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.