BLACK DOG DEAD by Peter Nolan Smith

Wall Street collapsed in the fall of 2008

The whys were discussed by countless TV analysts without a single mention of greed and the government equally appeared out of touch with the economic disaster. The catastrophe had no effect on me. I had spent the summer in Palm Beach looking after of a rich friend’s crazy Airedale. My salary was $350 a week. All, but $50 of it went child support and I returned to New York dead broke, so I couldn’t have been happier to have been invited by Doctor Nick a longtime friend to join him for dinner at the Strip House on East 13th Street. A pharmaceutical company was picking up the tab.

“Bring a good appetite.” NIck suggested and I always follow his instructions on matters of health. “And be on time too.”

“Yes, sir.” Hunger was an excellent disciplinarian.

I arrived three minutes before the appointed time. An attractive hostess led me into the red-lit restaurant. My doctor introduced the two reps in suits. I guessed their age to be 30. Both enjoyed selling their production, which was a medicine aimed at reducing cholesterol in men. The tables in the restaurant were swelling with meat-hungry men. Most looked to be perfect candidates for this drug.

“A steak house is a funny place to promote that.” My LDL (Bad) Cholesterol Level was 110 according to my last check-up with Nick. I could eat anything.

“I play hockey three times a week,” boasted the younger rep. Jim was from New Hampshire. He was in better shape than I had ever been in my life. “I ran a marathon last month. I eat what I want.”

“I’m not so lucky.” His partner was drinking Diet-Coke. Mike’s LDL was in the 200s. He ordered the 12 oz. shell steak. “I’m trying to cut down, but I suggest the 23 oz. rib eye.”

It was a giant slab of meat. I ordered mine medium raw.

“What’s it like to go out with Dr. Martini?” Nick had been in practice with this GP on Staten Island. They were now rivals.

“Damn, he eats like the world is going to end tomorrow.” Jim described the portly doctor scarfing down two steaks, a plate of clams, three bottles of wine, dessert, and several gin and tonics at lunch. “And then we went back to work.”

“It’s a good thing that he wasn’t operating heavy machinery,” Nick joked, but barely touched his wine throughout the meal. In his mind if they talked about Dr. Martini, then they would talk about him. He maneuvered the conversation away from doctors and medicine to sports, then family, and finally my housesitting in Palm Beach.

“He was staying in a mansion on the beach.”

“It was a modest mansion and I had to take care of a millionaire’s dog.” Pom-Pom had been rescued from a crack house. It took the better part of two months to teach her how not to attack me. “The first day I was there, I decided to take her to a park for a walk. She broke the front window of the Mercedes trying to attack a poodle. When the police saw me with her, they warned that they would shoot her, if she was off the leash. She had attacked two dogs in the last year. Her owner was scared she would be put down. I was lucky nothing bad happened.”

“So was the dog.” Jim stuffed a chunk of meat in his mouth.

“At night she’d jump into my bed to sleep with me. It was a good thing she as spaded. I had gone down there hoping to find a ninety year-old old heiress with three weeks to live, but ended up with a dog.”

“Did it have a trust?” Jim washed down the steak with a healthy swallow of wine.


“Settling down with a turtle-skinned heiress would have been the perfect ending for you.” My doctor had held high hopes for my marrying a billionairess with an open heart.

“It was off-season and I failed in my mission, but I found the love of a dog.”

In the end I had calmed Pom-Pom to the point where she stopped attacking the air.

“A dog is the only animal that loves you more than it loves itself.” Jim was finishing his steak. I had barely consumed half and signaled the waiter for a doggie bag. None of the other diners seemed to be having trouble with their meals.

“That is true.” Pom Pom cried the day I left Palm Beach.

“You were lucky, but not so my old girlfriend.” Jim waved for the dessert menu. “She was lived in Arlington, Mass. on the Green Line.”

Being a Boston native I was familiar with that trolley line, but asked, “What’s that have to do with a dog?”

“My girlfriend was asked to take care of this old Lab. The family was going to Italy. They didn’t want to put her in a kennel. My girlfriend thought it would be easy and it was for the first week, then one morning she comes in the house and the dog is lying on the floor. At first she thought it was asleep and ignored it for the day, then when she came home she noticed that it hadn’t moved during the day. It was dead.”

“Do you guys have anything to revive a dead dog?” I had to ask.

“No, but we do have viagra.”

“A dead dog with a hard-on.” His partner had heard the story before but obviously enjoyed every re-telling.

“My girlfriend called the family a little freaked out, except they’re cool with it. The dog was old. They tell her to call the vet and he’ll take care of the body. The vet was two stops away on the trolley. The Lab weighed about 80 lbs, so she put the body in a luggage bag, you know, the kind with wheels. She rolled the bag out of the house and struggled down the street to the station. A young man helped her up the stairs and onto the trolley. When she got off, he said he’ll help her. She thanked him for his effort and once they were of the main street, he asked why the bag was so heavy. My girlfriend didn’t want to say a dead dog, so she told him its computer equipment. The good Samaritan punched her once and ran away with the bag. When she came to, the black dog is gone. Good-bye, dog.

“That’s a horrible story.” Doctor Nick had a Lab.

“And I wished it had a good ending.” Jim had told this story countless times without ever fabricating a punchline. “She was even more freaked out about the dead dog being stolen than it being dead.”

“What about the family?”

“The vet gave them ashes from a pit bull. They buried it in the backyard. My girlfriend thought that she should tell them the truth. I stopped going out with her before I found out what happened in the end.”

“She probably told them.” Most people can’t keep their mouths shut and I ordered a 12 year-old port, which was delicious and the next morning I ate the rest of the rib eye for breakfast ever so glad I didn’t have to share it with Pom-Pom.

She was living in Palm Beach and dogs down there don’t have to worry about the collapse of the world economic institutions.

In fact no dogs do, especially dead ones.

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