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The story ends


For the past few years, readers have been asking what happened to my “Rex and the City” columns, and, more pointedly, asking what happened to the dog we called Rex (his real name was Wallace). Well, the truth is, he died. Almost six years ago. His death was sudden and tragic and traumatic and I cannot write about it in detail because it is too sad.

But, long story short: After five years of marriage, Ted and I finally divorced in 2002. It was the right thing to do, and we still love each other, but apparently Wallace did not think it was the right thing to do: He died the day after I moved out.

Ted and I had agreed upon joint custody of the dog, and the plan was that I would take Wallace for the first two weeks after my departure. I’ll never forget the sense of both sorrow and excitement I felt as Wallace and I drove off to my new cottage in Hyde Park. I remember looking at him in the back seat and telling him that we were starting a new life, in a new house. “You’ll love it,” I told him. “We’ll be happy together.” But that didn’t happen. We arrived at the cottage late at night, and in the morning, Wallace died. I hadn’t even unpacked.

I have since heard many stories about pets dying—suddenly, mysteriously, and/or unexpectedly—shortly after their humans separate. Who can explain this? Did he not want to live without us, his trinity? Did he feel his job on earth was complete? I still don’t know. All I know is that I felt that not only had I lost my dog—I’d also lost the only pure love I’d ever had in my life. Dogs are Love, period. Love on four legs. I cried every day for two years.

The sense of loss was all-consuming. For months I sank, crying during the day and even in my sleep, for I dreamed of Wallace constantly, sometimes seeing him maimed, sometimes believing he was alive again. Then there was the guilt I felt for not protecting him, and the agony I felt at the fact that Ted totally blamed me. There was the anger at the man who had killed him—an anger that turned into an obsession as I contacted lawyers and plotted all sorts of revenge. But none of this brought Wallace back.

Meanwhile, readers, editors and agents kept asking when my next “Rex” column would appear. Believe me: I wanted to continue to write about Wallace, because it would mean that, somehow, my beloved dog would live on. But I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t be witty. I couldn’t write lite little stories about his cute doggie antics and comic dog-in-the-city episodes. Maybe next month, I kept telling my editors and myself. Maybe next month I would be “ready” to write about him again.

The columns had covered only the first six months of Wallace’s life. There was so much I hadn’t yet written about: Marrying Ted, spending five years arguing with Ted; watching the dog get sick every time I tried to leave; and then, finally, leaving. Then the accident; calling Ted; Ted arriving at the scene, sobbing; Ted falling to his knees before Wallace’s body, saying “My boy, my boy.” Ted refusing to allow me to touch him. Me telling Ted I was sorry. Ted saying “Get out of my face.” Ted later refusing to let me have any of Wallace’s ashes. Me eventually stealing a small portion of the ashes, which Ted still doesn’t know about ’til this day.

No, I could not write about any of this.

For time had stopped somehow. Sorrow, fear, and guilt kept me trapped. At one point I was so distraught that I consulted an animal communicator. I guess I wanted someone to tell me that Wallace was okay somewhere, and that his death wasn’t my fault. She said this, and more. She said Wallace had come forth to be my helper. She said he had also come forth to learn two lessons: One was that people can be mean and the other was that people can offer unconditional love. (Boy, did he help me learn this, too.) She also said—and this is what gave me the most hope—that Wallace would come back to me. As another dog.



Lee Harrington is the author of the best-selling memoir, Rex and the City: A Woman, a Man, and a Dysfunctional Dog (Random House, 2006), and of the forthcoming novel, Nothing Keeps a Frenchman from His Lunch. emharrington.com