By Naomi Serviss / New York City
Since when did it become harder
to adopt a dog
than to score Music Man tickets?
Droves of angsty quarantined folk
sought four-legged companionship
to cope last year.
A tidal wave of applications
and personal references
swamped adoption agencies.
Some asked for multiple references,
a vet’s stats, your college GPA
and your firstborn.
City pounds were less stringent.
Too bad their websites
were not user-friendly.
They had more pit-mixes
than wee apartment pups,
all the rage
in New York City’s space-desert.
I understand the importance
of vetting wannabe pup parents.
But is it really necessary
to submit a video of your living space?
Is this theater of the absurd?
Or a voyeur’s thrill?
a clearinghouse for multiple organizations,
is a marketing whiz.
So website hounds (clears throat)
are privy to available dog photos,
profiles and links to yet more agencies
hoping to clear their shelters.
Other worthy groups including
Rescue Dogs Rock, Waldo’s Rescue,
Bide-A-Wee et al,
experienced Internet traffic booms
during those initial lonely days
in the spring of 2020.
How do I know this?
I was merely checking for a friend.
Ever since hounding Central Park dogs
for iPhone snaps,
I’ve been designated
the Puparazzi of Central Park.
It was win/win!
I could admire all the friendly pups
without dealing with the expense,
dog poop duty, and training needed
for a full-time commitment.
So my close encounters of the furry kind
began and ended
with my daily morning Central Park walk
among the four-leggeds.
longed for another rescue
ever since we moved to the city
a dozen years ago.
The two mutts we had saved in the past
were basic brown dog treasures.
Rescued from the no-frills, last-hope
Huntington Dog Pound on Long Island.
Especially Maggie, who had us for 15 years
and grew up with our kids.
She was irreplaceable,
with the sweetest disposition
of any animal I’ve encountered.
My husband was versus
having any size dog
for our 750-square foot apartment.
Lew prefers his dogs
medium-sized and grateful.
So it goes.
On my morning walks I became obsessed
with regally, aesthetically perfect Barry,
a 150-pound Bernese Mountain Dog.
He reminded me of Scout,
my childhood friend Susie’s
gorgeous Golden Retriever.
Scout was laid-back and huge.
He had the run of the estate.
By “run,” I mean slowly amble.
Barry loved lounging on my foot,
leaning in with his massive bulk.
No matter that he outweighed me,
it felt comforting
to have a massive good-natured, fur creature
who tolerated my candid photo-taking.
Fortunately, his owners know he was top choice
among the other Central Park Berns.
Barry has no peer.
Tricolored, perfectly symmetrical
in black, brown and white, he’s stunning.
He could also be goofy, like me.
Barry was my dream dog.
Months later, I somehow found myself
trawling Petfinder for potential sidekicks.
I got hooked.
I went all in, applying willy-nilly
to every local agency,
knowing my chances were remote.
Then, miracle of miracles, Lew came on board.
It might have had something to do
with our kids’ thunderous encouragement.
Or my relentless whining and pining.
Nevertheless, the important thing
Is that he saw the wisdom
in maintaining good relations.
He caved, but I still didn’t
pass muster with the agencies.
My friend Janice, another devoted pet lover,
felt my pain after fruitless applications.
She asked if I had tried
New York City’s Humane Society.
As Homer Simpson would say, “D’oh!”
She set me straight
as to what an amazing agency it is.
It’s where she found her forever friend!
So, I got back on the horse,
so to speak and applied.
By that time,
a small basic brown dog
seemed beyond my reach.
I just never considered other hues.
I wasn’t vehemently opposed
to shades of grey or black,
but I didn’t ever want to be owned
by a white dog.
Like wearing a white T-shirt,
I’d worry about keeping it spotless.
That being said, my application was in process.
Whatever that meant.
Admittedly, it didn’t hurt having
Janice as a reference, especially since
she had adopted from them 11 years ago.
I spoke to Sandra, the executive director
who empathized with my small pup hunt.
Just so happened that a nine-pound two-year-old,
full-grown lass might be the one!
Being summoned to meet outside
the Upper East Side location
was nerve-wracking and new-baby-exciting.
Twenty minutes later,
Sandra emerged carrying
a small, fluffy white dog named Petunia.
I was smitten with Petunia,
a mirthful bundle of squirmy joy
who stole a piece of my heart.
Sandra said think about it and discuss with Lew.
I wondered how many other people
were being considered
for this apartment-friendly dog?
I wanted to project earnestness,
so I agreed,
petting Petunia one last time.
Her gregarious nature
and floofy hair (not fur)
recalled the raspy-voiced,
late rock star
whose rendition of “Me and Bobby McGee”
is tops in my heart.
I had never considered
a mini or toy variety before.
But post-foot surgery,
handling a medium-sized dog
was out of the equation.
I was cautiously optimistic, and realistic.
But my friend Janice had a hunch
my luck was about to turn.
A confluence of coincidences
was hard to dismiss.
Petunia was Lew’s pet name
for our daughter Emmy.
Janis was my late sister Rachel’s middle name.
It’s also a maternal family name.
Janis Joplin is one of my favorite rockers.
My friend of 20 years, Janice,
directed me to the Humane Society.
The fates were kind and the stars were aligned.
A week later, on my birthday, no less…
Welcome, Janis Joplin Petunia Serviss!
It’s going to be a very good year.
Naomi Serviss is a New York-based award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Highroads (AAA magazine), in-flight publications, spa and travel magazines and websites, including BroadwayWorld.com