My essay published on Petside.com
Dorri Olds and her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Buddy James
I reached for my iPhone right-handed while holding Buddy’s leash in my left. It was my best friend, Maddy. I launched into a tirade. “If one more person asks me what kind of dog Buddy is I’m going to scream.”
“I’ve walked one block and four people…”
“It’s because he’s so cute.”
I imitated passersby in falsetto, “‘Oooh, what’s his name? How old is he? Where did you get him?’ When they ask what breed he is I have to say, ‘Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.’ It’s a mouthful and they never get it. ‘What kind?’ After three or four times I get so sick of chewing my cabbage twice I start barking, ‘He’s a MUTT!’”
“I think they’re just being friendly.”
“I don’t want friendly. I want to be left alone. For Pete’s sake, I work twelve-hour days. When I take a break I need peace and quiet.”
“Peace and quiet? You live in New York City! Maybe you need to work less so you won’t be so cranky.”
* * *
Buddy came into my life seven years ago, right after a devastating split. I’d found out the guy was married and the breakup nearly broke me. I felt splintered, defective, and out-of-order. Depression yanked me down and that’s where I stayed, wallowing.
One day, still telling everyone who’d listen how doomed I was, I ran into a neighbor who said. “You need a puppy. It’ll change everything.” I looked down at her dog. “He’s a Blenheim Cavalier King Charles Spaniel,” she said proudly.”
He had soft white fur with cow-like patches of auburn brown. His ears flopped like a beagle. He looked about the size of a cocker spaniel, but shrunken like a T-shirt in a dryer. His long lashes and dark eyes made him look like Bambi. When I smiled at him his tail wagged frantically and rhythmically like a windshield wiper.
I mulled over my neighbor’s suggestion. I called Maddy to discuss. “Puppies are a huge responsibility. You have to be home all the time.” I said.
“You’re home all the time anyway!”
Hmm, she had a point. I work at my Mac in my living room. My only commute is to trek to the kitchen for snacks. I began to weigh the pros and cons of getting a dog. I thought about my ex and how much I’d wanted a baby with him. I ruminated. Pets are expensive—con. The cost of a dog pales in comparison to raising a kid. There’d be no braces—pro. No college tuition—Pro. He’d never wreck a car—Pro! Pro!
Photo by Paul Wesley
The next time I ran into my neighbor I asked her where she’d gotten her dog. She raved about a high quality breeder.
Instead of What to Expect When You’re Expecting, I read How to Raise Your Cavalier and The Owner’s Guide to the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. I read both books in two days and decided to name the dog after my Uncle Buddy. I was nervous and excited and hopeful, like I’d felt before my first date with my no-good ex.
Preparing for this new pup made life joyful. Sort of—when any couple walked by I still seethed with envy.
My big day arrived. I went to pick up my doggie. The gates were down. I peered in the window and saw a teeny-tiny Cavalier the size of a Beanie Baby. The second our eyes met I knew he was mine. He looked scared and vulnerable and all I wanted to do was keep him safe. The owner pulled up the gate and I bee-lined to the crate. Buddy was placed in my arms. I held him to my chest cradling his itty-bitty head.
I carted him around in my purse and smuggled him into movies. This warm bundle challenged my sulking. On Saturday nights, when loneliness descended like a shroud over my living room, I played with my pup, reconciled to becoming one of those single old ladies who “married” her pet.
Buddy became a balm that soothed. He slept pressed against me and I’d lie awake to listen to his puppy snores.
Sharing him with someone even for an instant, especially a stranger in the street, felt like a band-aid yanked off a burn.
I was accosted when I walked him, like stars and their paparazzi.
“Oh, he’s so cute.”
“Can I pet him?”
“Where did you get him?”
“What kind of dog is that?”
I couldn’t stand all the questions. Sometimes I spoke Russian-sounding gibberish, ‘I g’no shpeak Eenglish.’
Other times I pointed to my mouth like I couldn’t talk because I was eating. People ogled. I snapped, “Move, can’t you see I’m walking here?”
Then one day, for the millionth time, somebody tried to pet my dog. I didn’t even look up. Just yanked Buddy closer to me and grumbled, “Leave us alone, we’re busy.”
As I was walking away I heard the guy mutter, “Geez, I’m busy too. I just wanted to say hello.”
I stopped. Suddenly I saw who I’d become and felt ashamed. I turned to apologize to the man but he was already crossing the street. I watched this handsome man walk away in his tasteful suit and could’ve kicked myself. I’d whined to my friend, Maddy, the day before, “I’ll never meet a man.” Her response now reverberated in my head. “It would be much easier to meet a guy if you weren’t walking around pissed off and in a hurry.”
Buddy and I strolled to Madison Square Park and a breeze went through my hair. I decided that I didn’t want to end up a bitter, irascible, curmudgeon. As we walked toward the dog-run Buddy tugged excitedly toward a nice looking dude with a pooch. My anger and disappointment with the world lifted for a moment. I smiled and found myself saying, “Excuse me, what kind of dog is that?