Despite the clear signs that trouble was brewing, I still spent my days wondering what kind of wedding cake Rex would prefer, liver or beef. Then a rival entered the picture. His name was Anthony Blanche—a gorgeous white Samoyed with movie-star eyes. Anthony did not have an unkind bone in his body, and there was an all-accepting vacancy behind his blue eyes that made me suspect he was kind of dumb. Rex liked him well enough at the beginning. I’m told they even played together, though not with the same riotous abandon that Hildy inspired.
But then Desiree made the mistake of bringing Anthony to our apartment one evening while she was dropping off Rex. “There they were,” Desiree said, “walking along together side by side, perfect gentleman, but the minute Rex crossed the threshold he turned into Dr. Jekyll. He lunged at Anthony as if he had never met him before. When not two minutes ago they were outside playing.”
“I think it’s a territorial thing,” I said. “Or maybe it’s just this apartment.”
“I can’t walk the two of them together anymore is what it is,” Desiree said. “Which is too bad. Because I could bring the other boys with me while I walk across the park, and what dog doesn’t want to walk across Central Park? But no siree. Not male dogs. They’re too proud. Too unyielding. Do you know, it’s the entire male race that’s responsible for all the horror and war and famine that has ever befallen this planet?” She had a bag of poop in her hand, and she waved it around as she talked. (Desiree had undergone a bitter divorce.) “We’ll do what we can about these two,” she said.
And the funny thing about male dogs—or at least Rex and male dogs—is that once they have one fight, they are enemies forever. Now Desiree’s messages were reports of raised hackles, of having to keep Rex and Anthony separated, of the brawl that ensued when Anthony tried to sniff Hildy’s butt. “I even tried to keep Rex and Hildy separated,” Desiree said. “But that didn’t help.”
Of course it didn’t. I imagined poor Rex having to stare at Hildy through the bars of a baby gate while Anthony cavorted with Hildy. No wonder he was angry! He started coming home, not satiated and covered in kisses, but agitated and covered in blood. Well, not covered, but one time I came home to find a trash can tipped over, Desiree’s glasses on the floor and a few speckles of blood on the wall.
“I tried to drop Rex off with Anthony again,” Desiree said. “Rex turned into Dr. Jekyll again. It’s my fault, I shouldn’t have walked them together, but today they played together all day long like the best of pals.”
Ted and I started to worry that we’d have to try to find another daycare center—one without male dogs. Or females, for that matter. (Rex wanted us to send him to a Doggie Day Care full of geese, rabbits and cats).
But in the end, it was Hildy that was transferred. Her humans bought a house in Westchester and moved out there.
We left Rex with Desiree for the four days during which we would get married, and I worried the entire time, of course. I pictured Rex standing at the windowsill with his nose twitching, sniffing the city air for any news of his long-lost love. I pictured him torturing himself with the conviction Hildy had dumped him because of his violent temper. Why, she hadn’t even said goodbye! A human, at this point, would be writing her sappy love letters, or calling her answering machine at two in the morning, telling her all about his tragic childhood, how he could not be blamed for his behavior because he had been abused.
When Ted and I returned—married, of all things—and picked up Rex at Desiree’s apartment, he greeted us with an extra burst of rapture. “He had a great time,” Desiree reported. “He and Anthony played nonstop the entire time, and at night, the two of them would sleep curled up next to each other with their heads on my lap.”
And that’s when I realized: Dogs live happily after no matter what. Because that’s what they’re best at.
“You’re a legitimate child now!” Ted said to Rex. And Rex beamed and thumped his tail.