A few years ago, I got an offer to co-host a Morning Radio Show in New York on the once prestigious WNEW. At the time I was an out-of-work television writer, who had just completed a stint on the first season of the celebrated show, Sex and the City.
The first thought that entered my head was – “How am I going to live without my dog?” Taking the job would mean that for at least one year I would have to leave behind my male Golden/Shepherd mix of four years and my purebred Jewish boyfriend of fourteen. The station put me up in corporate housing for a couple of months on the Upper East Side. Not my favorite part of town, but hey, they were footing the bill, and Bloomingdales was near by. It was a spacious “L” shaped studio, complete with a doorman, kitchen and a gym, but painfully missing a pooch.
In the middle of February, I started the grueling process of looking for an apartment. After a couple of agonizing weeks of combing through the Sunday Times, I stumbled upon a ridiculously expensive, not so spacious studio, with a doorman, kitchen and a view of the Hudson River. It was a block away from work, and – best of all – totally dog friendly.
On the way back to my corporate dwelling, I stopped at a supermarket to pick up some groceries, and when I walked outside, there tied to a parked truck, sat a gorgeous dusty colored Shepherd mix puppy.
It turned out that the gentleman who rescued her, had spotted her earlier that morning, wandering around the Bronx – collar-less, nameless and homeless. He couldn’t take her since he already had three dogs of his own, so he brought her into the city with hopes that someone would adopt her.
I immediately walked over and started playing with her. Within a couple of minutes, a crowd gathered. Everyone just stood there admiring this beautiful four-legged creature. As I knelt down beside her, smothered by kisses from her stubbly puppy tongue, the crowd grew restless. “Are you going to take her?” “Are you?” “If you don’t take her, I will.”
I jumped up like a game show contestant with the correct answer and yelled, “Yes!” Then I thought, “Where am I going to keep her?” I couldn’t move into my apartment for another week, and the place I was staying at did not allow pets. I’m a pro at sneaking food into a movie theater, but a thirty-pound puppy was really out of my range. I didn’t know how I was going pull this off, but one thing I knew for certain: I had to have her.
As I was trying to sort it all out, this woman approached me and introduced herself. She said that she would let the dog stay at her house, but she already had three dogs. “What – does everyone in New York have three dogs?” I thought. Then again, maybe all the dogs have jobs and chip in on the rent. This is New York after all.
She offered to see if her vet could board her for me, but then she realized that it was President’s Day, and the vet’s office would be closed. So, I convinced the guy who rescued her to keep the puppy for the night and made arrangements for him to bring her to me at my girlfriend Cathy’s apartment on the Upper West Side at 5:00 p.m. the following evening.
The next morning I went on the air, and talked about my good fortune: A new apartment for less than ten grand a month and a new dog, for free. My friend Cathy, a comic, came on my show and afterwards, the plan was to shop all day (with all the money I’d be saving in rent) and then go back to her place to wait for my puppy’s arrival.
Well, 5:00 p.m. rolled around and no sign of him or the dog, no phone call – nothing. I waited. 5:05 p.m. I called him. No answer. I was convinced that he’d either decided to keep the dog, or that something terrible must have happened. Six o’clock, seven o’clock – nothing. Nothing.
Then at 7:30 p.m. the phone rang. It was the guy, telling me he had some bad news – he lost her. He was on 47th Street and 5th Avenue, got out of his car to make a phone call, accidentally left his car door open, and she got out. By the time he realized she was gone, it was too late. He drove around the neighborhood for a couple of hours looking for her but to no avail. He said he was sorry, which I believe he was, but I wondered how someone who was a dog owner could be that careless? Maybe he originally had four dogs, and that’s why he now only had three.
After I got off the phone, I stood there in a total state of shock. I didn’t know what to do. Was I supposed to go look for her? What were the chances that I was going to find a lost dog in midtown Manhattan during rush hour? Cathy’s roommate, who came home in the middle of all of this, immediately snapped into action. She sat down at the computer and made up a flier that read: “Lost Shepherd Mix Puppy. New Owner Heartbroken. Reward.” She ran off a bunch of copies and then we hopped in a cab and headed downtown.
When we got to 47th Street, we split up like a posse in an old western. “You go that way. You go this way. And I’ll go over there.” We posted fliers on every pole in the neighborhood. I asked everyone I came into contact with if they had spotted a little dog. Every corner I turned, I prayed that I would see her. I went into stores, in the hopes that maybe she wandered in, and, in keeping with my theory, maybe even applied for a job. An hour later we met back where we’d started, feeling less hopeful. After a few moments of silence, we all confessed that during our search we stopped a few times to window-shop.
The next morning I went into work, completely distraught. Many listeners who tuned in the day before were calling in with names for my new puppy. I said, “How about lost?” I couldn’t concentrate on anything other than this dog. So much so, that my boss came into the studio and said he would offer concert tickets to anyone who found my dog; plus, for every day she was still missing, he would up the ante. I thought, “upping the ante” meant he might give my job to someone else, so I tried to focus on doing the show.
When I got home later that day, there was a message on my voicemail; a woman who got my number from one of the fliers said she’d seen my dog. I couldn’t believe it! When I called her back, she told me that the night before, she saw the dog from her office window, walking down 5th Avenue. After I explained to her how I came upon the dog initially, she seemed a little suspicious that I was so upset, since it wasn’t even my dog yet. I told her that I couldn’t even begin to explain to her why I loved this animal so much, but I fell in love with her the minute I saw her. She didn’t seem too affected by this, but she did say that she had worked in that neighborhood for many years, knew everyone, and if she did hear anything, she would let me know. I never thought I’d hear from her again.
Meanwhile, my time on the air was dedicated to finding my lost puppy. The station became my personal office and for better or worse, everyone around me got sucked into my world. I checked in with every animal rescue organization in the city. I even called the sanitation department to find out if they had picked up any dead dogs, which thank god, they hadn’t. I went to the animal shelter on 103rd Street every other day after work. It has got to be the most depressing place I’ve ever been to. (And I’ve been a stand-up comic for over twenty years, and worked at places like Knuckleheads.) The entire building consists of floors and floors of rows and rows of animals in cages. In a perverse sort of way it’s like Dachau for Dogs. How did they get here? Were they strays? Abandoned? Abused? Looking for a better life? It’s only a matter of time that most of them will be put down, and it breaks your heart. You know that you can be their Schindler, but how do you decide which one, among the hundreds of dogs, to save? As you look into their fearful eyes, you wonder if they, too, are aware of their fate.
The following week, I got a call from the woman who said she saw my dog. Now she knew who had my dog. Coincidentally, a friend of hers found the dog the night she was lost and brought her back to her home in New Jersey. But there was a catch. Her husband and young child had become attached to the dog and were hard pressed to give her back. I said that I totally understood, and was just so happy to know that the dog was alive. I requested to meet the family and see if it indeed was the same dog. She seemed a bit reluctant for me to have contact with them, but when I promised that I wasn’t going to pull a fast one and steal the dog away, she said she would coordinate with the husband and get back to me.
The next day she phoned and told me that now the family doesn’t want the dog and would I still like to have her? “Uh . . . yes!” Apparently, she’s become quite a handful – barking, crying and relieving herself throughout the house. (A puppy? Behaving in such a manner? No!) Since they work long hours and weren’t able to put in the necessary training time, they sadly could not keep the dog. She then gave me the husband’s work number and said I could arrange things with him.
I called and spoke with him for about half an hour. He went on and on about how wonderful the dog was and how disappointed he was that they couldn’t keep her. He confided in me that his wife was insane, constantly bringing home stray animals, and that they already had nine cats. “Uh huh. Uh huh. So how do I get the dog?”
At the woman’s apartment, we sat on the couch, sipping glasses of red wine, waiting for her friend’s husband to arrive. She confided in me that she was a very honest person and that she had to come clean. I was intrigued. She said, “Remember when I told you that a friend of mine found the dog . . . and the husband . . . well, I actually found the dog that night and the husband . . . is mine.” She went on to explain that the dog walked into her office building and sat by her desk. Upon leaving to go home, she saw my flier, but was a bit reluctant to return the dog to me, thinking that I was an irresponsible dog owner who let her dog get loose without a collar or tags. I joked with her that if only the cops in Michigan were as cautious as she was, they never would have returned the naked Laotian boy to Jeffrey Dahmer.
Finally, a few moments later, her husband walked in with the dog. There was no mistaking-it was definitely she. From the pointy ears to the crest marking on her back, she was the sweetest sight for sore eyes. In the short time they had her, she was named Samantha, which I have since shortened to Sam-inoculated, and totally spoiled. They bought her tons of toys and treats, which they handed over to me with their blessings and told me that all the charges were on the house. We hugged and cried as we said good-bye, promising to keep in touch.
My job ended one year later and Sam and I moved back to Los Angeles to the home I shared with my boyfriend and my first dog, Monty. The two dogs got along famously; my boyfriend and I did not.
So now Sam and I are living quite comfortably in a little house in Santa Monica, which is less expensive than my studio apartment in New York. It doesn’t have a view, but it has a yard, an eat-in kitchen and is ten blocks from the beach. Every day I look at Sam, I marvel that she is in my life. She has proven to me that miracles do happen.