In the spring of 1994 I was living in Venice, Ca. One day my housemate, C.J. and I were driving along and were at a red light when C.J. recognized a friend of hers walking her pet boxer. The Boxer rushed over to our car and stuck his head in to say hello. After we drove off, CJ told me that she “was raised by a Boxer” and used to do volunteer work for Boxer Rescue. Fast forward to summer that same year. It’s my birthday, and one night C.J. & my friend Mike walked in the house with this big brown dog. I said, “What’s that?” They said, “your birthday present.” I said, “Oh Lord, a gift that I have to scoop up after!” And they spent the next twelve years thanking God for that gift.
Shortly thereafter I got a job on a TV show and moved back to New York City – and suddenly my Los Angeles dog, Sergeant, became a city dog. And soon after, we were a fixture on the Upper West Side. He was a ubiquitous presence and always by my side. Forget the pet stores (where he a had a revolving credit account), he was friends with the folks at Flix Video Store, Barnes & Noble, The Gap, The Copy Shop, Laytners’ Linens, Bed, Bath & Beyond … and beyond. He knew everyone – and everyone knew him.
For the last eight summers we’d go to the 79th Street Boat Basin Cafe and have lunch outdoors at the marina. He would eat his food, my food, and then beg for food from other patrons. It was both charming and irritating, at the same time. On Sundays, after lunch, we’d camp out under a tree on a hill overlooking the river and I’d do the Times crossword puzzle and he’d stalk squirrels.
One Thanksgiving I had friends over and I was making dinner. After hors d’ouevres we all headed to the dining room for dinner … leaving behind a huge block of cheese on the coffee table. I heard a gagging sound and went back to find the entire block of cheese going down his throat – in the same manner in which a snake eats a rabbit. One gulp, one belch, and the jarlsberg was gone. And Sarge didn’t move for two days.
At around seven years of age he started developing health problems (arthritis, allergies, spondolosa deformans, ie, bridging of spinal vertebrae) as Boxers often do. He survived two cancer surgeries and an operation for a torn ACL. And even as he got old (Boxers usually live to be ten or so; he was nearly thirteen) he was always the best, most loving friend in the world. Over the past six months he began having a series of ailments, one after another and one compounding another. On a beautiful winter morning Sergeant simply ran out life and moved on. He was a remarkable pet and I know that if there is any kind of afterlife, Sergeant is bringing joy and happiness to whomever is supposed to be blessed with him now. Just as he did to me.