2012-11-14 / Columnists
Pets pets pets
September 2010- Suffolk County Police Department call to Babylon Town Shelter: “There’s a dog obstructing a homicide investigation.” Thinking there was a Pit Bull at the scene, the shelter director dispatched an animal control officer (ACO) to Wyandanch. Surprisingly, the ACO returned with a two-pound Yorkie puppy that had been hiding under the bed where there had been a fatal drive-by shooting several days before.
That’s how Gigi’s survival story begins. Our youngster Yorkie has already endured a murder and a pair of devastating hurricanes. However, with details varied, her storm story can be repeated hundreds of thousands of times to represent every affected Long Islander. I’ve always been reluctant to chronicle the Yorkie’s murder saga because the crime with possible gang/ drug ties remains unsolved, and because I wanted no paper trail to lead to our witness protection pup.
To recap the police part, after a robbery at a Lake Drive address, local teens allegedly went back to see if there were any more goods to plunder. A squatter was waiting for them, and shot through the bedroom window (Gigi’s hideaway) killing one of the teens. The next day someone shot at more teens in a car outside the victim’s home while a policeman was assaulted at his wake. No one was ever arrested. Anyone who would have come forward to claim the poor pup would have been linked to the crimes.
My connections to this Wyandanch house were uncanny. Thirty years before, via the Beacon, I had placed a kitten with Ruth, a feisty, older Polish woman who lived there. My future sister-in-law had rescued the cat in Massapequa. Ruth was truly alone, with no family except for her cherished cats and a dog she has saved from the block. I began driving her to vet appointments to spare her taxi fare, and made treatment arrangements with my vet after her new dog tested heartworm positive.
Since the statute of limitations is up, I can say that we also “liberated” a puppy next door sentenced to life on a chain. When Ruth started saying that she wanted to leave her house to the League for Animal Protection (the rescue I worked with at the time), or me, I stepped away because I felt uncomfortable; later guilty, for forsaking her. I never knew what had become of Ruth until police records showed that she must have died four years before the shooting, and her house, the scene of this murder, belonged to an LLC.
The police signed the Yorkie over to the shelter. My brother and sister-in-law had recently lost a 14-year-old female Yorkie; so on some cosmic level, I felt that Ruth had sent me this puppy to protect. The homicide investigation obstructer dog must be destined to go to my sister-in-law who was responsible for the butter-colored kitten that Ruth loved so much.
Gigi, a tiny dynamo, grew up at my brother’s on an idyllic cove of a Massapequa island. She became as agile as her three cat siblings. Gigi would mimic their every maneuver, trying to tightrope the catwalk to the shed roof. A Terrier terror, she’d charge to the edge of the dock to bark at boats as if she owned Great South Bay. For a while, she did.
Last year, Irene hit the tiny island hard. The family fled with pets held over their heads when water in the street was chest deep. The yard and dock were decimated but with relatively little water inside compared to the next deluge. Once the oily mud was shoveled away, Gigi got used to a penned off mini-yard. Irene’s rebuilding was just finished weeks ago (dock and bulkhead a month old; bathroom only completed a week). All this now seems like a trial run for what was about to come.
Sandy was Irene to an exponential degree. This time the family heeded evacuation warnings with two peeps and four pets holed up in a motel room while the surge ravaged their yard and everything in its way- dock, garage, fence, deck- so it could knock off the back door and churn all their belongings, including a grandfather clock, elevated in vain in four feet of muddy slop, leaving an uninhabitable shell as a souvenir of what was once home sweet home. Repeat this soggy saga thousands of times over on our South Shore, and you have Sandy’s legacy.
Like so many other of our neighbors, this family is now homeless and possession-less. They and their cats are temporarily with our 91-yearold father. Gigi is quasi-integrating with our three dogs but how long she stays is not completely up to me. I may have to find her a new home, and that will break my heart. Besides, I feel like a hypocrite. How can I forsake her too?
Sandy has wreaked havoc, directly and indirectly. The storm has rocked people’s world. My 91-yearold dad goes to the gym everyday, and to dances several times a week with a lady friend contemporary. Her waterfront home suffered severe damage. She will be staying with relatives in Florida. He feels as if he lost her; perhaps he has. A rescue friend has a blind and autistic son who lives at a Coney Island group home during the week. For decades she has taken him home every weekend. He needs constant monitoring. The group home flooded; her son is with her until repairs are made. She may have to take a leave of absence from her job. Pet friendly, interim housing will be scarce. Shelters are already seeing more dogs abandoned and tied up at strange refuges. Rescuers fear that thousands of beloved pets will be relinquished when people can find no place to live that welcomes them.
With all due respect, there is no intent here to equate a dog’s fate with the suffering of so many people. Gigi is merely a symbol. In her short life, she has weathered a homicide and two hurricanes. Her future remains uncertain, like so many of us, but she is a survivor.
And so are we.