If you abandon your pet after learning it is suffering from a debilitating illness, you lose the right to call yourself an animal lover.
A decade ago, my (then) wife and I attended a Mets game at CitiField. On our walk back to the car, parked underneath the Van Wyck Expressway, a friendly golden retriever unexpectedly sidled up next to us.
The Willets Point industrial complex is filled with car repair and auto parts shops. Many of them use guard dogs to keep strangers off their property. but this dog had no collar, no identification, and didn’t seem to be interested in safeguarding any particular fenced storefront. In every respect, he looked like a house pet that had been dropped off and left to fend for itself.
My wife never had a dog of her own, but had relatives who owned them, including her father. My side of the family was notoriously pet-free. My mother found a clever way to prevent my brothers and I from ever having a dog or a cat. She told us “I am allergic to fur.” With no Internet for us to look up hypoallergenic breeds, we took her at face value. Years later, when she bought herself a fur coat, we realized we’d been played.
In 1998, we bought a house in a neighborhood that was a mix of suburban and low-density urban development. Lots of people in this region had dogs. In fact, the previous winter had been so cold that massive deposits of uncollected frozen poop forced multiple homeowners to contact the Department of Sanitation. The city responded by putting up signs warning about steep fines for not cleaning up after your animal defecates.
We did not attend a Mets game expecting to bring home a pet. The team was not doing especially well in 2013 (74–88 overall record), but we typically attended the game on the annual fireworks night. Our next-door neighbor, a nurse, agreed to babysit. Shortly after the fireworks concluded (a 7–5 loss to the Atlanta Braves), we headed out and encountered the golden retriever as we crossed the street and made our way towards Northern Boulevard.
We first spotted the pooch as it wandered down the sidewalk, approaching us from the opposite direction…