BY LYNN PACIFICO | Finally on the journey I’d planned three years ago, while standing by the Buddha stupa in Kathmandu, a large black street dog came over to me and flipped onto its back on my foot. The dog was smiling and wiggling around. I took a photo. Then a strong feeling of love welled up within me.
Unbeknownst to me, at that same time, my ex-service dog Pax died. Pax was a fixture for years at local community advisory meetings. Knowing that nothing fun would happen at those meetings and that she would lie on a hard floor for hours while humans talked, she would whine a complaint: “Not this again! Let’s leave!” But, an obedient dog, she lay down quietly and waited. I felt guilty for dragging her to all the meetings. Instead, we should have been out enjoying the company of others, playing ball and enjoying walks.
I first saw Pax when the late New York Council of Dog Owner Groups President Bob Marino, shared a plea for her from Must Love Dogs – Saving NYC Dogs, a volunteer group for NY Animal Care and Control. Pax was a volunteer favorite because of her friendly, sweet nature, but was to be killed the next morning because she had kennel cough. I was thinking about getting a service dog and she was part Lab, so I put a hold on her.
If I had met her first, I might not have taken her since, picked up as a stray, she was feral. Then, at the Animal Care Center, she had been kept in a cage 23 hours a day. She was just seven months old and it took two hands to hold her leash. I hired a trainer right away and Pax was a quick study.
A natural as a service dog, she would put her chin on my knees when she sensed an episode coming. If I didn’t pay attention she would press harder until I couldn’t ignore her. She would lie down with me till it passed. Her pillow name was “Stinky Monkey.”
Bike advocate George Bliss’s bike shop was close, so Pax and George’s pit/Rottie puppy Moxy became playmates until they got older and Pax became selective of who she let close. I heard recently that George has lost Moxy.
Pax and I would go down to the Leroy Street dog run for fetch, her favorite game. Unfortunately, the run’s hard surface was rough on her and she began to have difficulty getting up after playing ball, whimpering and limping. I began to limit her ball playing, going instead to the Hudson River Park’s lawn, where Pax would watch the rats and other wildlife.
Strangers don’t approach when you’re with a large, blackish (dark brown) pit bull. But she would have been welcoming since she always seemed to be searching for someone. She was looking for a specific young man/boy, someone she loved dearly from her past. She pined for him.
When Pax was 8, I realized that I could no longer bring her to the Leroy St run since she was now in dire pain after even a short ball session. I found a family in Queens with a backyard who wanted her.
She knew, in that way of hers, that I was giving her away and she complained during the ride to her new home, emphatically whining, “No!” I will never forget her watching me leave.
She was well-loved and happy in her new home, which included two teen sons. It felt better that she got a boy to love. It had been four years since then when I received the news in Nepal:
“Pax passed away peacefully while sleeping last night. She had cancer. Her condition deteriorated and she was having a hard time walking. I felt there was the soul of a monk in Pax. The joy and beauty she exudes… the compassion n love… Ironic how she sat in our backyard by the Buddha statue on top of where she would eventually rest… she loved that spot. Rest in peace beloved, Pax. U will always be in our hearts.”
If I was still in Nepal, I would go back to find that street dog with treats, thank it for channeling Pax and tell it what a great dog Pax was.
Pacifico is a fourth-generation Villager who loves dogs, nature and New York City.