The dog lady of Mayfair…
I moved to London about eight years ago. It was a peculiar exodus from a village in Suffolk County, about two hours north, to the biggest city I have ever lived in. I dragged two suitcases once or twice a week onto the train out of Cambridge. A logistical effort to march south that boggled the mind. A final frenzy with a box van (small moving truck) and I was here. Lacking only my beloved Labrador companion as I waited for the new dog friendly flat to come available. Bless her little cotton socks, the day I last went up with a suitcase, I turned to fill it and she had climbed in with a few of her toys. Who needs waterboarding? I’d have given up the nuclear launch codes immediately.
She was blissfully unaware of the agony of finding a landlord willing to accomodate one perfectly behaved, sedate lady Labrador, as I was marketing her. I had taken to calling round the estate agents making enquiries so regularly that they didn’t much bother covering the receiver of the telephone when the shouted over their shoulders, “Its the dog lady again! Anything new?”
Finally something did open up, and the circus was relocated to London. When the sweet old girl finally grew tired and left us last year, there were a few months spent heartbroken and dogless. It was not natural to me somehow. Somewhat like that unsettled feeling when you’re sat in an awkward chair and you keep shifting to get into some reasonably comfortable position.
I did not feel like myself. I missed my usual tours around neighborhoods and parks. I missed standing around in the cold, waiting for the dog for the love of all that is good and holy to pee! I missed strangely meaningful chats with all sorts of random people. From the homeless man, to a fellow who seemed to be in charge of rather a lot of yachts. There is something incredibly equalising about talking to someone while you hold a poo bag in your hand. You cannot be superior about yourself while holding poo. It is impossible. I had even chatted with Bill Nighy one afternoon when we were both ostensibly eating alone at Cecconi’s, but his food arrived first and my Labrador put her head on his knee. She was a bit flirty when it came to food. Now I see him moseying in that way he does around the neighborhood every few weeks, and I smile.
I was, however, able to breeze out the door with no other concern than myself. Stay out as long as I liked. Anything was possible! But I felt like I was missing something. People often couldn’t quite place me when I asked for a table outdoors at the usual places. “I’m the one who used to bring the yellow dog.” I would say helpfully. “Oh yes!” they would brighten, “But where is it?” I explained. They made the sad face. I would slink to my table.
Finally I could stand it no more, and a new puppy was brought down on the train from Sheffield to pee on the carpets, chew on the chairs and snuggle with when watching tv. Luckily Maggie is adorable and uproariously funny, and there are moments I look at her with murder in my eye. But I love it. I even loved standing in Grosvenor Square last month, hopping up and down to keep my feet from going numb so she could wear herself out enough for me to get something done when I went home. Like shower. You cannot take your eyes off of them for a minute. If they are quiet and you can’t see them, don’t assume they are sleeping, as they are no doubt somewhere chewing on something precious to you. She has had some standout comedic moments though, I must say. Escaping and running over to jump into a wedding photo session for instance. Usually bride + white chiffon + muddy puppy would equal murdered puppy. Inexplicably the bride just laughed. Relief. Conversely, when I was doubled over giggling as Maggie went round eating all of the carrot noses out of the snowmen in the park last month, people’s children had quite a sense of humor failure and I had to go home for more carrots.
In any case I finally put together this restaurant / dog relationship a few weeks ago. As they checked my information was correct in the computer at my new place for a cheeseburger and jazz, 34, I discovered that noted down was “lives in neighborhood, has nice dog.” Or something to that effect. I was surprised and have to paraphrase. You would think that the dog was making the bookings. Across the street at the Audley Pub, there is a photo of Maggie posted in the kitchen. I know this because they were excited and took another photo for me for proof. At my favorite steak restaurant, Goodman, there was a note saying that I was allowed to bring the puppy in when I ate. (Though there were a few sneaky visits at the beginning, in fairness I did feel I obligated to disclose that the dog now weighs 42 pounds instead of 10 and was still growing. Unlikely I could wedge her into a grocery sack at this point.) We particularly like to visit the Coach and Horses. Last time there was even an impromptu dog sitting service when David, the publican, took Maggie up to play with his very lovely children. (They also do a nice meat pie, which can be very useful if you have a hangover.)
So here I am again. Here WE are again. The dog lady trailing along behind her dog. What can I say? Life can be short, so take your friends with you when you can. And if it is all about who you know, then I’m in luck, because the dog seems to know all the best people…