There is nothing like the bond between a sixty-something person and his or her pet. The magic of the understanding between you and the pet is so personal and so intimate that a certain type of love and bonding occurs and exists that is unique. Growing up my mom always had cats along with the family dog. Somehow I would enter the house and see the dog on one den chair snoring while the two cats would be sleeping close by yet all had their own space. On occasion they would have a kerfuffle that would last perhaps four seconds, with a bark, a growl and a loud offensive snare.
It’s hard to believe this but our family dog, Casey, named after the Mets manager Casey Stengel never had a leash. Almost none of the family dogs did back then. They roamed their neighborhoods to visit other dogs and to chase rabbits and squirrels. I remember going to my little league games and Casey would tag along and when I arrived at the field, Casey would hang with about four or five other dogs running through the outfield or all of them stretched out on the grass in the sun waiting for the game to end. Every now and then the umps would call a time out when the dogs paraded onto the field to have their owners not fetch them but scold them, saying, “Hey get off the field!” Somehow the dogs understood and would get off the field and sit, proudly.
Later in life I bought my teenage daughter a beagle. I remember driving to the remote pet shop in the furthest corner of Brooklyn and then going in to pick up this puppy dog. His head was somewhat big and the rest of him was so puppy small. The tri-color dog that came home with me ended up being my companion when I lived in Montauk and then when I met Cindi my wife.
It seems when my daughter, having to go away to prep school in Massachusetts, the dog became my lifeline to getting out of the house and taking oh so many walks. Our walks were ocean walks because I was living 452 steps from the breaking waves of Ditch Plains Beach in Montauk. I say 452 steps because one day while on the cell phone I walked it off, counting each step into the phone to tell a friend in Ohio exactly how close it was. Bo loved the beach, sniffing every huge rock east of the town beach. He loved to greet the other dogs and rarely had to be leashed up except during the season when there were so many people. The rest of the eight months we had the beach to ourselves except for the surfers. One such surfer was Jimmy Buffett who during our 7 a.m. walk would pet and briefly talk to Bo while he put his wetsuit on in front of his Green Ford that ran on used fry chicken oil. (Nice to be really rich!)
Bo sailed with me 4 to 5 days a week from May to November. He never had any sort of accident on the boat, but I swear his happiest moments in his life were when he would jump off the boat to the dock and go pee in the bushes after every sail. He was with me 24/7 either in the car, in the house or out and about. He was keenly almost human. He never barked, except when he was about to be attacked by a larger dog or when he was supremely happy running on the beach with another dog or two. He was the friendliest animal I have ever known. When it was just us two sailing I confess I used to talk to him and address him as Mr. Beagleman. He’d look at me like I was a nutjob, perhaps wondering how long until we dock and could pee.
Walking Bo taught me to enjoy sunrises, sunsets, shooting stars at night over the ocean and the power of a full moon rising over the horizon. He got me out of the house in rainstorms, snowstorms and other times I really was enjoying being stretched out on the couch. But I loved him. When he met Cindi he knew she was special. He obeyed her in a more disciplined way then me. In the end I didn’t realize how much I would miss him. His dog tags are attached to my sail boom and jingle in the wind sounding like he did when he shook his neck to get my attention. Loving a great pet is a joy in life.