Tonight Ira went
to a dinner party
at Jenifer Berman’s.
She works at BOMB.
I met her once: lost
it when I smelled her
cat on her clothes.
David stayed home
and watched The
Stepford Wives on
T.V. I jumped on-
to the couch, curled
up in my favorite
throw (the fuchsia
mohair) and watched
it with him. To my
surprise, there was
a dog in the movie,
a little Jack Russell
named Fred. He
moves from new
York City (where
I live) to the small
town of Stepford
and strange things
happen. At some
point, Fred disap-
pears (actually he’s
kidnapped by an
evil sheriff). This
causes his owner
Katharine Ross a
certain amount of
distress. Now, I
have to admit that
this caused me a
certain amount of
distress also. I stuck
it out and ws re-
lieved to see Fred
alive and well at
the end of the film,
but the fact that he
just sits there and
lets Katharine Ross
get strangled by her
robot clone . . . well,
this so upset me I
jumped down and
crept under the bed
(Ira and David call
under the bed my
“den”) and didn’t
come out until after
midnight, when Ira
came home with
the Sunday Times.


David woke up at
6 a.m. (early for him)
to go to a doll show
in New Jersey with
his friend Jeannie
Beaumont. She’s
visited our apart-
ment several times.
She and David have
two things in com-
mon: they’re both
poets and they both
collect old (excuse me
–“vintage”) Barbie
dolls. There’s a whole
wall of them in our
living room, in two
tall white IKEA cab-
inets (another poet
friend of David’s,
Robyn Selman, who’s
handy with tools,
helped him put them
together) with glass
doors. I sometimes
sit and stare up: the
ones with the big
bubble hairdos look
just like balls. Once
during a fight Ira
threatened to pull
off their heads and
let me chew on them,
but I knew he wasn’t
serious–they cost
hundreds of dollars
and besides, David
would have been
too upset. After he
left, Ira and I slept
in till ten, then slow-
ly started our day.
My morning walk
was later than usual,
as was my breakfast
(though Ira was es-
pecially generous
with the Raisin Bran
he always sprinkles on
my dry food). Sipping
his coffee, he perused
the Business, Travel
and Real Estate sec-
tions. Then he moved
from the kitchen table
to the couch, where he
spent the afternoon
reading manuscripts.
I kept trying to get him
to throw “fluffy bone”
(my blue-shaped
toss ‘n fetch fuzz toy
with squeakers)–to
no avail. By the time
David came home, I’d
given up and taken a
two or three hour nap.
David’s packages in-
terested me at first,
until I realized they
were full of the same
old (as Ira calls it)
“Barbie crap”: a shiny
black wardrobe case,
a nude red-haired doll,
and a colorful outfit
still in the cellophane.
Ira asked him how
much all of it cost.
David hemmed and
hawed: “When
words and people
fail me, I have no
choice but to take
refuge in things.” Ira
didn’t buy it; neither
did I. Just a high-
falutin excuse for
an expensive hobby.


I was born on De-
cember 26th (the
day after Christmas),
1991, in Glastonbury,
Connecticut (near
Hartford). I barely
remember my mother
(an extremely high-
strung show dog
named Balbrae
Katy Did) or my
many siblings. I
do remember the
day Ira and David
came. I was just
two months old–
a little ball of black
fur. The breeder
lady had already
given me a name:
Fluffy. Can you
imagine me with
such a common
moniker? When-
ever prospective
owners arrived,
she’d set us on
her cold kitchen
floor and let them
pick and choose.
Two of my brothers
had disappeared
that way, and I was
determined to be
next. So when
Ira crouched down
to get a close look,
I dashed across the
speckled pastel li-
noleum and leapt
right into his lap.
“That’s the one,”
David said. “He
picked you.” I
glanced up at him,
grateful for his in-
sight. And in case
there was any doubt
in Ira’s mind, I
frantically started
licking his face with
my little pink tongue.

On the drive home,
I discovered they’d
chosen my name.
Byron. I later learned
it has great sentimen-
tal significance. They
had both lost close
friends (David, the
poet Rachel Sherwood;
Ira, the painter Carl
Apfelschnitt) who’d
loved the poems of
George Gordon (Lord
Byron), the famous
English Romantic.
Naturally when I
found this out I was
moved and flattered,
and made a vow
to live up to my
distinguished name.

I also learned that
I was the first pet
they, as a couple,
had ever owned.
I correctly sensed
this would give me
certain advantages.
Of course both of
them had grown up
with dogs. David
spent much of his
childhood in the
suburbs of Los An-
geles with a Samoyed
named Rashon. He
was apparently a very
sweet and sensitive
canine, and David
was devastated when
he died after suffer-
ing a heart attack
one Fourth of July.
His family then got
Skipper, a rat terrier
that turned out to
be quite a problem:
he’d bite the mail
as the postman put
it through the slot
in the front door,
leaving teeth marks
in each letter; he’d
snarl and snap at
anyone who tried
to reprimand him;
and he’d urinate
all over the house–
clearly a sign of
pent-up hostility.
But Skipper liked
David the best and
would follow him
everywhere. Ira
wasn’t as lucky.
Lady, their shep-
herd mutt, didn’t
care for him a bit.
It was a case of out-
right jealousy: she’d
been around for
years when Ira
came along, and
she felt the baby
stole the spot-
light from her.
Her bitterness may
have contributed to
her pitiful end: she
lost control of her
functions and ruined
the expensive wool
carpeting in their
house in the Bronx.


I’ve lived in SoHo
my whole life. It’s
an O.K. neighbor-
hood, though over-
run with tourists
on weekends (this
irks Ira and David,
and more and more
I hear them complain
that it’s turning in-
to one big outdoor
shopping mall). I’ve
always been happy
here: so many sights
and smells and sounds.
However, there is
something that hap-
pens occasionally
that really pisses
me off. but first, a
little background:

I’m a Cairn Terrier.
Over 200 years ago,
on the ancient Isle
of Skye and in the
Scottish Highlands,
my ancestors earned
their keep routing
vermin from the
rock piles (called
cairns) commonly
found on Scottish
farmland. These
early terriers were
highly prized and
bred for their work-
ing ability, not
appearance. Such
characteristics as
courage, tenacity
and intelligence,
housed in a stur-
dy body clad in a
coat, armed with
big teeth in strong
jaws were sought
generation after
generation. Today
the Cairn Terrier
in America is a
sensible, confident
little dog, independ-
ent but friendly
with everyone he
meets. True to our
heritage, the breed
still has very large
teeth, large feet with
thick pads and strong
nails (the better to
dig with!), muscular
shoulders and rears,
and a fearless tenacity.
The immediate im-
pression should be
that of a small, shaggy,
alert dog, head, tail
and ears up, eyes
shining with intel-
ligence, poised and
ready for anything.

Perhaps the most
famous Cairn is the
one that played Toto
in The Wizard of Oz.
Now, of this I am
certain: I don’t look
anything like the
dog in that movie.
I’m big for my breed,
have huge ears (even
as a puppy they were
elephantine), and
since my owners
seldom send me
to the groomer, I
traipse around one
of the chicest neigh-
borhoods in Man-
hattan looking like
an unidentifiable
(albeit charming)
mess. So this is
what pisses me off.
Every now and then,
when I’m out on
a walk, people will
stop, point at me
and yell “Toto!” at
the top of their lungs.
Or they’ll chant
“Follow the yel-
low brick road”
or “there’s no
place like home.”
Or cackle like the
Wicked Witch of
the West: “I’ll get
you, and your little
dog, too!” It hap-
pened again last
Sunday afternoon.
Since West Broad-
way was mobbed
with tourists, Ira
took me over to
Thompson Street,
which was pleas-
ant to begin with.
then, as I was
about to sniff
a promising green
garbage bag, some
queen comes run-
ning towards me
screaming “Auntie
Em! Auntie Em!”
His friends laughed.
I ignored them.

I’m reminded of
an incident that
upset David far
more than this
Toto stuff has ever
upset me. One day,
during a routine
walk around the
block, a woman
passed us and said,
“You’re not going
to let him squirt on
the recyclables, are
you?” I was, at that
very moment, lift-
ing my leg on a
stack of wrapped
newspapers. David
looked at her and

, “Mind your
own business.” “It
is my business,” the
woman quipped.
I won’t repeat the
words they then
exchanged, but I
will tell you that
the entire affair
ended with David
and me standing
on a corner in the
middle of SoHo,
surrounded by
tourists, and him
shouting something
that only made him
look bad. I didn’t
like this woman
either, but he let
her get under his
skin. Later, Ira
told him how he
would have re-
sponded to her
initial remark:
“No, I’m going
to let him squirt
on you.” “Oh,
why couldn’t I
think of a come-
back like that!”
David moaned.


Last night I dreamt
about Fire Island
(where I’ve spent
several summers):
I was running
down the beach,
on a seemingly
endless flexi-leash,
barking at smelly
horseshoe crab
shells, at sand-
pipers and gulls,
at other dogs, and
at deer nibbling
sea grass in the
dunes. I was to-
tally at one with
nature, with my
own nature, when
suddenly the sun-
ny sky turned dark
and I was a puppy
again, playfully
biting into the
cord of a floor
lamp and getting
the electrical shock
of my life. I let
out a bloodcur-
dling yelp. David
held me and cried.
I could have died!
This is my scariest
recurring night-
mare. I must have
been whimpering
in my sleep be-
cause Ira woke me,
saying “It’s all
right, little guy,”
and lifted me on-
to the bed, where
I slept between
the two of them
the rest of the night.


This morning over
three-berry muffins
from New World
Coffee, David and
Ira discussed their
upcoming vacation.
(My begging paid off:
a flurry of sweet muf-
fin crumbs in my
“Good Dog” dish!)
They’re flying to
Boston for four
days, to visit Damon
Krukowski and
Naomi Yang, who
are, among other
things, terrific mu-
sicians. I’ve heard
their CDs–More
Sad Hits and The
Wondrous World
of Damon & Na-
omi–many times.

You’d think I’d be
disturbed by the fact
that I’m being aban-
doned for four whole
days, but I’m not.
Whenever they go
away, Ira pays Jayne
Anne Harris to take
care of me. She runs
a pet-sitting business.
I get farmed out to
her parents, Mr. and
Mrs. Harris. They
make such a won-
derful fuss over yours
truly: biscuits, baby
talk, extra-long walks
in the West Village.
There’s always a
tennis ball at their
house, and some-
body–usually one
of the grandkids–
who’ll throw it for
me as much as I want.
Fritz, their cat, is a
pal of mine. He’s
the only feline I’ve
gotten to know, and
it’s been a complete
pleasure. We’re
basically the same:
we eat, sleep, play
and seek affection
from humans. Mr.
Harris’ hobby is
building model air-
planes. Sometimes
when he’s working
on them, both Fritz
and I lie at his feet and
keep him company.

Before the Harrises,
I used to stay with
Uncle Clutch. He’s
the reason David
and Ira decided to
get a Cairn. They
looked after him
for a month when
his owners, Cookie
Landau and Gerhard
Reich, went to Mex-
ico, and thought all
Cairns would be
as mild-mannered
and quiet. boy, were
they in for a surprise!
Clutch (so christened
because he was born
in the cab of a pick-up
truck; his brothers
were Axle and Diessel)
originally belonged
to Carl Apfelschnitt.
The poor pup had
some pretty tough
breaks: first, his
mother (Scruffy
Louise) dropped
dead–right in front
of him!–while chas-
ing a car (I guess her
heart just gave out);
then Carl was diag-
nosed with AIDS
and, when he became
too sick, entrusted
Clutch to Cookie.
She’d smuggle him
into the hospital
in a wicker basket
(No Wizard of Oz
cracks, please). Clutch
was orphaned twice;
perhaps that’s why
he’s so detached. I
have to nip, gnarl
and nudge to get him
to wrestle with me.
We used to put him
up every Christmas.
In exchange, I’d stay
at his place (outside
Philadelphia) when
David and Ira left
town. I loved romping
through the woodsy
area in their back-
yard. Unfortunately,
the last time I was there
I came home covered
with ticks. David
really hit the roof.
Shortly thereafter,
Ira round Jayne Anne.

I have, of course,
been included in
a number of David
and Ira’s excursions.
Like I said yesterday,
I’ve spent several
glorious summers
out on Fire Island,
in the tacky but re-
laxed community
of Cherry Grove.
I’ve also been to
Woodstock, Great
Neck and the Bronx,
and even went on
a three-week trip
to California: San
Francisco, Nipomo
(David’s family lives
there) and Los Angeles.
On airplanes,* I flew
in the cargo compart-
ment, in my claustro-
phobic pink Kennel
Cab. Luckily they
shoved little white
pills down my throat
before each flight–
I slept like a puppy.
(David should’ve
been drugged as
well; his worrying
drove Ira insane.)

*Other forms of
transportation I’ve
taken are: taxis, rental
cars, buses, ferries
(to and from Fire
Island) and trains.
Oh, and a canoe.

I’ve been alone here
all day and am begin-
ning to get restless.
Earlier, I took a nap
on the couch. A loud
noise woke me: I ran
to the window and
barked. Then I dozed
on the lambswool
blanket on the bed,
in a blissful sunspot,
until David’s phone
rang. After the beep,
Marcie Melillo (she
sells David Barbie
dolls) left a message
saying the brunette
ponytail he wants
is available. This
should make him
happy (for a few
minutes, anyway).

I just stuck my nose
in Ira’s laundry bag
(nothing new) and
checked my food
dish (still empty).
Took a sip of water.

Two tulip petals
fell on the Saarin-
en coffee table in
the living room.

Though I prefer the
companionship of
humans, I manage
to maintain a modest
social life. I’ve al-
ready mentioned
Uncle Clutch. In
California, I met
Gina and Max (Amy
Gerstler and Ben-
jamin Weissman’s
dogs) and Rita and
Spunky (the Trin-
idad’s Doberman
and Pit Bull, respec-
tively). On Fire Island
there was Cagney
(an elderly Westie),
Helga, Zooey, and
another Max. Here
in Manhattan there’s
Lizzy (Robyn Selman
and Stacey D’Erasmo’s
Cocker Spaniel; she
was also named after
a great poet: Elizabeth
Bishop), Macho (a
Wirehair that lives
on Wooster; he barks
at me from his third-
story window and
I, needless to say,
bark back) and Mazie
(the old Golden Re-
triever at the florist).
My other canine
acquaintances in-
clude River, Aspen,
Zephyr, Jupiter . . .

At last! Footsteps
on the stairs! I
thought this after-
noon would never
end! I wonder which
one it is. I hope it’s
Ira–he takes me
for better walks.
I’m so excited I’m
shaking myself,
shaking myself. The
key’s in the lock!


Things got off to
a raucous start
today. When Ira
tried to pull me
out of my den, I
growled so fiercely
I even scared my-
self. Can’t say
I didn’t deserve
the smack I got.
I thought he was
going to give me
a bath, but it was
only a false alarm.
When it comes to
activities which
resemble medieval
torture, baths are
at the top of the
list. Right up there
with walks in the
pouring rain. Both
leave me wet and
shivering, not to
mention humil-
iated and dejected.
Anyway, my mood
improved when
David let me lick
his face after he
finished shaving
(I love the tste
of menthol Edge).
Then, as he was
getting dressed, he
said the magic words:
“Wanna go to the
office?” I practically
did somersaults. It’s
the high point of
my week; David
goes into Ira’s office
every Friday to do
the bookkeeping and
brings me with him.
A brisk five-minute
walk: down Spring
to 6th Avenue, right
to Charlton, left to
Varick, right, then
right again into the
lobby of 180, wait
for the elevator, up
ten floors, left, left
through the door,
run to the corner
desk, and there she
is Dianne Conley,
Ira’s Marketing
Manager, one of my
favorite people in
the whole world.
I greeted here with
yips and kisses.
That’s when I no-
ticed the bandage
on her hand. She
told David what
happened. Turns
out Dianne has been
feeding Jenifer Ber-
man’s cat while
Jenifer is away at
a writer’s colony.
Well, last night
the cat went com-
pletely bonkers–
fur standing straight
up like its tail was
stuck in an electric
socket, hissing like
a little demon–and
viciously attacked
her–for no reason
at all. That darn cat!
I sensed something
was wrong with it
that I smelled
Jennifer’s jeans. Poor
Dianne ended up
in an emergency
room, had to have
a tetanus shot and
several stitches. I
felt so bad for her.
Plus she couldn’t
play with me like
she usually does.
Thank god Katja
Kolinke, the sweet
intern from Ger-
many, was there. I
fished a paper cup
out of a wastebasket
and convinced her
to throw it again
and again and again.
Before I knew it, it
was time to go home.
It was already dark
outside. I proudly
led the three of us–
me, Ira and David–
one for-the-most-part-
happy little alternative
family, through the
streets of SoHo on
a Friday night. I was
still feeling pretty
frisky, but both of
them seemed tired.
They had their din-
ner delivered from
Il-Corallo (the usual:
Insalata Arcobaleno
and Pizza 4 Formaggi,
of whih David fed
me a meager piece
of cheeseless crust)
and watched The
X-Files (too bizarre
for me) on T.V. After-
wards, Ira came into
the bedroom to read.

I joined David in the
living room. He
stretched out on the
couch and watched
two episodes of The
Mary Tyler Moore
Show on “Nick at
Nite.” Then he read
a few chapters of The
Love Machine. Then
wrote in his notebook
for a while. Then
turned the TV back
on and watched two
movies in a row: Son
of Fury (an engrossing
revenge epic from the
forties starring Tyrone
Power, Gene Tierney
and Frances Farmer)
and The Hidden Room
(a very effective Brit-
ish suspenser about
a possessive husband
who devises an ingen-
ious plan to kidnap
and murder his wife’s
lover). In the latter, a
nimble white poodle
named Monty is also
held captive and, in the
film’s thrilling climax,
single-handedly saves
the day. Satisfying to
see a dog play such an
important role. David
reached for the remote
control and clicked off
the T.V. “C’mon, B.,”
he said. “Let’s go to
bed.” I followed him,
slid into my den, and
fell asleep thinking of
all the silly nicknames
I’ve had to endure: B.,
Ronie (rhymes with
“phony”), Byronie,
Ronus (rhymes with
“bonus”), Little Goober
(they got that from
David’s father) and
the less formal Goob or
Goobus, Grunty Kisser
and Grunty Licker,
Squeaky Yawner, Sock
Thief, Tilty Head,
Stinky Maroo, Licky
Loo, Nipper, Nestler,
Chien Lunatique (after
one of their trips to
Paris) and (Ira at his
wittiest) Cairn Terror-
ist. but mostly they
say Byron: “We love
you–every morning
. . . every night, Byron!”

(Turtle Point Press ISBN 9781933527475)