May I ask you question? Would you keep a large dog cooped up in a small apartment all day?
What kind of a person would treat an animal so badly? But who am I to judge? Especially after what I did.
It all began very inauspiciously. I had made a dinner date with a woman I had met at a party. She lived on the 37th floor of a high-rise building on the Upper Eastside. Why do I remember what floor she lived on? Funny you should ask.
Often, at least on a first date, a woman will ask you to meet her in the lobby. But when I gave the doorman her apartment number and my name, he just pointed me to the bank of elevators.
I rang the bell and waited. A few seconds later she opened the door just a few inches and asked if I liked dogs. “Sure, I’m a regular dog person.”
“Well, I need to warn you. I have a large dog. In fact, Jeff is a very large dog.”
“No problem. The bigger, the better.”
As I stepped into the apartment, Jeff, a tan Great Dane, took one look at me, and then placed his paws on my shoulders and looked me right in the eye. I could not help but notice a great glob of saliva hanging from his chin. Lovely.
“Jeff!!!!! I must apologize. Jeff can be overly friendly. I’m really glad you’re a dog person. There have been some guys who were afraid to come into my apartment. But don’t worry, I can see that Jeff really likes you.
“I’ll be ready in a couple of minutes. So in the meanwhile, why don’t you just toss this ball to Jeff? He loves to retrieve.”
And she handed me this soggy sponge ball. I was left there holding it as she went into the bathroom to finish her preparations. Jeff looked at me expectantly, so I threw the ball a few feet away. Jeff gave me a look like, “That’s it? You can’t throw any further than that?” Had he been a sexist, he might have accused me of throwing “like a girl.”
But he decided to give me another chance, so he slowly walked over to the ball, got it into his mouth, brought it over to me, and deposited it into the palm of my outstretched hand.
Strings of saliva hung from the ball. I tried to ignore them as I looked around the apartment. It was basically just one room, about 15 feet by 20 feet, and a short hallway leading to the bathroom. I began to feel sorry for Jeff, so this time I threw the ball across the room, and Jeff rushed after it and quickly returned it to me.
Soon we got into a rhythm — throw and retrieve, throw and retrieve. For poor Jeff, it was the only game in town. But for me, it was getting increasingly boring.
And then I had an idea. Or actually, a fond memory. When I was around 16 years old, I went a small party in some girl’s apartment . Her parents were away and she invited a couple of her girlfriends over and I invited a couple of guys I knew. We ended up having a huge pillow fight in the living room – the boys against the girls.
We were laughing so hard that we got a little careless. Someone knocked over a lamp, but the hostess was in hysterics, so we figured she didn’t mind. The pillow fight continued. Then another lamp was smashed, and still the fight went on. With each breakage, we laughed even harder. When the fight was finally over, there were feathers, glass, porcelain, and other elements of breakage all over the living room.
And yet the hostess did not seem upset. Finally, the five guests all thanked her and we left. I don’t remember what happened to her when her parents returned – or if I ever found out.
Back to me and Jeff. I decided to see if I could get him to knock over a lamp. So I threw the ball off the wall, and sure enough, it bounced right behind a large floor lamp. But for a huge dog, Jeff was quite agile. He leaned in and secured the ball without touching the lamp.
I tried again and again, but Jeff never came close to knocking over the lamp. So then I threw the ball over the couch. This time Jeff leaped onto a couch seat and then jumped over the back of the couch. He reminded me of basketball players who rarely use the backboard when they shoot. Swish. Just net.
I threw the ball off a wall, off the ceiling, under a table, and almost anywhere else in the room, but Jeff managed to get to it without doing a bit of damage.
I really needed to wash my hands. And there were saliva stains all over my shirt and pants. Lovely. Finally, she came out of the bathroom.
“You know, I could hear you and Jeff playing. Well, I am so glad he got that workout. OK, ready to go?”
Boy was I ready. As we stood by the apartment door, I gave the ball one last throw and saw Jeff running after it. As she opened the door I glanced back and saw the ball bounce out the window. No!!!!!!! And then I saw Jeff leap.
By now I was out in the hall and she was locking the door. Then she looked at me. “What’s the matter?”
I had to think of something to say. But what? “Excuse me, but could we go back into your apartment so we can check to make sure your dog is still there?” No, too alarming.
And then I hit on it: “I was just wondering about something?”
“Did I see your whole apartment?”
“Oh, did you look around?”
“Well, yeah, sort of. But Jeff kept me pretty busy.”
“Yes, I know what just you mean. If he likes you, then he’s your friend for life.”
“That’s nice. He’s a great dog. So tell me, do you have a terrace?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Well, you’re up on the 37th floor. You must have some view.”
“Yeah, the view’s nice, but there’s no terrace. This is all I could afford. In this building an apartment with a terrace would have cost me an arm and a leg.”
And I thought: Yeah, but having no terrace just cost you a dog.
By now we were in the elevator. It stopped several times as people got on. People usually don’t like to talk on crowded elevators, so we rode down to the lobby in complete silence. As soon as the doors opened, I asked her if she lived in the front of the building or in the back.
“The front. Why do you ask?”
“Just curious. So I guess you have a view of the midtown skyline.”
“Yeah, but don’t bring that up. I makes me envious of my neighbors who have those great terraces.”
As soon as we got outside, it looked like Times Square on New Year’s Eve. There were, literally, thousands of people. And there were police cars, an ambulance, and from the sound of sirens, still more on the way.
“I wonder what happened?” she said.
I just shrugged. Then I answered, “How should I know?”
Poor Jeff. He was such a nice dog. The two of us had really made a connection. And yeah, we had been friends for life … his anyway.
We needed to get out of there. If we stayed any longer, she’d find out. So I told her that whatever had happened – we shouldn’t let it spoil our evening.
So we walked to the restaurant where we had a reservation. But when the food came, I couldn’t eat. I pictured Jeff falling – floor by floor, all the way down, all 37 stories. I wondered if he felt any fear. Did he know he was about to die? Did he feel pain or did he die instantaneously?
I knew I must be terrible company, but she didn’t seem to notice. She was going on and on about how much she hated her job, how she was so underpaid and underappreciated, and how her parents kept pressuring her to move back to Long Island. I smiled a lot and nodded yes or shook my head no at the right times.
Then she reached across the table and placed her hand on mine. “You’re such a sensitive and caring man.” I shook my head no in complete disbelief, but then she said, “Look, I’ve met a lot of guys, so I’m a pretty good judge of character. So don’t sell yourself short. You are honest, and you are the kind of man who always takes responsibility. I’ll bet you never take the easy way out.”
I just smiled. I mean, what could I say? “I think I just killed you dog?” She squeezed my hand.
When the waiter came by to clear the table, I asked him to wrap up my food. And only then did she notice that I hadn’t eaten anything.
When we got back to her building, there wasn’t a soul in the street. Evidently the terrible mess had been cleaned up as well.
Does the Sanitation Department have a special group of employees to do that kind of work, or was it left to the apartment building’s janitors. And where do they take the body if the deceased happens to be a very large dog? Do the police do an investigation to determine if it was a suicide or a murder?
“Would you like to come upstairs?”
“Thank you! I would really love to, but I seem to have an upset stomach.”
“I noticed something was wrong. You didn’t touch your food.”
Then I kissed her on the cheek, flagged down a cab, and gave the driver my address. The whole ride home I kept thinking of poor Jeff falling through space. And for what? A chewed up old sponge ball covered with his drool? A ball that I had thrown out the window?
When the cab dropped me in off in front of my building, I rushed up to my apartment and checked my answering machine. Hallelujah! Not one message! I quickly unplugged the machine and turned the ringer off on my phone.
After a few weeks I figured the coast was clear, so I came out of hiding. Soon after, I met a guy at a party who knew the woman. In fact he had gone out with her last Saturday night.
How could I ask him discreetly if Jeff was still live? Then I knew just what to ask. “She lived in a high-rise on the 37th floor, right?”
“Yeah, that’s her.”
“What did you think of her apartment?”
“You know, did she have a nice apartment?”
“To tell you the truth, I never found out”
“Didn’t she invite you up?”
“Yeah, but I never went inside.”
“Well, as soon as I rang her bell, I heard this dog growling.”
May I ask you question? Would you keep a large dog cooped up in a small apartment all day?