Ten years ago today, an 18-month-old Gigi the dog joined our household. Her backstory is literally kind of shitty so if you’re averse to scatological topics, skip this post.
I found Gigi on Petfinder when I was looking for a young companion for my elderly Pekingese, Mr. Chubbs. She was advertised as a Pekingese, despite a suspiciously prominent schnozz, by a rescue group that had placed her in a new home just a few weeks prior. The new owner didn’t want to keep her. The red flags were waving, but I was oblivious to the warning signs and went across town with Mr. Chubbs to interview Gigi. Her temporary owner brought Gigi down to the sidewalk on a leash. Gigi took one look at Mr. Chubbs and lunged at him, snapping and growling. Mr. Chubbs’s tail went down. Yet, instead of saying “No,” like a sensible person, I said, “Maybe I’ll come back in a couple of days and try again.” The woman was giving off such non-dog-loving vibes that I blamed her for making Gigi nervous.
Within 24 hours, I got an email from the woman announcing that Gigi had pooped on her couch and if I didn’t pick up the dog the very next day she was taking her to the pound. She knew an easy mark when she saw one! Of course, I had to save Gigi from the mean lady and the pound, even if I had to eventually rehome the dog myself. On Feb. 7, 2003, I woke up with the flu. It was also snowing — a total of 5″ of snow fell that day. You can’t take dogs on the subways or buses without a carrying bag, which we didn’t have, and cabs are scarce in the snow. So, MrB hired a car service and fishtailed his way around Manhattan to pick up a big-nosed, mean, couch-destroying dog that he’d never met. (Things like this are why my gorgeous friend Alyssa accurately describes MrB as “a prince of a man.”) When MrB carried Gigi inside, she was scrawny, suffering from an awful haircut and scared out of her wits. We put her in the back bedroom to keep her away from Chubbs and she fled under the bed, where she hid for the majority of the next week. I had to coax her out with cheese to take her for special walks, sans Mr. Chubbs.
It quickly became clear that it wouldn’t be easy to find another home for Gigi because she was a little nuts. I spent the next few months completely consumed with Gigi and her issues, which continued to include excessive, random pooping and dog-on-dog aggression. I kept her away from poor Mr. Chubbs 24/7, ran obstacle courses on the sidewalk to avoid other dogs, and fed Gigi organic, real-meat food. We saw dog trainers, vets and a nationally renowned animal therapist. (The therapist was astounded when Gigi calmly walked out of one room in her office to track down a sleeping Chubbs in another room and attack him unprovoked.) Finally, I took Gigi to Dr. Jennifer Chaitman at Veterinary Internal Medicine and Allergy Specialists. Dr. Chaitman said at least some of Gigi’s woes were likely from a spinal-cord injury. Sure enough, an X-ray showed several crushed vertebrae. The injury was old and had healed with nothing pressing on the spinal cord, so surgery wasn’t indicated: the damage had been done. Friends, family (excluding MrB) and dog experts — rightly concerned about my sanity — told me to put Gigi down, but Dr. Chaitman suggested trying one last thing. She prescribed low-residue dog kibble. There’s practically no roughage in that food, which meant the pooping problem could be managed, though not cured.
Having better control of her bodily functions cheered up Gigi immensely.
She became vain about her hair. (She loves to show off her pink ear ribbons after a grooming appointment.) We also figured out that the ugly-duckling Pekingese was, in reality, a beautiful swan of a Tibetan spaniel. She’s a bit of a camera hog, happy to strike a pose next to purses for this blog and photobomb outfit pictures.
When she’s not hamming it up for the camera, Gigi likes to make a little mischief. I once heard furious activity under my bed, peeked under, and saw her trying to dig a hole in my floor. I imagined how pleased the people in the apartment below might be when a cute dog with great hair fell into their arms. Then I imagined a lucrative “Ransom of Red Chief” scenario, in which I could charge the unfortunate family a hefty price before I’d take special-diet dog back. I told Gigi, “Keep digging!”
Gigi eventually became more cordial to Mr. Chubbs and was allowed to hang out with him. She would try to play with him occasionally and they posed together for the famously dog-loving photographer William Wegman.
When Mr. Chubbs had to be euthanized in 2006 for a slew of age-related illnesses, I went to the ASPCA and got Henry, another Pekingese with his own peculiar health challenges. Even though Gigi has never gotten over her dislike of strange dogs, she accepted Henry as “her” dog. In fact, she lost interest in her toys; when she wants to play, she rolls around by Henry and kicks him till he gets the idea. She does that less often these days. She’s slowed down since she turned 10. Sometimes I can even walk her past strange dogs on the street without her barking her head off. But she manages to surprise me every so often, like last Sunday, when we were watching the Super Bowl. I was relaxing on the couch when Gigi decided to jump up and sit on my midsection. She’s never done that before.
If you’re trying to watch your weight and the details of Gigi’s gastrointestinal tribulations haven’t put you off food for life, I’m happy to send her over to your house for a visit. Having a 17-pound dog press down on one’s ribcage turns out to be a successful way to bring even a Super-Bowl-snack feeding frenzy to a screeching halt. If you do borrow her, bear in mind that I’ve never forgotten my little get-rich-quick scheme. Be sure you have reverse-ransom money.