"You can thank me later," I thought to myself, as I peed on my brother's running sneakers.
So far, I'm still waiting for my family to thank me. This is despite that I'm fairly sure that the only reason we're back in our comfy house in Westchester County, New York after a ridiculous 11 days (that's 77 days in dog-years) after Superstorm Sandy, is that I made the brilliant decision to release my bladder into Adam's Nike's just moments before our mom was to drive him to school yesterday.
Hello. I'm Lewis, a very important "bagle" (that's a mix of Beagle and Bassett Hound -- shut-up, haters, we can't all have a fancy pedigree). And I'm here to tell you what it's like for a dog in the aftermath of a dog-forsaken storm like Sandy. And you should listen up, because I haven't been allowed to address the public since 2008. That was when I wrote this open letter to President Obama asking that he please adopt a dog, rather than buy one (for some reason, he didn't take my advice). But ever since my family was able to return to our house, yesterday, November 9, my mom has been busy cleaning like a fanatic, so I'm left to my own devices, electronic devices, that is (hahaha, we hounds are quite clever, hashtag-amiright?).
Anyways, I have ways of making you listen. I know how to howl, and I will not be ignored.
So, first off, let me just say that I am no stranger to the plight of the homeless. If you recall from my last article, I was rescued from a shelter back in 2005. I was wandering the mean streets of the Bronx for at least a day or so before I got abducted by some dude driving a white van. Next thing I know, I'm being thrown in a jail cell. They didn't tell me, but I knew it was death row. The stench of fear was overwhelming. Now when I close my eyes, I can still hear the screams. My mom and her two huppies (human puppies, now my teenage brothers) paid my bail and got me out of there, and we lived on the Upper East Side for two years before they finally got the hint and moved me to the country in 2007. But D-g only knows, being homeless is something you never forget.
Superstorm Sandy pummelled the Northeast on Monday, October 29, 2012. Through the pounding rain and the howling wind, I could hear the silence of the coyotes. I longed for that familiar, comforting scent of deer, rabbits and racoons, but it was gone. And I wasn't allowed out of my house for a run or anything. I saw trees falling down like dominoes along the edge of my yard, and it hurt my soul. These were trees where I had crouched, howling up at squirrels and hawks. Once I even saw an owl in one. And then just like that, they were gone: firewood.
I realize that "there but for the grace of D-g go I" - I mean, I heard my mom talking about how other dogs had lost their homes, how a dog in Brooklyn watched helplessly as his people were killed by a falling tree while taking him for his evening constitutional, how two young boys in nearby North Salem died when a tree fell down on their house. I can't bear to think about what I would have done if anything had happened to my people, especially my brothers.
Still, none of that can take away from my sense of helplessness as the lights in my house flickered off, then on, and then off again until they stayed off for good in the immediate wake of the storm. Our house quickly grew cold (which I didn't notice exactly because of my winter fur coat), and I could tell that something was very wrong as I watched my people build a fire in the fireplace, and they weren't smiling and happy like they usually are when they build a fire. I could smell their anxiety as they realized they couldn't contact the outside world because their phones were out of service, both landline and cell. They took me outside to do my business, but they couldn't do theirs because their toilets require electricity. Their despair hung acridly in the air as they piled me, along with flashlights and a change of clothes, into the car and left the darkened, freezing house behind on Tuesday, October 30.
We tried to go to a hotel in Tarrytown. I heard mom say it was the only hotel where there was still an available room. But when we got there, the hotel was evacuating because of storm damage.
We quickly changed course and headed toward New Jersey, where mom's sister and parents both live. I sensed danger, and indeed, New Jersey had already been declared a "State of Emergency." But while we had been driving towards Tarrytown, a text message from mom's sister had gotten through inviting us to stay at her house, which still had power and running water. It took us an entire tank of gas and four hours to get to Aunt Vanessa's house in Roseland because we had to make so many detours for fallen trees. A policeman stopped us and asked us why we were even driving around at all. Mom started crying that she was there because she had nowhere else to go.
When we arrived in Roseland, I could see it was going to be tough for us to stay there. My cousin, Sunday (a very bitchy cockapoo) didn't like having me there. And my aunt and uncle, Minnie and Maxie (a couple of yappy little Yorkies whose people are my mom's parents), were there as well, because their people had lost their electricity in Livingston, New Jersey. Sunday got Minnie and Maxie to gang up against me. The yapping was brutal. Plus, Aunt Vanessa has an important job at Planned Parenthood, and in the eleventh hour before an important election in which human female reproductive rights were at stake, the tension was high.
I ran away on the second day we were there. I'm not proud to admit it. But when I get stressed out, it's my default reaction: I run away. Luckily Aunt Vanessa got me back before mom even knew I was missing. But after that, we left because mom found a hotel in Stamford, Connecticut. It was in the "ruff" part of Stamford, I heard mom say. I think she meant that it was the only hotel that would take a dog and that had a room available.
We left the hotel in Stamford after only one night because friends of my mom insisted that we stay with them in Armonk. They had a generator, so they had lights and heat in the kitchen and in the bedrooms upstairs. But the catch was that I would have had to stay in a jail cell in their basement because they have two Golden Retrievers who are like totally discriminatory. Because of that, mom decided it was better for me to stay in my own house.
I was like, THANK YOU, LADY! May I just say, it was so good to be back in my house!?
I slept for an entire day and enjoyed plowing through a big box of Wheat Thin crackers that mom had accidentally left on a low shelf in the pantry (I learned "the art of the break-in" from a group of pit-bulls on the mean streets of the Bronx that day that I was homeless in 2005). I knew that mom was sorry that I couldn't run around in the backyard like I usually do, what with the electric fence not working, so I took the liberty of reserving one room for peeing and pooping -- the living room, which she almost never uses. As we say in the dog-parks, "I wanted to do her a solid." I felt awesome. Honestly, I don't understand why mom kept taking me out of there and bringing me places. Why didn't she understand that I just wanted to be home?
After another three days, school was starting again for my brothers. It was Wednesday, November 7, more than a week since the storm had hit. The school buses weren't able to get to all the kids in the district because there were still trees down everywhere, but I guess school had been out for too many days already. Mom managed to find an available room at the hotel in the IBM Business Park in Armonk, which was closer to school. She made me go too. At first I thought it could be fun because there were so many dogs there. In fact, it seemed like there was a dog in every room. I guess a lot of dogs were left without power after Superstorm Sandy.
But at the risk of sounding ungrateful, the place was d-g-damn awful. I was miserable. All the dogs there were tense. There was a lot of barking, a lot of howling, and a lot of unhappy dog-parents. On Wednesday night, the Noreaster blew in, along with seven and a half inches of snow. All the dogs wanted to play in the snow, and that made their people even more tense.
The next morning (now 10 days after Sandy), mom couldn't get her car started, so she had to walk Adam to the Middle School a mile away. She made me come with them because she said I needed the exercise. But I was cool with that since I love snow! Weee!
After dropping Adam off at school, mom walked down the street to buy a cup of coffee and call the mechanic to help her get her car started. She let me stay outside so that I could frolic in the snow some more. I really didn't want to go back to the hotel, but she came out with her coffee, and I guess it was time to walk back. As we were walking down the sidewalk, a human lady pulled up beside us. She rolled down her window and started yelling at mom for having kept me outside while she was buying coffee.
The lady obviously had power because her makeup was flawless, and obviously had had her hair "did" (as my mom would say). I looked up at my mom, dark circles under her eyes, her hair hanging limply from under her wool ski hat. I couldn't understand how the lady in the car could be mean to anyone in the midst of all the bad stuff that had happened, when half of the town was without power or indoor plumbing, when people had died, for D-g's sake. I was proud of my mom because she looked straight into that mean lady's eyes and told her, "Mind your own business!"
I guess at that moment, the lady must have realized then what she sounded like (rhymes with bitch) -- and maybe also she recognized my mom as someone who lives in the same town, with kids at the same schools, and maybe she had the bright idea that maybe it's not such a great idea to bully someone who can identify you at a PTA meeting -- because that was when she asked my mom if she could give her a ride somewhere.
Mom told her "not from a judgemental busybody, I don't" and stomped off through the snow. Go mommy!
I was proud of my mommy, sure, but that was also one of those "grand idea" moments that people have in the movies, when you know that you've got to take action to resolve the crisis. That was when I knew that we had to get back home and pronto. That was when I hatched my plan.
That night, while my people slept, I crept out of bed, found my brother's sneakers beside his backpack, and I just let loose. You know how people claim that dogs can't smile? Well, it's not true. If I had opposable thumbs, I would have taken an Instagram of my giant dog-smile at that very moment.
When Adam went to get ready for school in the morning, I knew mom would have to go home to get a new pair of shoes for him. That's when I made my move. I raced out the door when Mom opened it. "That's fine, let's bring Lewis with us," Mom said to Adam, as I knew she would. When we got to the house, she let me stay, as I knew she would.
Oh, and by the way, the power was on. See how powerful a dog's will is? I've been sleeping ever since, or at least until I decided that someone needed to get some credit for getting the family back home and getting that power back.
And that someone is me.
This is Lewis the Bagle, reporting from Westchester. May D-g be with you.