|And you may ask yourself, "well, how did I get here?"|
This was by no means inevitable.
More than a decade and a half ago, in Kennebunkport, Maine, Ch. Ritter's Northern Traveler, a four-year-old show pug - a champion, like both his parents before him, and all four of his grandparents before them - got himself into a bit of trouble with a four-year-old bitch-in-heat named Harley Davidson Cooper. Harley Davidson came from a long line of non-champions (colloquially known as 'losers'), and we can only imagine how tense the shotgun wedding must have been, as the groom's mother, Ch. Ritter's Country Place, forced herself to make small talk with the bride's golddigging dam, China Doll. Or the moment when the sire of the groom, Ch. Ritter's Busy Beaver - who likely spent the hours before the wedding in the office of his attorney, sheltering assets - first met the brides grandparents (we swear to God we're not making these names up), Bonnie & Clyde. We can assume with some certainty that the ceremony was brief and the reception was open bar.
Weeks (or, more likely, days) later, on March 30, 1999, a puppy was born: Apple Valley's Northern Star. With his paternal championship bloodline diluted and/or polluted by his maternal legacy of grifters, con-men and fornicators, Northern Star was never going to be show dog material. But if he couldn't succeed in his father's line of work, well, there was always his mother's. And so he began the life of a breeding stud, which meant his only responsibilities in the world would be eating and fucking.
Amazingly (though, in retrospect, after watching him piss on his own feet for a number of years, not that amazingly), he managed to screw it up, and by the summer of 2000, Apple Valley's Northern Star had a "for sale" sticker on his head, and his fancy four-word moniker had been replaced on his pedigree papers with a hastily handwritten "HENRY." The loser spawn of a drunken union of nobility and criminals could be had for just $600, travel crate not included. Castration $100 extra. Cash only. Some housebreaking required.
Around that time, we were in the market for a canine sidekick, and decided pugs looked pretty cool. (We hadn't actually met one, but there was a tv commercial for [we think] Moviefone that featured one, and always made us laugh.) This was back in the pre-internet days, but we asked a friend who knew someone who knew someone who knew of this place in Maine, and we dutifully dispatched our own mother to drive up from Boston and do the deal.
And that's how we came to have our best friend.
In October 2000 we moved him to Brooklyn and changed his name from Henry to Jesús, which we chose just because we thought it was as funny as he was. Six years later, we decided "hey, let's move to a country where many people, including God, actually are named Jesús!" and so changed his now less-funny name briefly back to Henry, which then became Enrique, until we decided to rent a house from a man named Enrique and so we changed it once again to "Chucho," the diminutive form of Jesús. But whatever the hell you call him, today is his quinceañero. We celebrated last week with a gala, catered cocktail party on the roof of Burro Hall Headquarters. This being Mexico, there were of course fireworks.
The earliest draft of this essay had here a long meditation about getting old, falling apart, and slouching towards the afterlife - all things that are impossible to ignore when our most precious amigo is the human equivalent of 105; impossible to ignore when our own septuagenarian parents are racking up the health problems once exclusive to our grandparents; impossible to ignore when we look back at the list of his canine friends - JD, Lucky, Porfirio, Gala, Nellie, Tony, Candy - who are no longer with us; when he wakes us up at 3AM because he's feeble enough to have crapped his bed, but still sensible enough to be upset about it; or when we find ourselves reluctant to take a job in New York because we don't think he could handle the move back to the land of icy winters. We told everyone we were using his quinceañero as just a silly excuse to throw a cocktail party, but mostly we went over the top because, really, who knows if there'll be a 16th?
But upon rereading, we deleted those paragraphs and fired the intern who wrote them. Animals don't contemplate their own mortality, so why should we? The perro has lain waste to the actuarial tables - who's to say he won't outlive us all? Here's a reason to believe it: To get from the sofa to his food bowl, the ol' man's got to climb a single step - not much of a challenge, but it's almost as high as he is tall, and with an age-induced condition called degenerative myelopathy gradually weakening his hind legs, this tiny tope is, for the perro, like crossing the Himalayas.
But holy shit, does he ever love to eat! So the little geriatric fucker claws his way up with all his might, carving deep scratches in the stone every time he hears the sound of overpriced dog food clanking into a cheap plastic dish. Future archeologists will excavate the ruins of Burro Hall and wonder if this was some kind of altar for ritual sacrifices. No, future archeologists - it's just a monument to the overachieving perro's grit, determination, and lust for life. Apple Valley's Northern Star is, after all, descended from a long line of champions.