By Mary Ann Koenig

Mary Ann Koenig is a writer, animal lover, volunteer, and history student. She was once a NASA astronaut, backup catcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, a consort to the Russian Tsar Nikolas and the first American member of the British Parliament. Some of the above is true.


Brooks Comes to Stay

He’s the Joey Tribbiani of Golden Retrievers. A blissful blonde, pure of heart and simple minded, he’ll never qualify for Mensa. But he’s eighty-five pounds of canine eye-magnet.

When Brooks came through the door for a week-long sleepover, our adopted three-year-old, Savannah, immediately lived up to the name for all female dogs. She growled and lunged at him. Good-natured Brooks, in her eyes, was the demon in a golden-fleece suit, and she lit into him in her best Christian Bale impersonation. The problem is, Brooks took this posturing seriously. He’s a sensitive soul, uncomfortable with criticism. He tucked his head and tail, looked at me morosely, then ran for the door and smacked his head against the screen. And Savannah, embroiled in her rage, mutated into the Wicked Witch of Westchester. I half expected her to launch the flying monkeys. My partner Rick and I looked at each other and shrugged. A week of uncertain chaos was looming.

Brooks had stayed with us before in the pre-Savannah days, and he and our 14-year-old, Dodger, are old pals. That first night Brooks set up in his sleeping quarters adjacent to our room. Savannah and Dodger in our bedroom, as usual. About three a.m. Savannah catapulted off her bed with a “sound the alarm” bark that rattled us out of a deep sleep. Brooks was stirring and she made certain we didn’t miss it. She kept at the fury most of the night. Dodger, blissfully unaware in his near-deaf world, was the only one who got any sleep.

In the morning Brooks demonstrated how deeply this disturbed him. He began a hunger strike.

He’s got a pretty bland food pallet. Dry dog food, rice cakes and celery. He wouldn’t touch any of it. He also turned down some powerful doggie-delicacies: Lamb-lung biscuits, chicken, cheddar cheese, Jarlsberg, and Swiss. Rejected like some intolerable slop, treyf. Savannah kept carping, and Brooks took his revenge out on our lawn. He snagged the tennis ball on the fly and dropped it onto the grass and stared at it, examining the chartreuse fibers before he began to dig. And the grass began to disappear. Large holes, in ever-widening circles, down through the dirt, prodded by a muddy nose and blackened paws, a digger possessed. This made him happy. Food could not.

He refused dinner on the third night and we called his parents. Yes he was fussy, yes he’d gone into food absentia before, but this wasn’t Yom Kippur or Lent, and he wasn’t particularly devout anyway. Wouldn’t hunger finally bring him to the bowl? Or wasn’t there something to tantalize him? A fine smelling, creamy treat that would take a dog from starving disease to feed me, please? After all, a three-day fast was significant for a dog his size. Finally, we found the potion, irresistible, magical, straight from the fridge: cream cheese. A schmear; he lapped at it, gooey and white, slapped on a rice cake and slathered on kibble. He finished the bowl.


Savannah mellowed, in a grudging way. She achieved tolerance, but nothing more. And as usual, in the end we were sad to see Brooks go. His gigantic presence turns our house into a canine circus, a Cinco de Mayo, St. Paddy’s day and Halloween celebration rolled into one. Our own family sitcom with one big star, blonde and beaming: our Joey Tribbiani.

Go to the previous chapter: Dear Savannah

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