BARK IF YOU LOVE ME: A WOMAN MEETS DOG STORY
“Part memoir and part goofy love story. . . Bridget Jones but with less angst and more heart, and cut-to-the-quick observations that make this more than just a dog story - it’s a story about life’s possibilities.”
IT TAKES A BUILDING TO RAISE A DOG
Since Libro moved in, I’ve stayed home a lot. Writers do, anyway. But I’ve also given up business trips, vacations, and thoughts of flying to Paris on a moment’s notice. I’ve chosen to only go where he can go, too, having fallen wildly in love with a buff seventy-pound boxer with floppy ears, old soul eyes, and an eerie degree of intelligence. With no kids to frolic with him in the afternoon, no spouse to brave the city night with him before bedtime, he’s all mine. Except, he’s not. We live in a five-story building full of people whose hearts Libro has won. (He’s done the same all over the neighborhood, but that’s another story.)
The Cuban graduate student loves him because he understands Sientate and Da me un beso. The saxophone player adores him because Libro lies on his doorstep, ears perked when the man is practicing. The couple on the second floor have been fans since the day they moved in, when Libro pressed his way around the moving men into the apartment and gave them a tail-wagging guided tour of the place. The Italian woman on the third foor is charmed by Libro’s response to the smell of osso bucco or scaloppini a limone: he tries to slide under the door, intoxicated nose first. Sometimes, he gives up and just knocks. The stockbroker and Libro speak dogtalk together (don’t ask me). Next door to us are a young opera singer and Ella, a Maltese, a powder puff with feet. Libro loves Ella.
We’ve left this whole menagerie a few times, Libro and I, briefy visiting country friends who like or can tolerate my dog. He stayed once around the corner with Clarence and Lola, a remote Vizla who plays Beatrice to Libro’s forever yearning Dante. But Lola has since acquired a younger brother who would like to eat Libro for breakfast.
When my dear old widowed dad in Florida craved a visit, I was stuck. What about Libro?
“No dogs allowed in the condo,” my father huffed.
“He’s probably the only grandson you’ll ever have,” I answered, sassy daughter that I am.
It didn’t work. I went to Florida alone, leaving Libro in the care of my building. These were my instructions to the opera singer, who took charge.
Don’t sleep with him. He snores and farts.
Four things make him happy: food, a walk, a massage, or a hug. He’ll show you which one he wants.
Be wary in the street. Some people think he’s a pit bull and gulp when they see him. This insults him.
He has three canine enemies: a shaggy retriever, an overcoifed black poodle, and a tough rottweiler with testicles.
He loves police, because they rescued him, and all male people except those lugging garbage bags full of clanking cans retrieved from trash baskets. He might be looking for a man for me.
Be prepared if he sees someone with a camera. He’ll pose. He’s been photographed for a magazine and has never forgotten it. He’s a media hound.
On the plane, I felt surprisingly free. I didn’t have to be home at precisely 5 p.m. for his dinner; I could stay out until sunrise.
My dad looked older and a little frail.
“You talk about nothing but that dog,” he said at the end of our first day.
After the Early Bird Special at a Miami restaurant and before the third movie we would see together, I called New York. I got the opera singer’s answering machine.
“You don’t have to call me back,” I said, “unless there’s a problem.” But I kind of wished she would.
One of the pleasures of living with Libro is never having to come home to an empty apartment again. When I got back from Miami and opened my door, he wagged his tail, his whole rear half shaking, and I went down on my knees.
The opera singer had administered a ragtag schedule in which everyone pitched in and participated when they could. Libro had eaten and slept and chased Ella until she hid under the sofa, where he couldn’t reach her. He’d talked with the stockbroker, sniffed the lasagna bubbling on the third floor, offered his leash to strange men in the street for a game of tug. He’d been massaged, sung to, hugged. Somehow, it all worked. And, for the opera singer, it had more than worked: The man she’d been dating agreed to walk Libro and scoop up poop, which he’d been very queasy about at first. This turned the tide of her affection, overcoming her doubts about his offers of marriage. I presume she took his willingness as something that augured well for his future as a member of the diaper-changing brigade. At any rate, an engagement ring now sparkled on her finger. The only glitch, she told me, was that every once in a while, Libro sat down wherever he was, looked out the window and whimpered.
I knew how he felt.