took a spin around the neighborhood. In dog talk, that means A Walk Around the Neighborhood, stopping at every tree to pee and sniff.
Earlier, over the weekend, I had gone on another Meet and Greet. On the Upper West Side, Pee Wee, a Corgi mix, had been waiting for me. He was standing there at the door of the apartment where he was being fostered, a huge smile on his face. His eyes, so expressive and bright, seemed to ask me: "Are you the One?"
"He's a sturdy dog," the rescue worker told me. She was very stern -- probably from seeing so much heart break. She kept asking me: "Why do you want a dog now?"
What could I tell her? That I was suddenly lonely and hungry for Doggy Love. That my heart needed to beat for another.
All I knew was this: It hit me like a Thunderbolt. From somewhere Out There. One day, I was walking around, your typical neurotic, somewhat morose New York, at loose ends, believing that I was Fancy Free -- that I could go anywhere -- have any adventure. What I was really for, though, was a Reason to Live.
And after my mystical moment in the pet shop, every dog in the city seemed to be communicating with me.
Their eyes bore into me. And they had so much to say. Suddenly, it seemed -- I was talking to the Whole Animal Planet.
And Pee Wee? His eyes still haunt me. He had the most heartbreaking smile. I've never seen a dog smile like that.
But at Noah's Ark, I knew. This was Destiny. Here was that indefinable someone, or something I had been waiting for all my life. Like the Gentleman Caller in the Glass Menagerie. Or Godot.
I told Jasmine, a young girl who worked at the shelter: "I''d like to adopt the Shih Tzu." On the way home, I sat in a daze. "What have I done?" I asked myself. But I knew then, I knew. I was going to take the Leap. I was going to get a dog. And I was going to take that Leap with Lucky.
Reader, I married him.