#22 Cute As a Puppy

When scanning my “stupid” list for the next subject, details of So I Bought Him a Humidifier get shoved aside. Not yet, not yet.  But little stories do percolate up from that time.

There we were, about 1979 or 1980, living in my house in Connecticut, commuting together, and creating weekend activities for his three children. We were at the apartment of one of his business partners one week night. I left to use the powder room because I couldn’t keep up with that level of drinking. I was hot and tired and we still had a long drive home.

No matter how nice any New York apartment is, the powder room is basically in the living room. I turned on the ceiling fan both to disguise any sound I might make, and to muffle the sound of what was becoming a party that I wasn’t attending. That’s when I heard the voice of the man in my life.

Over the fan and through the door, I heard him yell, “Honey, can we take Biff?” I thought I heard what I heard, but yelled back, “What?” I couldn’t reach to turn off the fan switch. So I rushed, flushed, did a quick rinse and tap tap on a towel. I grabbed at the door to re-enter that noisey smokey room to repeat my question.

We had met the puppy Biff the same day our friend got him from the breeder.  Biff’s tiny brown and white body tottered across my living room to the warmth of the fire and he did what puppies do. He fell asleep at my feet. What a fun visit. Bye bye. Cute to see you. Don’t have to feed you.

But by the time I got to the other side of the powder room door that night, we were already the owners of an English Pointer. The commitment was made by the man who looked into my eyes and reminded me that he had never had a dog as a boy. And that his three children had never had a dog: the children who were not yet fond of me.

Would I have the spine to say no in front of his business partners and friends? Of course not. I listened as they agreed on a time to pick up the puppy, now farmed out to a kennel, because our friend wasn’t hunting that year. And Manhattan was no place for a hunting dog. “NEITHER IS MY HOUSE,” I screamed inside my head.

Within days we found the kennel and they brought out Biff, now about eight months old. Nice dog but where’s Biff? He weighed at least 60 pounds and had the run of the place. He was beautiful and completely untrained. We paid the kennel his ransom. They didn’t even throw in a leash.

Trying to embrace all this I had envisioned adorable Biff on my lap for the drive north. Instead Biff allowed me get into the back seat with him. His size already had me intimidated. If he had wanted to drive, it would have been fine with me.

We got to my house, the one without the fence. Where would we put him for the 10-12 hours we were away each day? And even though we had a fence guy coming, I had bonded with Biff on the drive home. I knew he’d find a way over, under or around the as yet non-existent fence. What if it rained? What about lightening?

We got child gates and closed off the kitchen. For now, Biff would have the kitchen and basement where we put down plenty of paper and I tried to locate the contractor to hurry with the fence. Right.

The first night we came home, Biff had dragged fireplace logs up from the basement and chewed them. He also chewed and spit out the kitchen stools. At last the fence was in place, but it was put up good side in so that had to be changed. And I was still completely insecure about leaving him out during the day. The yard was good for the children to play with him except, never having had a dog, they were terrified.  And their mother had severe allergies so I washed every article of clothes before they returned every weekend.

Biff never left my side. He was beautiful and lovable. His nose was always at the back of my knees and a couple of times I almost fell back over him down the stairs. He took over the bed. He took over the house.

Then one night we came home to a kitchen where he had knocked a spice rack off the wall, chewing the tins, spices everywhere. A meat platter propped behind the stovetop was completely charred because somehow Biff had slapped the back burner on high. I pictured a spark burning down the house and then the neighborhood.

A friend called a wonderful family she knew with four acres of beachfront in Greenwich, Connecticut. I was home alone when they came to meet and fall instantly in love with Biff. They drove away with a happy dog in their station wagon.

I knew I’d be despised, but at last I did the right thing. I cried.


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