One January day in 2010, I was walking my new puppy Smokey along West 44th Street in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC. A very sweet woman stopped us to say how cute Smokey was and how much he looked like the new puppy she and her boyfriend adopted. Their puppy was female and set to arrive soon from an out-of-state rescue.
A couple of weeks later, I was out with Smokey and ran into that woman again across from my apartment. Her name was Nana and she was with her boyfriend Julian and their new puppy. Her name was Isis (named after the Egyptian goddess, obviously). She was an adorable black lab mix just like Smokey, and the two of them took to each other immediately.
Smokey made a new friend, and so did I. Nana, Julian and I became instantly bonded in our new adventure as first-time dog owners. The added bonus was that we lived literally around the corner from one another. Since Julian and I worked from home, it meant a lot of dog walks together, puppy playdates, field trips to Central Park and sleepovers when one of us needed to travel.
We had become great friends through our dogs, who had themselves become inseparable. When we went over to their apartment, which was a third floor brownstone walkup, Smokey would burn up the stairs like he was jet-propelled. He couldn’t get to Isis fast enough. And when Isis came over to my place, Smokey would catch her scent and hear the jingle of her dog tags when she got out of the elevator. Isis never gave up trying to push my apartment door open. For Smokey, it was all about Isis. And for Isis, it was all about Smokey. They really loved each other like no two dogs I’ve ever seen.
(When Smokey and Isis were about a year old, Nana started to have an allergic reaction to something. There was the distinct possibility she might have been allergic to Isis. One night over dinner, Julian and Nana asked if I would take Isis if she was the cause of Nana’s allergy. As it turned out, Nana was reacting to the dust being kicked up from their street being ground up and re-paved. But between you and me, I was selfishly hoping I’d get to keep Isis.)
After a few years and a wedding, newlyweds Julian and Nana moved to a bigger apartment uptown to plan for the baby they were adopting, which meant we wouldn’t see them and Isis as often. I was sad for Smokey (and myself), but over the moon for them.
By then, I had adopted my second dog, Lenore, whom Smokey didn’t really like at first. (Neither did Isis.) But everybody warmed up eventually. We did manage to arrange some special field trips uptown and in Central Park, which was great fun. And they came down the the old hood in Hell’s Kitchen a few times, too. But it wasn’t the same as having our friends right around the corner. We missed them terribly.
Then, in 2016, I moved to Cleveland. Among the things that were hard to leave, Isis, Julian and Nana were at the top of the list. During the three years I was in Cleveland, we did our share of FaceTimes, but… it’s FaceTime.
Upon moving back to NYC in January of 2020, one of my first priorities was getting the dogs back together. When we finally did, they clocked each other from across the street and their excitement at seeing one another again was incredible. It was wonderful to reunite with Julian and Nana and their adorable growing son, and it was so good to see the dogs so happy to be together again. The joy was over the top. They remember. And they love.
Over the past months, Isis started to have some serious health challenges. She and Smokey were hitting the 12 year mark, getting old. As it turned out, Isis had a growing cancer but faced treatment possibilities that could possibly give her another six months. Maybe a year.
Then, late yesterday morning, I got a text from Nana. They were at the vet with Isis on West 72nd Street and got the blindsiding news that her liver was failing and that there was nothing more to be done.
At that very moment, I just so happened to be out walking Smokey and Lenore in Central Park, right around 72nd Street. They were going to put Isis in their car and bring her home for one last day together before putting her down the next day at home with a euthanasia veterinarian. I suggested that Julian and Nana drive up Central Park West on their way home and pull over when they saw us so we could say goodbye. And they did.
We got to see Isis one last time. She was weak and probably a little buzzed from her pain meds, but I got some recognition and a little kiss. Smokey was confused. He was excited to see his girlfriend, but he clearly sensed that she wasn’t right. It was tough.
We all hugged and said goodbye. I held Isis’s face and kissed it repeatedly, took in her smell and gazed into those eyes one last time. She was a truly special dog.
When I got home, I fell apart.
In grief, I often get the impulse to do something creative. I spent the next several hours going over the tons of photos and videos I took of the dogs together over the years and made a video in remembrance of the wonderful time and friendship the dogs shared (and that I shared with Julian and Nana).
It’s perhaps a bit sappy, but I don’t care. The video is basically a letter to Isis (and Julian and Nana), with such amazing memories and profound gratitude for our journey together.
On my morning walk with the dogs today, we walked past the same spot where we said goodbye to Isis yesterday. Smokey and Lenore stopped and starting sniffing the sidewalk where Isis stood. Lenore started looking around hopefully, as if to ask Where is she? When I said “Let’s go,” Smokey didn’t want to move.
At around 5:00 p.m. today, Julian and Nana texted that Isis was gone. It was over. No more pain. They sent a last photo, which I’m keeping private. It’s beautiful. She was beautiful. What a gift.
Love your dogs, kids. It goes so fast. It’s a wonderful journey and one that has brought so much joy to my life and to the life of my dogs, but it just goes so fast. Cherish every minute.