Truly Kindred Spirits

Having listen to you on the radio from the very beginning, one gets the feeling that we know you, obviously, this can not be true. My wife and I read your book about Spritey and we knew instantly that we are truly kindred spirits. First, let me express my deep heartfelt condolences on your loss. I have not stopped feeling absolutely miserable for you since I finished the book. You touched a sensitive and raw nerve that I have managed to bury very deep for a very, very long time. Reading your book has brought back a flood of memories concerning the many dogs that we have personally owned and those that have been in our lives by proxy. Each and everyone of them has had their own personality and have touched our lives in their own special way.

Dogs that we have rescued from shelters or found wandering the streets. Dogs we have nursed back to health or have gravitated to us in their street wanderings. My father was on of 9 children and two of his brothers (Tom and Mike) lived on the block with their families. Their dogs, were our dogs by proxy. When my father emptied my grandmother’s apartment after she died, he gave all the paintings that my mother’s neighbor, Mr. Hockrime (“Hock”) had painted. One treasured painting was of my mom’s Chow “Teddy”. This picture was in a square frame but matted in a circle. That picture was absolutely scary, the dog looked like he would jump out of the frame. My mother, till the say she died, never forgave my father for giving away that picture of her Teddy. Each and every one of these animals touches us and leaves indelible marks on our psyche. My Uncle Tom had a blonde mix that he found in the street and named Princie. She was beautiful, a collie mix.

That dog could sense when my uncle’s car was rounding the corner and returning home. That dog rode in the front seat of the car with my uncle while his wife was relegated to the back seat. He would leave the car locked with the engine running and the Air Conditioning on for the dog when he would stop at a shopping center. The family had a summer place up at Greenwood Lake and when we were kids and sent to bed earlier than the adults, it was always comforting to have Princie sleep by our beds. Some how the Hoot Owl, and the Raccoon scratching on the roof of the branch hitting the window and all the other country sounds foreign to a city dweller didn’t seem so scary with her sleeping near by. My Uncle Mike had a dog he named “Lady”, after “Lady and the Tramp”. Lady was beautiful, she had the face of a deer and her body was colored like a deer. She had a short haired smooth coat. Her face was white and her body was a brownish tan. Her resemblance to a doe didn’t end their. My father’s back yard was six feet higher than my uncle’s and it had a three foot fence at its edge.

One day, Lady jumped the fence from my father’s side onto my uncle’s property some 9 feet below. Any other dog would have crumbled into a broke ball and killed themselves, not Lady, she rebounded like a gazelle. Every year, she would jump the 4 foot fence and trot up to Sunset Park. She would saunter back in a couple of hours, being full of herself, and a few weeks later birth the most beautiful puppies, none of which ever went wanting for a home. As kids, not knowing anything about the birds and the bees, we thought that park was somehow magical. I guess Lady did too, she kept going back. Then there was Shane, an Irish setter which my cousin Diane, my uncle mike’s daughter, got just before she died. This dog would stand on his hind legs and throw his front paws over your shoulders hugging you like a long lost friend. He gave me one last mournful hug after Diane’s passing. My uncle knew someone who had a huge piece of property in the country, and he was well looked after. My Uncle Mike had a spectacular German Shepard he named Caesar. My then future wife had been traumatized as a child by a stray dog in the country and it left her fearful of dogs. This would not do in my family, so on New Years Eve 1969, my Uncle Mike decided to bring Caesar in from next door.
When my uncle told Caesar to say his prayers, he placed his paws and head into my future wife’s lap and dutifully said his prayers…..my future wife almost peed herself………….we got her over her fear of dogs right then and there and we have had dogs in our lives ever since.
My father fought us tooth and nail as kids. He was adamant, we would not have dogs in our house……until our neighbor, and great friend, New York City Detective Paul D. gave my father one of 2 German Shepards. Paul kept Rhea as a yard Dog and Queenie became ours. Queenie was a house dog. Rhea’s coat became increasingly thick from being exposed to the elements and our Queenie became increasingly more beautiful. She was only afraid of two things, garbage trucks and electrical storms. Both would send her through the house scrambling for shelter with her tail between her legs. My father had a strict rule, no dogs on the bed………..when ever there was an electrical storm, I would pull Queenie on the bed with me, it was the only thing that would quiet her down. Some months before we got married I was walking my wife home and right in our path on her stoop, was a young sandy blonde dog. She was about 6 months old and she snapped at us when we tried to dislodge her from her roost.

After some examination, we determined that she had injured her rear leg. We flagged down a patrol car and we were told that we would have to bring her to the ASPCA in Manhattan if we wanted to get her help. We packed her into our car and drove from Brooklyn. When we got there, we were told that we would have to claim her as our own if we wanted to get any help or else they would probably destroy her. After examination they found that she had a broken leg. They pinned it and we went back and forth for eight weeks as they monitored her progress…..this was the mid 70’s and it cost us $250 which is pretty cheap if you think about it……..but we spent it on a stray. Sandy became a part of our lives for the next 14 years or so. After we were first married, in 1974, not wishing to leave Sandy home alone, we took her to choir practice. When the organ struck up, Sandy let out a howl. She had better pitch than our lead soprano. In 1983 I was locked up for a strike assignment for about 9 weeks. By that time we had 2 dogs living at home, Sandy and Snuggles. My wife found Snuggles at her school in a cardboard box on top of some garbage cans. At first, she didn’t know what it was, it looked like a rat. When she brought him home, his eyes were not opened.

She had to feed him with an eye dropper and when we discovered he had fleas, we mistakenly bathe him and my wife had to spend the night with him sleeping in the bathtub with Snuggles on her chest to keep him warm. He turned out to be a 90 pound Shepard-Huskey mix. When I would get back from Indian point at 3 in the morning and try to get some rest, Snuggles would be ready for his 4AM walk. He would prance around the bed and bump into it with his rear-end until I got up to walk him……it was like being on board a bumper car. When Sandy was about 10 years old, right after I had gotten back from strike duty, she was very lethargic. When I brought her to the vet, the vet said she had what the vet referred to as a parametrium (an inflamed uterus). We spent $1000 on having it removed ($1000 was a lot in 83 and I was glad I had it). The doctor said it was close and they almost lost her, but she was a fighter. We had her for 4 more years until she began having seizures. The vet said he could do a lot of tests, but in the end, she was 14 and it wouldn’t prove much. In the mean time two other dogs came into our lives, Princess and Buddy. Both wandered up to me on separate occasions while I was making my way to the subway. I knew I couldn’t keep Princess, because I already had two Dogs. My father agreed to take her because by that time Queenie was getting old and he reasoned that if they got along, Queenie could help train Princess. I put Princess, who was a beautiful black and white Shepard, in the car to drive her to my father’s, and she sat in the front seat like she was meant to be there.

She got along with Queenie royally and every time I visited my parents, she would sit by whatever chair I sat in and not leave my side for the entire visit. One year, when my parents decided to spend Thanksgiving with my cousin in Arizona, they asked me to house sit for Princess. I parked my car in the garage, because there was no parking available on the street. The next morning, I got up early to return home to help my wife get the turkey into the oven. I was blocked in. Someone had parked in front of the garage and I could not get out. After about an hour, I bumped into my father’s friend Detective Paul D and when he figured out I was in trouble, he handed me the keys to his car and said bring it back when your finished with it………This is Brooklyn, New York, no one hands their keys over except at gun point……that is what kind of beautiful neighbors we had. Buddy, who was a spectacular white Shepard was wandering the neighborhood. I brought him into my yard and fed him, but could not get him to come into the house. He slept on the front stoop and no matter what we did, he would not come in. He wandered off the next morning, and I was convinced we would never see him again, but he kept coming back.

We finally got our friend Linda’s Uncle Tommy to take him and they had him for 15 years. Tommy has cancer, and they just had to put Buddy asleep because Buddy was filled with tumors. Shortly after, Tommy’s wife passed away. My in-laws had two dogs, Lucky, a Beagle Mix they got from Bide-a-Wee and Prince, a Terrier Mix that wandered into my in-law’s lives during a driving rain storm after a high school graduation ceremony at Brooklyn College. My mother-in-law would cook for the dogs. She would cook chicken livers. Once in a while, Lucky would decide that he had enough with the food which my mother-in-law would set out on the floor in aluminum foil. He would take his nose and carefully fold the corners of the foil over one by one until they were in a ball, turn round, and kick the foil encapsulated food under what ever conveniently available piece of furniture was close. Buttons was a poodle mix that one of our neighbors gave to my kids. He was one of our last. He was a ball of white fur. When I had him groomed for the first time, I could not believe how little he really was, he was about 60 percent fur. My wife loved him, she could just tuck him under her arm like a football and go. He was dumber than a stump. I was walking him one day and stopped to talk to my friend Norman. Buttons lifted his leg and peed on Norman.

At a get together with friends, someone asked my wife why she named the dog Buttons. She responded that when she had first seen him all she saw was this cute ball of white fur, two barely visible eyes and a cute black button nose. My business partner, never at a loose for words, ask her what she would have called him if she had seen the other end of the dog first. I responded that that name had already been taken. Buttons passed away on our living room several weeks after my mom died. He was failing, and on the last night when we came home, he came out of the shadows, his breath laboring and tail waging about a mile a minute. I couldn’t bring myself to bring him to the vet and put him down. I think his death affected me greater than the death of my own beloved mother just weeks prior.
Over the years, I had to bring my Father’s two dogs Queenie and Princess and my in-laws two dogs Lucky and Prince and our two dogs Sandy and Snuggles to the vet and one by one put them to sleep. I guess the strain has taken its toll……..probably why I cried uncontrollably while reading about Spritey. They are each trusted and loving friends that trust us without question and we have to be the ones who cause them to draw their final breathe and re-unite them with their creator. Someone once asked evangelist Billy Graham if there would be dogs in heaven, and he responded that God would give each of us want we need to be happy in heaven…….from his lips to God’s ears. Out latest member of the family is Champ. We got him as a pup from the shelter at North Shore after a more vigorous adoption process than I went through to get my own natural born kids out of the hospital. Champ is a mixed breed that was supposed to be 35 pounds and now exceeds fifty. He is dark tan with some white on his head and chest and underside. His legs are tan but the lower portion of each of his front legs is while…..reminiscent of a boxer’s kit gloves…..so we called him champ. At the shelter, he was falling all over his own paws. He rode home in the car ok and we placed him in a card board box the first night until we could get him acclimated. That lasted about 5 minutes.

He was in and out of that box about a thousand times that night. At first, I think he missed the shelter, he kept trying to crawl into the dish washer every time we opened it. I guess it reminded him of his cage . With buttons, I always joked that if I were to drop dead on the living room floor, the dog would pee on me and the kids would step right over the body and ask their mother what’s for dinner………with champ, I don’t have to worry about this……..he’s paper trained……. You definitely touched a nerve, and the memories came flooding back……. God bless you and your family Mark and treasure Sprite’s memory always.

Joe from NY