WINNING HEARTS FROM THE BIG APPLE TO THE GARDEN CITY
By JAY GORE
A friend suggested a nice walk down to Park Avenue and 38th street for coffee. Sure, my sister Marcia responded, it was a beautiful day. It was in the Mid-1990’s in New York city.
On the way they passed a pet store and popped in for a look. They saw birds, cats, and other animals and finally got back to the dog area.
All the while, a little dog was loose in the store, who kept following Marcia around. Kind of a nuisance! Sister kept tripping over the dog. They looked at all the dogs on display, with no intentions of getting one, then turned to leave. There again was that darn little dog to step over. Marcia asked a nearby clerk what was wrong with the little guy? He was a Chihuahua, but he was too big for the breed. Many had looked but rejected him for his size. They proceeded to the coffee shop.
Angst began to set in with Marcia as they had coffee. She’d had Maltese and Lhasa Apso dogs in the past, but had been seriously ill for several years and without dogs. She was feeling sorry and taking pity on the little pet store dog and suggested they go back to see him again.
She ended up taking him home.
Billy Buddy settled right into city apartment living and for many years made Marcia a fine companion. He got her out for neighborhood walks twice a day. They would go over to the “grassy knoll” a couple blocks away where Billy would do his business and play with other dogs.
When I would make my weekly Sunday call to sister, most of what we talked about was Billy Buddy. I hunt, and the dogs I’ve had were black Labrador Retrievers. I really don’t have a ‘thing’ for little dogs. But I was happy for my sister.
Two events came together in late 2008. Marcia’s memory was failing, and I was concerned about her being out on New York’s streets, getting turned around and not being able to find home. Also, her apartment owners were upgrading and remodeling rooms and wanted to move her to another apartment two floors up.
My son and I flew to New York to check the situation and visit with the apartment manager. Marcia looked at another apartment and became disturbed. They offered to buy her out of her apartment as an alternative, and she accepted. I made plans to move her and Billy to Missoula, to reside in a nice, fifth-floor apartment at the Clark Fork Riverside overlooking the river. She moved there in January 2009.
On a very stormy winter night, my sister, Billy Buddy, and I made the plane trip back to Missoula from New York via Minneapolis on the last flight. I was a wreck, worrying about getting stuck late night in LaGuardia Airport. We made all our flights, however, tired and on nerves.
The best passenger was Billy. He rode his doggy travel bag like a trooper. I was most worried about his barking or presenting other problems, but neither happened.
At the Clark Fork Riverside, Marcia settled in, and Billy was a social hit with the other occupants. He is cute and a very engaging little dog. The complex has a nice riverside trail for walks, and the two could visit with folks.
After 2-½ years, Marcia’s memory worsened. She and Billy were moved to an assisted living apartment unit, which also had access to nice sidewalks and grassy areas for walking, along with someone to watch after them. But in time, Billy’s pulling and leash tripping led to Marcia having several falls, so I needed to find him a new home. Marcia was saddened but understood the need to let him go.
One of the apartment tenants was an older, wheelchair-bound gentleman named Gilbert, who hailed from Pennsylvania. He offered to take Billy back to the Clark Fork Apartments, which did wonders for Gilbert’s social life. As soon as he had a dog, folks downstairs in the lobby talked to Gilbert regularly. Billy was a real conversation starter. It was a match made in heaven. Gilbert dearly loved Billy Buddy and had two loving years with the little dog.
At 96, after a short illness, Gilbert peacefully passed with Billy in his lap. I was tasked with going to Gilbert’s apartment to get Billy, his food, and supplies. I then took the little guy to Showcase Dog Grooming on Higgins.
A young lady working there, Kalina, 27, quickly became attached to Billy. Having experience in the dog business, she knew older dogs were difficult to adopt out. She thought Billy adorable and noticed he was comfortable and social around people, so she adopted him.
She managed his meals and exercised him with frequent walks. He lost at least two pounds and became perky as ever. Billy Buddy wore special goggles and sat in a basket as Kalina biked him to work each day, where would take his place on a bench with another “front room” dog, to oversee the business operation.
No one knew exactly how old he was—at least 15, but he has lived a great life into his senior years.
With only ever having large dogs, I have normally eschewed little dogs. They are barky and prone to nip at folks.
But Billy Buddy has shown me that the size of the dog does not matter concerning the quality of relationship it can have with a human. No doubt, this little dog has brought joy, pleasure, happiness, and positive companionship to three very diverse people.
This New York City puppy came to the Wild West and won hearts…lots of hearts.