Misty, a beautiful Maltese, was our family’s second dog. We bought Misty at a pet store in New York City the day after returning from a vacation in Europe. We came home early because my sister and I fought so much. We were jet lagged when my mom made the decision.
It was sometime around 1980, and Mom thought a small dog would be easier to handle than a large one like Tiger had been. Little did she know this little dog would rule the family for many years to come.
Misty wielded a lot of power over everybody. Horribly trained, he marked his territory on every bedspread, sofa, curtain, rug, and God knows what else. We were still city people then, and my mother had not thought about a small, low-to-the-ground, white dog walking on the dirty streets of New York City.
Grooming appointments at Karen’s People and Pets soon became a regular occurrence. Karen’s was a high-end pet store/dog groomer, one of the first of its kind, particularly in the early 1980s when dumping a boatload of money on your dog wasn‘t a thing yet like it is today. It was also right around the corner from the apartment, a quick walk with the dog. Karen’s had everything, from beautifully hand-painted crates to matching sweaters and leashes, and if you were so inclined, you could also buy a matching sweater for yourself.
At that time, my father’s career was accelerating, so Mom thought it was okay to indulge herself and spend on Misty despite still being in our small two-bedroom apartment. Thankfully, though, by the spring of 1980, my eldest brother had moved across the street and was working full-time. My other brother still had two more years at Tufts and maintained a very low profile during those years.
At first, my father stayed neutral as far as the dog was concerned. But eventually, the two of them grew closer. Dad would share his morning schnecken (a kind of sweet bun) from Greenberg’s Bakery with Misty. Misty would sometimes sleep in my bed and would growl if I were to inadvertently throw my arm up over my head when I slept. However, Misty was my biggest obstacle when I was late for curfew and would have to sneak back into the house, which was often.
The hoops I would have to jump through to avoid getting caught by my parents! Dad was not the disciplinarian, Mom was. So, the last thing you wanted was to come face-to-face with Angry Mom while you were still euphoric from your evening.
One of the first things I learned quickly was to always let the elevator door close behind me before attempting to slide the key into the lock. This was because sometimes the noise of the elevator doors opening and closing would be enough to wake Misty up. Whether it was the apartment on 83rd Street or the new apartment on 78th, I had to wait a few moments to ensure all was silent within before proceeding any further.
At the 78th street apartment, it was even more important to wait for the elevator to close and head to its next stop. There were only two apartments per floor, so the elevator was only about 3½ feet from the door, and the sound would echo in the tiny, tiled hallway space! The elevators were clunky, old, and noisy. There would be times when our neighbors would be coming and going from their apartment, and Misty would hear the elevator arrive and start going nuts, barking like crazy.
I learned the hard way one night that it was best to wait before proceeding. Once it was gone, I would slowly insert the key, wait. Then turn, wait. Then carefully open the door, wait. I would stealthily step in and shut the door as quietly as possible and listen. Somehow, I would get my key out of the lock—but not always and sometimes someone would find my keys dangling from the lock the next morning.
Quietly I would turn the lock on the door and listen. By this time, even if you made it safely undetected, you would be a fool to think you were in the clear. No, you still needed to make your way to your bedroom undetected.
The apartment on 83rd Street had a black and cream checkered floor, which I believe was linoleum, and the 78th Street apartment had hardwood floors with area rugs. The linoleum was much quieter, and it was easier to remember which squares to avoid, thanks to the pattern. The hardwood floors inevitably would squeak, and that would cause Misty to set off all sorts of alarm bells.
His bark was better than any security alarm money could buy. He would come dashing out and corner you, followed by my angry mother. Did I mention that most of the time, I was probably pretty fucked up at the time too? Drunk, high, wasted, or all the above, when I’d be doing my rendition of Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible or something like that. I always imagined red lasers in the hallway of the 78th Street apartment. Eventually, I learned where every creaky space was and amazed myself and my mother who would ask, “How’d you get past Misty last night?”
My friendship with Misty lasted throughout my college years. He eventually accepted the boyfriends that came around, but when I finally got my own puppy, Misty turned against me, and things were never the same between us.
If you enjoyed reading this chapter, you can read more about our adventures with my pack in Xine's Pack of Strays & Others - A Memoir available - available on Kindle and paperback at Amazon and paperback at Barnes and Noble.
About the Creator
Exploring life through writing, art, and photography, drawing inspiration from the natural world and beloved tales. Author of "Xine's Pack of Strays & Others," about life with my dogs, I review books, hoping to encourage others to read.