Monthly Archives: February 2010
“bye” with a little wave
I think it counts. There was context and as mentioned, a hand gesture (this IS Italy after all). Because it’s such a little word and it seems early to us (8 months?) both Paul and I had some doubts but here’s how it happened: We were all sitting at the dining table together; Paul and I eating dinner, Phoebe playing with a new toy since she’d already eaten. But when she dropped it on the floor for the fourth time in a row, I decided not to pick it up again and instead said, “Ok, it’s gone now. Bye.” Phoebe’s response was to look up at me, say “bye” then wave her little hand, opening and closing those doughy fingers. Delighted with herself–and the laughs this whole episode drew from us–she turned her attention to slapping the table, an already established favorite activity, and life returned to normal.
So, we made it back from Florida, followed by Washington. More details tomorrow but in the meantime, an upbeat update from the front lines here in Italy…Cheerios have been introduced. Our lives–not to mention our pockets and purses–will never be the same.
The name of this video is “Cheerios: take one” but could just as easily have been “One minute, one Cheerio”.
It made no sense. Getting a dog, a big dog, when you live in Manhattan is a big deal. Especially when you’re in a studio apartment. On the fourth floor. Of a walk-up. I can’t really explain what happened when I saw that little furry face though. The moment Carter and I made eye contact, I couldn’t not get him.
As my sensible friend Oren said, “a cat is an addition but a dog requires a life change”. And so it did. But at the time, I could use a change. The job at iVillage was going pretty well but my love life was totally disappointing. Tons of weird dates, tons of longing for one particular guy who had other things on his mind. What I needed was a new outlook, a new wavelength. And with that, Carter became my new roommate. Now instead of inconsistent phone calls, I had a happy little face beaming at me every time I walked in the door. Carter also gave me hope. Those who know me well know that I have a soft spot/vision/pipe dream of living on a farm someday. To me, this dog was something between the first step and an urban realization of that life.
Speaking of reality though, it quickly became clear that I could barely afford a pet, so the farm would have to wait. Indeed there were dog walkers, kennels, obedience lessons (which he failed, sigh.), vet visits and of course food. All of this added up to much more than a gal on a publishing budget could easily afford. But it was always truly worth it.
Now he wasn’t without his mischievous moments. Shoes were eaten. Designer shoes. Irreplaceable, sample sale shoes. (Please see “publishing budget” above.) I had a weekend routine that involved a long run with a congratulatory coffee from the corner store afterward (since Carter would only jog for 2 miles before putting on the breaks, freezing his legs and refusing another step, he got to sit these out). While I was in the shower, Carter invariably found the cup — no matter where or how high I put it — and enjoyed the last dregs from the comfort of his bed, which left a tell-tale brown stain every time. Then there was chocolate. Most dogs are supposed to be allergic or at least have a bad reaction. Not this one. He once ate an entire batch of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, prepared for a road trip to Vermont to celebrate my friend Jen’s 30th birthday. I came back with the rental car, ran in to pick up the snacks and…well you get the idea. No cookies on this trip. But he outdid himself with the gift bag from the “Moulin Rouge” junket. This time, he opened a velvet bag to devour a dozen dark chocolate truffles inside a box made of chocolate. You’d never know it though. He didn’t miss a beat, which was unusual for a dog whose internal organs were so sensitive that a discarded pizza crust scarfed on the sidewalk would result in a sleepless night for all; let’s just say that we had to make it up and down the stairs repeatedly.
He was supremely gentle; kids in Central Park used to form a line to pet him, or better yet, throw a stick for him. My favorite moments for Carter though were leaving the Petco on 86th Street. He’d get a new plush toy, which he was allowed to carry home himself. Tail wagging like a flag, he’d prance all the way back as quickly as possible, as though he just couldn’t wait to just be with his new gift. To the delight of the Upper East Side, this happened about once a month.
He also traveled pretty well for a golden retriever. There were car trips, hotels, motels, vans, planes, ferries and buses. He even had a special harness to wear with the top down in Paul’s Jeep. When I couldn’t decide whether I should bring him to Washington for Christmas one year, my dad made the call, “bring that furry rascal out here!” Carter must have made an impression on the Delta crew because by the time I was boarding, the woman at the gate actually said to me, “Oh you’re with Carter? Let’s give you an upgrade. Merry Christmas!”
The main thing to remember about Carter though, is that like his namesake, he was always just trying to do good. Sometimes his enthusiasm got the best of him. But I’ll take too much pep any day.
I can’t believe it but he’s gone. Carter, my adorable dog of nearly nine years died yesterday. I already miss him.
He wasn’t eating. Paul mentioned half-eaten bowls of food while I was gone. And this has happened before. Anytime I leave, Carter’s appetite gets very small. Dutifully doing his best to cheer things up on Via Nizza, Paul went to the store half a dozen times, coming home with half a dozen different types of dog food, offering a new flavor when the most recent seemed to have quickly gone out of favor. But it was a long visit. By the time I came home this weekend Carter had lost a lot of weight. So much so that he wasn’t his frisky friendly self when I finally arrived. No signature growl-whine, no rubbing against my legs. Just a brief and shaky appearance before he lied down again on the living room floor. Maybe he’s just weak from not eating, we thought. I hoped. When I noticed his trouble walking though, I called the vet.
Then we were off. Together Carter and I navigated the Roman streets in search of the 24-hour clinic our vet recommended. GPS guiding us, scooters zipping by, one last adventure.
Three hours of x-rays, ultrasounds and blood tests resulted in a diagnosis, but not a good one. What we thought was a broken heart turned out to be the final stages of lymphoma. While I cried, the doctor explained that there was nothing she could do. He wasn’t eating because his body was too sick, not because I’d been gone. In fact, he seemed to have waited for me. But now he was suffering, his vitals were shaky and she recommended putting him down. So, I stroked his head, held his paw, and told him one last time, “I’m right here. I won’t leave you.” He tucked his head down and drifted off. Then he was gone.
I knew it wasn’t good as we headed out the door yesterday. I knew that big dogs rarely make it past 10 years old. But it was still stunningly sad.
There are things that make every pet unique and Carter had many. I’ll miss his eyebrows raising one at a time, laying his head on a toy-turned-pillow, letting Phoebe pull his fur, whiskers and ears and most of all I’ll miss his pep. It was a delight to have someone get so excited every time I walked in the room. Even if it was only a brief trip from the kitchen.
And that dog has seen me through many things: New York apartments, boyfriends and bad dates, dinner parties and jobs. On 9/11 he single-handedly cheered up the New York Fire Department and a division of the Marine Corps as the young soldiers petted and played with him on the sidewalks of Fifth Avenue. Carter drove down to Tennessee with Colleen and I when it was time to work for HGTV. And thank heaven he did, since I knew not a soul there. The first time he saw a deer in our two-acre yard, he just cocked his head to the side, staring curiously. A city dog to be sure. Then it was back to New York, to Washington and eventually to Rome. We’ve hiked, jogged and camped, but most of all, we walked. If there was a pedometer to record our trips together it would only need to say, “a lot”. And it would probably be covered with dog hair.
I’m sorry that Phoebe won’t know him more, but I’ll tell her about him for sure. It’s the end of an era. And it was such a good one.