So, my baby, my best-friend, my adorable, grumpy and very old dog, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy died in my arms a week ago Thursday, on April 13, 2006. He was about two weeks away from his sixteenth birthday. We first met on a hot afternoon in the Bronx, in July 1990. I had recently broken up with my college boyfriend, Tom, for the first of what would end up being four times total. I had also just seen the animated version of Disney's "One Hundred and One Dalmatians," which by the way should be rated "PG" for "Pet Guidance." I walked into a local pet shop, after seeing that movie, and didn't realize that I was under the influence.
As I said, it was a very hot day, and the shop wasn't air-conditioned. As I walked back to the area where they kept the dogs and cats in a wall of cages, they all started to clamor with excitement...all except one small black and white puppy, sharing a cage with what must have been his brother or sister. He was a Shih Tzu, about eight weeks old. He just looked up at me for a moment and then put his head back down and went back to sleep...as if to say, "it's too fucking hot to get excited." At the time, my hair was auburn and the puppy sharing his cage looked just like him, but was auburn and white. I asked the sales person if I could pick up the auburn Shih Tzu. I had no intention of getting a dog...but I just had to hold one. She pulled the puppy out and handed it to me. This one was so excited to be held...it was panting, its eyes were bulging and it squirmed with the thrill of being held. It was quite adorable, but I had never had a dog and didn't really like them, to be honest. I thought puppies were cute, but holding that little ball of energy, I was quickly reminded how much of my energy having a puppy would require. Besides, I had gotten my fix. Got to hold the puppy. Put it back. But then, I thought, "how 'bout that one?"
"Can I hold that one?" I asked, pointing at the one asleep in the cage.
She put the other one back and put the sleepy guy in my arms. I held him against me and, he was so small, he fit into the space between my neck and my cleavage. Instead of squirming or panting, he snuggled against me and tucked his head under my chin. I couldn't let her put him back. I couldn't let him go. So, I pulled out a credit card and took him home.
I was reading Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice at the time for the seventh time. At the time, the main character, Mr. Darcy, was my idea of the perfect man. So, my little man got named Darcy.
Over the years, we had our problems and, in many ways, we grew up together. He taught me many things and made me a better person...a better woman. I wasn't always the best mom, but I always loved him...always will. He taught me how to love, even when it wasn't always convenient. But the most important thing he taught me was that it is more important to stand up for those who love us than to gain the love of those who don't.
In the first few years of having him, various guys came in and out of my life...all of whom had opinions and judgments about how he behaved, how I was raising him. When he was three, we lived in an apartment on West 76th in NYC. It had this loft that could only be reached by climbing up a seven-foot ladder. One night, while hanging out with some guy in the loft, he began barking and whining for me to bring him up to the bed. I tried to shush him, and the guy complained that he was "spoiled." I remember feeling humiliated that I couldn't control him, couldn't make him behave. To me, it seemed like such glaring evidence that I was a bad mother. It wasn't until a few years later that I learned the real lesson of that moment. By that time, we had moved to San Francisco and I had gone through a couple of boyfriends, but Darcy was still there...not that he had a choice, but he loved being with me. In fact, when I would come home, it wasn't just that he was happy to see me...seeing me was the best thing that happened to him all day. Anyway, one night some guy was sitting on the edge of my bed and Darcy jumped up on the bed and curled up right next to him. The guy looked over at me and said something about not liking the dog being on the bed. He didn't think dogs belonged there and wanted me to kick Darcy off. In that moment, I realized that these guys had been right about one thing. I hadn't been a very good mother...but not for the reason they thought. I looked at the guy and said, "Well, you'll have to take that up with him, because he lives here and you don't. In fact, it's his job to keep me company on this bed." The guy shut up about the dog and I never again let some stranger tell me how he should behave. I never again felt it was more important to get someone to like me than it was to stand up for him, for the adoring creature who loved me unconditionally.
Darcy, you will be missed. You are missed...and loved. I would like to invite all those who have known Darcy to comment here with stories you may have from the time you've spent with him. Thank you to all who have loved, taken care of, and played with him...and thank you for all your kind notes to me.
Rest in peace little man. Love, me.
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy
(a.k.a. the Darce Man)
May 1990 - April 2006