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NYTimes article on two dog's life and death

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  • NYTimes article on two dog's life and death

    West Side Journal
    Dogs’ Life (and Death) Is a Poignant Tale
    Published: January 29, 2010

    Two grizzled denizens of the 84-unit apartment building at 115 West 86th Street died last weekend, Harry on Friday evening, and his compatriot Bix on Saturday. They were virtual centenarians. Both were wildly popular, highly visible and on a one-name basis with their piece of the Upper West Side: Harry for a debonair self-assurance reminiscent of Cary Grant, Bix for his diplomatic skills and soulful eyes.

    The fact that they were not human, but were instead a pair of 14-year-old dogs, seems only to have magnified the bereavement in their building, where they had lived longer than most tenants; on their block, where Harry held court at sidewalk cafes and was known as the Mayor of 86th Street; and deep into Central Park, where Bix had been the ringleader of a 9 a.m. play group since 1997.

    As they got older, the two dogs were afforded privileges usually extended to elderly humans. Bix and Harry had first dibs on entering and exiting the elevator; residents commiserated with Harry, a purebred Shar-Pei, in the lobby on rainy days because they knew he disliked getting wet.

    Bix, named for the jazz musician Bix Beiderbecke, and a mishmash of Akita, Saint Bernard and German shepherd, was the opposite: oblivious to bad weather, crazy about swimming, and delighted to peruse the nose-level bone display at the neighborhood Pet Stop, until the day he died. His 84-year-old owner, the documentary filmmaker D. A. Pennebaker, said he never knew any of his neighbors until Bix moved in, an instant catalyst for eye contact and conversation.

    “He used to walk to work with us every morning,” said Chris Hegedus, Mr. Pennebaker’s wife and collaborator. “He was our muse.”

    “We have eight children between us, but Bix was like my 9th and 10th child,” said Mr. Pennebaker.

    “Over the years, because of him, my circle of friends changed, I met people I never would have met; I came to see my whole life depending on this dog I hadn’t wanted at all. I’d expected having to walk him in the rain in the middle of the night. But I never expected to lose him. If ever you put a dog down, some of you goes with him.”

    That the dogs died on the same weekend stunned the building’s residents and seemed to mark the end of an era, according to Harry Ahrens, a 62-year-old retiree and dog owner who took no umbrage at being referred to as Human Harry so as not to be confused with the other Harry.

    “Losing those two longtime residents, it kind of reminds everybody of their own mortality,” he said. “They were a more pleasant part of the building’s culture than some of the people.” A doorman, Rafael Curbelo, a dog aficionado who kept a secret stash of treats behind his desk in the lobby, cried upon hearing the double dose of bad news. “Harry was my best friend here,” said Mr. Curbelo, recalling a dog named Johnny that his family had owned in Cuba. Losing Harry, he said, hurt more.

    As has become the tradition in the dog-friendly building, where thick walls mute most barks and leashes can be optional for mature four-legged residents, two dog death announcements were posted in the elevator. Within hours, both had been inscribed with expressions of sympathy from tenants, some human, some not.

    Tolstoy, a miniature dachshund with an apparently iffy disposition, was eloquent: “Dear Bix, I’m sorry I was so mean to you. If I had paid more attention to you and Harry, I would have learned to be a better dog. I’ll put you both in my next book. Love, Tolstoy.”

    Both dogs died at home, surrounded by their human families, liberated by euthanasia from the irreversible infirmities of old age (Harry’s veterinary bills over the last three years ran to $25,000).

    “It was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make,” said Stephanie Roesch, an account manager at Tzell Travel. “It broke my heart.”

    Ms. Roesch, who lives with her cousin, Rita Silke, said they became Harry’s caretakers at his insistence: he initially belonged to her uncle, Tom Silke, who lived on the East Side but visited them almost daily, crossing the park with Harry in tow. “And one day, when Harry was about 2, he refused to go back across Central Park with my uncle,” she said. ”He wouldn’t budge,” she said.

    On Tuesday night, Ms. Roesch and her cousin stopped by the Pennebaker-Hegedus apartment with a sheaf of dog photos and a bottle of Pol Roger.

    Mr. Pennebaker told them it was Winston Churchill’s favorite Champagne.

    They drank a toast to their dogs, gone but not really gone.

    “I have a physicist friend who insists dogs would be talking and reading by now if they just lived longer,” Mr. Pennebaker mused. “I don’t think of Bix as a dog.”

    He got no argument.

    Happy Running over the Rainbow Bridge

    Dolly's Barking Bubbles, LLC

  • #2
    That was a great article...


    • #3
      What a great story. Thank you for sharing it.