Billy and I moved back to Los Angeles in the summer of 1994. I got laid off from APA, a crappy but large talent agency in NYC and couldn’t find another NYC-based position. Billy was working at Goldman-Sachs, arguably the largest brokerage house on Wall Street. He loved that job and the people who he worked for loved him back. I was in a major funk because I could not find work and I knew we would have to give up our apartment and move back to LA (another story). But Billy was upbeat and bolstered my confidence every single day.
We drove across country with all of our stuff in a U-Haul (yet another story) and moved into a tiny single on the beach in Venice. We stayed there for two months before we settled into a one bedroom a few blocks off the beach. This apartment allowed dogs.
Meanwhile, Vinyldog was very unhappy. She was living with Russell, who raised her from a puppy with me, and she was getting up in her years. She was fifteen and had the personality of Bea Arthur. Russell had moved into an enormous mansion in Santa Barbara with his then-lover, Jon. Now Jon didn’t like Vinyl very much. Maybe because she was a remnant of Russell’s past with me or maybe that she peed in their new house. The new house had very high ceilings. I don’t think Vinyl knew when she was indoors or when she was out.
Billy and I jumped at the chance of taking over Vinyl duty. Vinyl moved into our small apartment and felt immediately at home. The only one happier than Vinyl to be there was Billy. He doted on her every move. It was instant love between those two. We had a little patio off the living room and she would happily go out there and do her business. At this point, she was going blind and virtually deaf. But still Bea Arthur.
Unfortunately Vinyl was completely blind by the time we moved into our home on Superba in the summer of ’95. She never got to see how big and nice the backyard was. Billy placed her little bed basket right next to his side of our bed. He would lie on his side and just stare at her as she slept. He’d turn to me and say, “She is fascinating!” and then turn back to watch her some more. From Billy, I believe Vinyl finally got the love and attention she was missing, and they became soul mates.
One morning, at 6:00am in September 14, 1995, we both woke to a loud thump on the floor. We both woke knowing exactly what happened. Vinyl collapsed. Billy gathered her in his arms. She was still breathing. I frantically phoned around to find an emergency vet. He carried her to the car and we raced to Sepulveda and rushed inside to the vet. She was placed on the table and the doctor said there was no chance of her surviving. We each held a paw and cried as she quietly passed away. We both cried like we had never cried before.
A few years earlier, Russell bought a cemetery plot at the LA Pet Cemetery in Calabasas for Vinyldog. We told the vet to please send her there. The next day, we went and chose a coffin. They buried her. We were inconsolable. The women at the cemetery gave us a card we took with us. On the ride home, we went through Topanga Canyon. I was driving and crying. Billy was crying harder than I had ever seen him cry but he read the poem on the card through his tears:
THE LITTLE DOG ANGEL
High up in the courts of Heaven today
A little dog waits;
With the other angels she will not play
But sits alone at the gates;
“For I know that my master will come,” says she,
“And when he comes he will call for me.”
He sees the Spirits that pass her by
As they hurry to the Throne
And she watched them with a wistful eye
As she sits at the gates alone
“For I know my master will come for me
If I only just wait patiently.”
And her master, far on the earth below,
As he sits in his easy chair,
Forgets sometimes, and whistles low
For the dog that is not there.
And the little dog angel cocks her ears
And dreams that her master’s call she hears.
And I know, when at last her master waits,
Outside in the dark and cold,
For the hand of death to open the gates
That lead to these courts of gold
The little dog angel’s eager bark
Will comfort his soul in the shivering dark.
We came home to our empty, quiet house and couldn’t believe Vinyl was gone. Billy went upstairs to the computer and made a large sign that said “VINYLDOG: IN OUR HEARTS FOREVER” and placed it above a picture of her and the poem on the refrigerator. It is still in the same place as it was in September 1995. Billy went into a deep sadness. I was numb. Then, in December, we met Bob (another story and a great one).
This part may sound crazy to some of you but whatever. A few months back, I visited a medium that was highly recommended. It was extraordinary what he was saying to me and how much of Billy he captured with me only giving him “yes” and “no” answers. He was accurate, specific and ultimately, healing. The one image that resonates the brightest for me is when we had the following exchange:
“You and Billy had a dog who passed some years ago, correct?”
“A little black dog?”
“Well Billy is holding her up right now in his hands and smiling.”
At that point, what were tears became sobs. Because not only did I know Billy was okay, I knew he was with his little dog angel, Vinyldog.