I moved out of our house in Long Island to an apartment in Park Slope a few weeks ago and my divorce from my wife Caryn will be final in another couple of months, and to be honest, I haven't been this happy in a very long time.
I feel like myself again. Actually, I feel like a better version of myself. If 25 years of marriage teaches you anything, it's who you really are. And to my astonishment, I kind of like me. Except for one nagging thing: I now hate dogs.
Specifically, I hate my wife's dogs. And even more specifically, I hate my wife's dogs because she is no longer my wife.
Now before you dismiss me as a heartless curmudgeon, let me tell you a little something about them. They're tiny, they yap incessantly, they're untrained, and there are three of them -- a mini-Cerebus, guarding the gates of our suburban hell. If you stacked them on top of each other (which, by the way, I've often thought about doing), they'd pass as one relatively small dog on Halloween. They were the Greek chorus in our house, and their barking and crying was the soundtrack to our growing unhappiness.
Ziggy is the oldest and largest, a handsome Yorkie who went a bit crazy a few years back and attacked a German Shepherd. He walked away with his tail between his legs and one less eyeball.
Jenji is the middle child, a Maltese mixed with a Shih-tzu. I think I dislike her the most because she's the most adorable, with an effervescent personality and wavy hair. In this way, she reminds me of my wife, who I once loved the most.
Lola is the smallest, a teacup Yorkie no bigger than a Weight Watchers cupcake. I've almost killed her (and myself) a good half-dozen times because her favorite place in the house always seemed to be directly under my feet.
We got Ziggy about ten years ago because Kobe, another tiny, mixed breed, developed epilepsy and began to twitch violently against the kitchen wall like a Dostoyevsky character. And that wasn't even the worst part. The worst part was when Kobe lost all control of his bowels, which were not exactly finely tuned machinery to begin with. We told the kids, who must've been about 7 and 9 at the time, that we had to give Kobe away to the "nice lady who took care of sick puppies" (and guys, if you're reading this now, I hate to break it to you, but Kobe died!), and a few days later we brought Ziggy home to help them cope with the loss, even though they already seemed well on their way to moving on. So Ziggy was technically the kids' dog.
Jenji was strictly my wife's. A few years ago, Caryn had worked at a pet store that sold these little creatures, and her boss's brilliant marketing idea was to showcase these adorable little pieces of fluff ... in baby cribs. My wife fell in love with Jenji on day one, suckered me into thinking that Ziggy needed a playmate, and the rest is her-story. Because I pretty much had nothing to do with either of them after that.
Lola was an anniversary present several years ago when we still celebrated such things. After 25 years together, Caryn and I both knew that our marriage was over but hadn't yet informed each other, so Lola was a last stab at happiness, which turned out to be the final exit wound. Lola's the prototypical tiny dog: high-strung, mean-spirited, perpetually unsatisfied -- in short, the embodiment of the way my wife and I saw each other. Lola is the prettiest of the three, and when Caryn takes her out shopping at the mall, people always stop and make such a fuss over how sweet they look together.
And that's the real reason I hate these dogs. It hurt me to see how affectionate Caryn was with them. It was as though she had transferred the love she had for me (much the way she did when we first had kids) and turned it loose on these undeserving little runts. I was so jealous of them that I couldn't see the spark of life they brought into our house. Instead, all I saw was what they were taking away from me. I remember one time I was sitting at the kitchen table and Caryn was on the floor playing with them with this look on her face of pure joy that I remembered from a long time ago. I hated those dogs because it had been forever since Caryn looked at me that way.
On the first day of my new life in Brooklyn, I was waiting outside for the movers and bumped into my new downstairs neighbor, who also happens to be named Karen, and she introduced me to her 10-month-old black lab, Emily.
"Emily's going to want to lick you," Karen warned me.
"No problem," I told her. "I love dogs."