Puppy Love

Miracle on 47th Street

I fell in love with the gorgeous puppy the moment I saw her, and then just like that, she was gone

I am Sam.

In the fall of 1998, I got an offer to co-host a morning radio show in Manhattan. Taking the job meant that I'd have to leave behind Monty, my male golden/shepherd mix of four years and Kenny, my purebred Jewish boyfriend of 14. I immediately thought, "How am I going to live without my dog?"

For the first few months, I was put up in corporate housing on the Upper East Side. It was an L-shaped studio with a comfortable bed. It wasn't a palace but it was within walking distance of Bloomingdale's.

Then, when my free stay was about to expire, I began the painful process of looking for a place. After losing out on the only affordable apartment in the city, I settled on a pricey, 350-square-foot space a block from work that had a doorman, a view of the Hudson, and was a bus ride to Bloomingdale's.

The best part: it was a pet-friendly building on the off chance I couldn't fight the urge to be unfaithful to the four-legged love I had left behind.

Before heading back to the company pad, I stopped at a grocery store. And there, tied to a truck parked in front, sat a gorgeous dust-colored puppy: a mini female version of Monty.

It turned out the driver found her that morning wandering around the Bronx. He couldn't keep her since he already had three dogs and was hoping to find her a home. I felt guilty knowing I'd be cheating on Monty sooner than expected.

But where was I going to keep her? I couldn't move into my new apartment for another week, and my current place only housed humans.

As I pondered the thought of both of us sleeping on the street, a soft-spoken woman landed on the scene like Glinda from the "The Wizard Of Oz." She said she wished she could keep her for the night, but she had three dogs of her own. Really? Everyone in NY has three dogs? Maybe they all have jobs and pitch in on the rent.

She offered to see if her vet could board her—a glint of hope before we realized it was President's Day and they'd be closed. The driver agreed to keep her for the night and we arranged to meet at my friend Cathy's apartment at 5:00 the following evening.

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I had avoided telling Kenny what was happening because I knew he'd tell Monty and I didn't want him to know.

The next day 5:00 rolled around and there was no sign of the guy. I waited—5:05. I called him. No answer. 6:00. 7:00. It was like that time I waited in a restaurant for two hours before realizing I was being stood up.

At 7:30, he called with some bad news. He'd lost her. "What?!" He was on 47th and 5th, got out of his car to make a call, stupidly left the door open and she got out. He drove around for a couple of hours looking for her. He was terribly sorry, which I believed he was, but couldn't help wondering how could a dog owner be so careless. He probably originally had four dogs, and that's why now he only had three.

I was in a total state of shock. What were the odds of finding her? Finding a lost dog in midtown Manhattan during rush hour was like spotting a soft contact lens on beige carpeting. Cathy's roommate came home in the middle of all of this and immediately pounced on the computer and made up fliers: "Lost Shepherd Mix Puppy. New Owner. Heartbroken. Reward." We hopped in a cab and headed downtown.

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When we got to 47th Street, we split up like an Old West posse. I posted signs on every telephone pole. I went into stores, hoping that maybe she wandered in, and, in keeping with my theory, even applied for a job. I found myself in front of Bloomingdale's. I resisted the temptation to go in and buy boots. Wow, I must really love this dog. An hour later, we met back where we'd started, with no puppy and little hope.

Being on the air the next morning was hard. I may be the only radio host in history who sobbed through a promo for Pajamagram.

When I got home there was a voicemail from a woman claiming she saw the dog walking down Fifth Avenue. She asked how long I'd had it then seemed suspicious when I said maybe an hour. I quickly explained that losing her wasn't my fault. She softened and said she knew everyone in the neighborhood and would let me know if she heard anything. I assumed I'd never hear from her again.

I watched too many "Law & Order's" to know if you don't find them in the first 48 hours, it doesn't look good. With my optimism on life support, I wasn't ready to give up. I checked in with every animal rescue in the city. I went to the shelter on 103rd every day. It's gotta be the most depressing place I've ever seen. And I'm a stand-up comic who worked at clubs like The Chuckle Pit.

A few days later, I got a call from the same woman saying that now she knew who had my dog. A friend of hers found her and brought her back to their home in New Jersey. But she and her husband had become attached and were hard pressed to give her up. I thought, "Fuck their attachment," but said, "I'm just so happy she's alive." I asked to meet them to see if it was the same dog. She seemed reluctant but when I promised that I wasn't going to steal her and flee the country, she agreed to call the family and get back to me.

The next day, when the phone rang, I was dreading the worst, but was surprised when she told me that the family now didn't want her. Apparently, she barks, cries and pees all over the place. A puppy? No! She asked if I still wanted her. "Uh … yes." She told me to call the husband to make arrangements.

He told me to meet him and the dog at the woman's apartment at seven sharp, the following night. My god, it didn't take this much coordination to get Elian Gonzalez back to Cuba.

I arrived punctually at seven. No puppy. The woman, fortyish and fashionably dressed, said the husband called to say he and the dog were stuck in traffic. We sat on the couch sipping wine for what seemed like an eternity.

Finally, the husband arrived—and there she was. We locked eyes and she began to whimper and wag her tail profusely. While she slobbered me with kisses, I was shocked to see the husband plant one on the lips of the woman. At which point, she sheepishly admitted she had a confession to make. Don't tell me—my dog's been living with a man who's having an affair?

She explained, "Remember when I told you that a friend of mine found the dog … and the husband … well, I'm the friend and the husband … is mine."

I was shocked. "So, she didn't go to Jersey?"

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"Well, she did, we have a house on the shore."

She then confessed, "After I spoke to you the first time, we got attached, so I made up this story." I asked her what changed her mind. "Well, as much as I loved her, I felt guilty because you loved her first … and … she did bark, cry and pee—a lot."

In the brief time they'd had her, they named her Samantha, which I later shortened to Sam. We hugged and cried as we said goodbye, promising to keep in touch, which we did for a while.

A year later, when my job ended, Sam and I moved back to LA. She and Monty got along famously; Kenny and I did not. I had ten magical years with her. Both dogs and the boyfriend now long gone, I live in Long Beach with my husband and two grown dogs. Our home is 1,600 square feet, the mortgage is less expensive than my apartment in New York and on a good day, it's a 20-minute drive to Bloomingdale's.

Every time I look at photos of Sam, I marvel that she was lost and actually found in midtown Manhattan. I guess miracles really do happen: crazy people, New Jersey and all.

Tags: friendship