Otto Goes to the Hamptons
I spent much of the spring of 2010 trolling animal rescue and adoption websites searching for my dream dog. My efforts were met by a lot of frustration and disappointment, since many of these organizations reject any potential adopter without an acre of fenced-in property on a sunny suburban street. I had the apparent misfortune of living in an apartment near Villanova University, where I was studying for my Masters, and thus found myself disqualified from canine parenthood. I’d all but given up on finding my dream companion, when a text message from my friend Sheryl roused me from my dogless nightmare:
“Oh my God, my sister and I just found a puppy on my street and a car almost hit it! There was a big adult dog too but it ran away.”
When I asked if he had tags or if anyone was around looking for him, she responded:
“Pam and I drove around and saw a house around the block with the gate open and puppies running in and out. When I got out with the dog and knocked on the door, this Spanish lady answered and kept shaking her head saying, ‘No, no, no puppies here, you keep, you keep,’ and basically slammed the door in my face.”
While I sat processing the absurdity of this story, she added:
“My dad says he can stay the night but if I can’t find someone to take him by tomorrow he has to go to a shelter.”
That was all it took for me to make the arrangements to drive to her house in Brentwood and pick him up the following afternoon, on my way home to visit my parents. And so our story begins.
The string of coincidences that it took to bring Otto into my life is pretty astounding: my dog-seeking efforts had thus far been thwarted, the dogs ran in front of Sheryl’s house as opposed to any other house in that neighborhood, Sheryl happened to be walking out of her house at that very moment, and the people with the puppies in their backyard refused to claim him. I struggle daily to deny that it was “meant to be,” and I have never seen another dog like him, even in my many hours pouring through every dog available in a 50-mile radius on Petfinder. He is a little black and tan Dachshund/Miniature Pinscher mix with one crooked ear and a white chest that gives him the appearance of wearing a tuxedo. Like a canine Oliver Twist, he escaped dire and unfortunate circumstances to live a better life. It is then for my own sense of poetic justice, at the very least, that I took special pleasure in Otto’s first trip out to the Hamptons.
The day was a standard one for my family: stop at Goldberg’s in Westhampton first for coffee and bagels, hit the beach, and then head to South or East Hampton to walk around and shop. The instant we stepped out of the car at the bagel shop, Otto’s ears pricked up, he puffed out his chest, and proudly explored his new surroundings. Amid a sea of fluffy white, pedigree dogs, my Brentwood mutt brought a smile to any face that looked his way. I felt very lucky, surveying the scene, because I realized that it wasn’t just an ordinary day out East. There was something singular and special about introducing a veritable mutt from the mean streets to this relaxed seaside world a mere 40 minutes away. But the long road from a street in Brentwood to a sidewalk in the Hamptons was more than just a change in scenery. The East End of Long Island has a different vibe and operates on a different wavelength from anywhere else. The further East you go, the more the general state of mind changes from that of rushing around to truly enjoying the present moment and appreciating the beauty of your surroundings.
My revelation at Goldberg’s allowed me to more keenly observe the rest of the day’s progress. At the far, dog friendly side of Cupsogue Beach, we jogged along the shore and splashed in the waves. Within a short period of time, Otto felt enough in his element to pick a spot beneath the umbrella and lie down to idly watch the other dogs and humans go by, a four-legged mirror of the benign “people-watching” pastime of his human counterparts. We left the beach early enough in the afternoon for a stop in East Hampton, where we grabbed a quick lunch at Citarella’s. Otto contentedly sprawled out beneath our table like a furry little sultan, savoring both the scraps of salami we tossed to him and the coos of admiration from the sun-kissed Hamptonites strolling by. Daytrips out East always leave me with the feeling of “I could get used to this,” and it was truly entertaining to see this same sentiment reflected in a dog’s face. It was almost impossible to believe that the trembling, nervous puppy from Brentwood had transformed into a gallant, unaffected “kept man.” I’d never imagined that he would feel secure enough to lie down and relax without nervously barking at every person he saw, but the sea air had transformed him.