I was suffering from an acute case of canine deprivation. My daughter CoriAnne, whom I was calling too often, suggested I make a commitment to adopt a smallish, manageable, darling dog.
I am a firm believer in rescuing our dear neglected and abandoned four-legged friends, so I placed my name on every appropriate rescue site. Patiently, I awaited the appearance of my next best pal... but it took a while. The yearning got greater and I got stranger. I walked the streets of Manhattan, making eye-contact with friendly pooches. Their owners would peer at me curiously, as their cute pets would tug on their leashes, straining to reach me. Compassionate beasts!
During that period, I was dividing my time between NYC and my South Beach abode -- where I was preparing for the thirty-something solo exhibition of my Photo-Art, so my work was at a friend's shop for framing.
My large pop portrait of Andy Warhol was leaning against the window when a couple with a wee pooch in arms meandered in to inquire about my art. Theirs was a wide-eyed, sweet-faced puppy, which they told me was a beloved Havanese. My pal LC told me of his boyhood days in Cuba, when every little lady sipping tea in the parlor -- with gloved hands, of course -- would sport a little Havanese on her lap.
I ogled this puppy, explaining my state of deprivation of the canine, when my friend's employee (who had been framing behind-the-scenes) heard my plaintive cries and magically appeared.
He told me how he and his wife had brought a similar Havanese from Cuba to the U.S. to entertain his stepson. Their boy and the Havanese had not bonded, so they wanted to secure another home for him (the dog, that is).
They did not tell me that the son had probably mercilessly teased and abused the pup, leaving him caged outside in the subtropical Miami heat. We were to ascertain this history later fromt the way the dog behaved. They also barely noted that he was a bit aggressive.
So on one of those blue sky, relentlessly sunny Miami days, I appeared at the Framery for what was to be a test run. His Royal Highness and I were to meet for the first time.
My friend and I waited anxiously -- as if pregnant and awaiting a birth. Finally, the middle-aged Cuban gentleman appeared, carrying a mid-sized cage. Placing it on the floor of the shop, he opened the door. A small, black dog -- wearing the equivalent of long, dark dreadlocks -- bounded out, racing around the gallery at full speed.
"This is Shadow," he said.
My Havanese came with three items: the cage (which I discarded), his name (which has been expanded to "His Royal Highness Prince Shadow of ____ Street, Fluffer-Nutter, Woofer-Snapper") and his toy (a blue and white striped squeaky tiger, on which he is still suckling now, eight years later, while I write). Perhaps he had been ripped away from a nurturing mother's milk all too soon.
We shared a Whole Foods nutrition bar on the way to the vet that day, and he nipped me because he wanted more than his rightful half. The vet warned me that he was very aggressive and that I might want to reconsider the adoption. And when we returned to his new Florida home, my dog jumped immediately into bed, barking until I joined him -- just like a demanding Latin Lover!
But none of that mattered. I had already fallen in love.
Now HRH Prince Shadow is a "people person." He received his name because he faithfully follows yours-truly everywhere. He is mostly indifferent to other canines, loves cats and horses, but just adores people of all ages and sizes. When a new person enters "his" park (Abingdon Square), he offers up smiles and woofs. And he is particularly fond of cuddling up to the elderly.
However, I will tell you a secret: HRH is intermittently possessed. One moment he is his adorable, mush-heart self, when suddenly, a distracted look falls upon him, and he becomes vicious -- growling, snarling and barking ferociously... well, as ferociously as an adorable thirteen pounder can. This will continue for a few minutes. Then, just as suddenly, he will shake his head and look perplexed, wondering whatever has come over him.
Sometimes I believe his demonic act is a mere facade, covering up a timid heart. Having been hurt as a pup, he frightens easily -- hiding his tail between his legs or cowering behind mine. I respectfully stifle my chuckle when he's terrified by abandoned plastic bags flying about in the breeze.
Yes, HRH has his "baggage" -- but I, too, carry my Louis Vuitton. We both have had, and still experience, our challenges. We take care of each other, each in our own species-appropriate way. I feed, care for and love him. He keeps our home safe from possible mice and burglars, awaits for my arrival enthusiastically, cuddles me into better health and mirrors back my best and my foibles. He remains the mucho-macho-Cubano who has taught me many lessons.
Tune-in for the rest of the "tail."
If you are thinking of adopting a dog or cat, please consider a rescue. Try a personal adoption listing in a magazine, newspaper, or rescue website (note: most breeds have their specific sites). Also try the wonderful Humane Society, The North Shore Animal Hospital and the ASPCA -- all great organizations which need our support.
We do not need to breed more four-legged pedigrees until those darlings who are already very much alive have happily found loving homes.
To view wonderful pets for adoption. plz go to:
Photographs Courtesy of Jill Lynne
Text & Photographs (c) Jill Lynne January 2011