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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Ten years ago today, an 18-month-old Gigi the dog joined our household.  Her backstory is literally kind of shitty so if you’re averse to scatological topics, skip this post.


One of my favorite pictures of me and Gigi, from 2003.

I found Gigi on Petfinder when I was looking for a young companion for my elderly Pekingese, Mr. Chubbs. She was advertised as a Pekingese, despite a suspiciously prominent schnozz, by a rescue group that had placed her in a new home just a few weeks prior. The new owner didn’t want to keep her. The red flags were waving, but I was oblivious to the warning signs and went across town with Mr. Chubbs to interview Gigi. Her temporary owner brought Gigi down to the sidewalk on a leash. Gigi took one look at Mr. Chubbs and lunged at him, snapping and growling. Mr. Chubbs’s tail went down. Yet, instead of saying “No,” like a sensible person, I said, “Maybe I’ll come back in a couple of days and try again.” The woman was giving off such non-dog-loving vibes that I blamed her for making Gigi nervous.

Within 24 hours, I got an email from the woman announcing that Gigi had pooped on her couch and if I didn’t pick up the dog the very next day she was taking her to the pound. She knew an easy mark when she saw one! Of course, I  had to save Gigi from the mean lady and the pound, even if I had to eventually rehome the dog myself. On Feb. 7, 2003, I woke up with the flu. It was also snowing — a total of 5″ of snow fell that day. You can’t take dogs on the subways or buses without a carrying bag, which we didn’t have, and cabs are scarce in the snow. So, MrB hired a car service and fishtailed his way around Manhattan to pick up a big-nosed, mean, couch-destroying dog that he’d never met. (Things like this are why my gorgeous friend Alyssa accurately describes MrB as “a prince of a man.”) When MrB carried Gigi inside, she was scrawny, suffering from an awful haircut and scared out of her wits. We put her in the back bedroom to keep her away from Chubbs and she fled under the bed, where she hid for the majority of the next week. I had to coax her out with cheese to take her for special walks, sans Mr. Chubbs.


Gigi, under the bed, on her first day home.

It quickly became clear that it wouldn’t be easy to find another home for Gigi because she was a little nuts. I spent the next few months completely consumed with Gigi and her issues, which continued to include excessive, random pooping and dog-on-dog aggression. I kept her away from poor Mr. Chubbs 24/7, ran obstacle courses on the sidewalk to avoid other dogs, and fed Gigi organic, real-meat food. We saw dog trainers, vets and a nationally renowned animal therapist.  (The therapist was astounded when Gigi calmly walked out of one room in her office to track down a sleeping Chubbs in another room and attack him unprovoked.) Finally, I took Gigi to Dr. Jennifer Chaitman at Veterinary Internal Medicine and Allergy Specialists. Dr. Chaitman said at least some of Gigi’s woes were likely from a spinal-cord injury. Sure enough, an X-ray showed several crushed vertebrae. The injury was old and had healed with nothing pressing on the spinal cord, so surgery wasn’t indicated: the damage had been done. Friends, family (excluding MrB) and dog experts — rightly concerned about my sanity — told me to put Gigi down, but Dr. Chaitman suggested trying one last thing. She prescribed low-residue dog kibble. There’s practically no roughage in that food, which meant the pooping problem could be managed, though not cured.

Having better control of her bodily functions cheered up Gigi immensely.

Her happy face.

Her happy face.

She became vain about her hair. (She loves to show off her pink ear ribbons after a grooming appointment.) We also figured out that the ugly-duckling Pekingese was, in reality, a beautiful swan of a Tibetan spaniel. She’s a bit of a camera hog, happy to strike a pose next to purses for this blog and photobomb outfit pictures.


“I like this dress!” Me and Gigi later in 2003.

When she’s not hamming it up for the camera, Gigi likes to make a little mischief. I once heard furious activity under my bed, peeked under, and saw her trying to dig a hole in my floor. I imagined how pleased the people in the apartment below might be when a cute dog with great hair fell into their arms. Then I imagined a lucrative “Ransom of Red Chief” scenario, in which I could charge the unfortunate family a hefty price before I’d take special-diet dog back. I told Gigi, “Keep digging!”

Gigi eventually became more cordial to Mr. Chubbs and was allowed to hang out with him. She would try to play with him occasionally and they posed together for the famously dog-loving photographer William Wegman.


My William Wegman portrait of the pooches.

When Mr. Chubbs had to be euthanized in 2006 for a slew of age-related illnesses, I went to the ASPCA and got Henry, another Pekingese with his own peculiar health challenges. Even though Gigi has never gotten over her dislike of strange dogs, she accepted Henry as “her” dog. In fact, she lost interest in her toys; when she wants to play, she rolls around by Henry and kicks him till he gets the idea. She does that less often these days. She’s slowed down since she turned 10. Sometimes I can even walk her past strange dogs on the street without her barking her head off.  But she manages to surprise me every so often, like last Sunday, when we were watching the Super Bowl. I was relaxing on the couch when Gigi decided to jump up and sit on my midsection. She’s never done that before.


Make yourself at home, Gigi. February 3, 2012.

If you’re trying to watch your weight and the details of Gigi’s gastrointestinal tribulations haven’t put you off food for life, I’m happy to send her over to your house for a visit. Having a 17-pound dog press down on one’s ribcage turns out to be a successful way to bring even a Super-Bowl-snack feeding frenzy to a screeching halt. If you do borrow her, bear in mind that I’ve never forgotten my little get-rich-quick scheme. Be sure you have reverse-ransom money.

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28 Responses to “Happy 10th Anniversary, Gigi!”

  1. jesse.anne.o says:

    Aw, that is a very sweet story! She is so lucky she found you and not someone else. It’s so strange sometimes how little we know about these little guys and it’s so lucky when you get that piece of information that saves their life (and your sanity).

    I had no idea you adopted from the agency where I work (Henry)! I don’t work at the shelter on 92nd but at our midtown offices.

  2. jesse.anne.o says:

    And sorry, bad manners – HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GIGI!

  3. Lynette says:

    WendyB, honey, this is such a special post today. Congrats to all of you on this 10th anniversary, the prince of a man, the queen of a woman, and the empress of a dog! And her consort. Can guys be consorts? I’m not up on my royalty stuff like you are. Did you see Portland Oregon Daily Photo today–it reminds me of you!

    • WendyB says:

      Going to look at the photo now. And, yep, Prince Philip is a consort! (I wrote “concert” first. Ha! Interesting slip.)

      • Lynette says:

        I forgot all about Prince Philip’s being a consort. You’re right, concert is an interesting slip. And you’re even more right about Ice-T! Wouldn’t that be something, to have him at the Rose Garden Arena? Oh, I forgot to tell you that I also thought about you when I took the photo that I posted on February 4. There’s a bow and ruffle involved. Thanks for being my blog-gal-bud!

      • WendyB says:

        I’m glad I found you on the Internetz too!

  4. stacy says:

    I wuv my Gigi girl.
    Mouth noises and all!

  5. Awwww. Gigi is so sweet. Happy Birthday!

  6. sulky kitten says:

    Happy Birthday to Gigi! She is gorgeous but she is so very lucky to have found you.(You of course, are even luckier to have landed the plum role of chief handmaiden to Gigi!)

  7. Best rescue story! Snowstorm, mean owner, threat of the pound, and a final poop on the couch. Gigi clearly has Opinions and Personality, and wow, what a sweet face. Hooray for you and MrB, for saving her.

    • WendyB says:

      She has Personality, but Henry is the one with Opinions. He usually expresses those through urine, in the house. That reminds me that years ago, Gigi was sick so she was throwing up AND pooping. At the same time, old Mr. Chubbs was losing control of his bladder. It was a disgusting mess! I took both dogs to the vet and asked to leave them overnight. The vet looked at my face and said, “Maybe a few days.” I agreed that that would be for the best, because I was clearly close to tossing both of them out the window!

  8. Aw, now, Wendy, I adore you more than ever. Gigi is soooooo cute, and not many peeps would have taken the time to work with her like you did. MrB IS a prince of a fellow. Your story reminds me of my Cairn Terrier, GizMo, who I found in a very bad neighborhood. He’s a neurotic little guy, but a wonderful companion in every way.

  9. Poochie says:

    Happy Birthday (observed), Miss Gigi!!!!

    She looks so much happier now than on day 1. Poor sweetie.

    • WendyB says:

      Yeah, she was afeard. I think the other lady yelled at her a lot, plus she was kinda malnourished because everything that went in one end immediately came out the other end.

  10. Sheila says:

    Happy anniversary, Gigi and humans! She’s something special, all right! I love the reference to “Ransom of Red Chief”, lol.

    • WendyB says:

      I must confess that after spending a LOT of money on vet and other bills in the first weeks of having Gigi, I refused to pay the $50 adoption fee to the rescue group. I was like, you should give me $50 to defray the costs I’ve incurred from taking on your secretly maimed animal. Ha!

  11. I love animal rescue stories, and this is a winner! Poor little Calliope was so frightened (we figured out she had been on the streets for some time) so we too had to keep her in a room where she stayed under the bed. The purring never stopped though, so we knew eventually she’d be princess of the house. And now she is! May Gigi have many more happy years with you and Mr B! XXX

  12. Alice Olive says:

    My anti-spam word is superb. Accurate for this post!

    Well, I love this story. Everything about it. I love Gigi’s story and Mr. B’s valiant nature! How does Gigi get on with FitzRoy? Isn’t it FitzRoy’s house now?

    • WendyB says:

      Gigi is interested in FitzRoy but he isn’t interested in her. Sometimes she does a play-bow combined with a yap in his direction and he hisses. Unfortunately for FitzRoy she doesn’t seem to notice his hissing at all and persists, so then he flees to higher ground!

  13. Megan Mae says:

    Awww, Wendy, you are a gem of a woman! Special needs animals are the hardest to home, but I know all your animals are not only well taken care of, but spoiled to bits. It really warms my heart.

    If I weren’t allergic to most dogs, I’d love to steal Gigi off your hands for awhile!! She looks like a mini-bear! I love bear looking puppies. However I’ll have to settle for oohing and ahhing over photos.

    • WendyB says:

      While I was going over these old pix of her, while looking at her sitting on the floor, I was like “OMG! Her muzzle has gone white!” She’s not a puppy anymore. She’s an old bear dog!

      I’ll have to send her to a colorist so she can regain her youthful good looks 😀

  14. Elizabeth says:

    I don’t want to spoil my appetite, so I just looked at the photos. Cute! And Sex-ay! That black dress is perfect for you.