Wednesday, March 18, 2009


The first time I met Blusie she was a five-year-old pup, bounding into the home of a former boyfriend with all the energy and joy of a six-month-old on speed. A yellow lab, she had the exuberant, all-loving happiness typical of her breed and demonstrated it from the moment she raced into the living room and up the stairs, around the landing, down the stairs and onto the sofa where the former boyfriend’s six-year-old twins screamed with excitement and self-protection. Her name was Lucy then, and she belonged to a friend of his who lived nearby.

A year later, after Simone’s recent death, the former boyfriend called to tell me that his neighbor was looking for a home for Lucy, who had become epileptic from being contained and alone all day in a small apartment. He stressed the allure of her sweet pink nose, ever cold, while I recalled the ferocity of her high-speed wagging tail. I decided to rename her Blusie in honor of the former boyfriend’s impossibly blue eyes.

Like Simone, Blusie wasted no time in fitting in. Food and play were her avid passions, and Fleischer and the cat took her exuberance in stride. Blusie especially loved men and children. She would run after them at a moment’s sighting, terrifying some and delighting others. She stole balls from boys playing catch in the street, she rushed across lawns to greet perfect strangers, and like most Labs, assumed everyone in the world loved her. Every day was the best day of Blusie’s life. She never had another seizure.

That sweet pink cold nose was a force of nature. No matter how hard I tried to keep her in the yard, she always found a way out to go tracking. One neighbor in particular, a guardian angel, no doubt, was forever spotting her down the street. Others, blocks away, would stop me on our walks to tell me how she’d shown up and joined their touch football games or stolen their snacks. Once, after a hurricane, when I was sleeping with all the windows and doors open until the electricity returned, I was awakened at midnight by a neighbor who, sitting on his front porch for air, had spied her trotting by. I thought she was still asleep next to the bed. Then there were the times when she simply seem to disappear before my eyes – sleeping in the grass outside my office door one moment, out of the sight the next. It seemed I spent half my life driving around the neighborhood looking for her: I once counted the number of times she’d gone off and I found her – 24.

The nose also made Blusie a beast on the leash. She tugged so hard when I walked her that I had to use a choke chain to keep her from taking off my arm in pursuit of a scent.

Blusie conveyed emotion so intensely, it felt human. Especially when food was around. She liked to post herself just outside the kitchen, turn her big black eyes into those of a starving poster child, and stare in want until a treat appeared. At her happiest, she lay on her back, stretched her paws into the air, and wriggled until her mouth opened with a giant grin. Then she’d lay waiting for me to come and pound on her tummy.

Most of all, Blusie loved to party. The more people, food, and music, the more she was up for a good time. When she was docile, she slept the sleep of angels and snored like a trucker; when she was delighted, which was most of the time, she pranced like a hobby horse; when she was excited, her tail could have pounded a kettle drum. In fact, in her excitement at running to the door to welcome whoever might be there, that tail usually smacked an assemblage of imitation fruit piled in a Piero della Robbia-like still life nearby. Visitors often had to cross a sea of strewn bananas, artichokes, and apples to enter.

Blusie remained the puppy-like party-girl until she turned thirteen. Then her hips grew frail and the feed-me stare began to look haunted. I had her on medications and vitamins and steroid injections. The tail wagged, but unconvincingly. One Saturday night my neighbors had a big pool party, and she, naturally, found her way in. Food, treats, water, friends – she wasn’t as quick as she used to be, but the puppy spirit resurged. She snarfed and trotted, chased a ball and went for a swim.

The next day she was spent. I worried, coaxed, kissed, cooed. The haunted face had returned. That night the cat woke me at three am. Odd, he was prompt about being fed at seven. I got up to let him in. Blusie had moved from her cushion at the foot of my bed to the cool terrazzo floor in the living room. I knew immediately when I saw her that she was gone. I went to hold her, stroke her. When I bent to kiss her, I found that even though the beautiful blond body was inert, the sweet pink nose was still cold.