When I sat down to write this post, I couldn’t understand why I was having so much trouble finding the words. Then it dawned on me. It was because it was about someone so dear to my heart.
My brother Stan’s birthday was March 3rd. He was like the Jewish dog whisperer long before Cesar Milan took the title, without the Jewish part. He was a television director in San Francisco but had a real knack for training his dogs. I never remember him taking a class or hiring anyone. It just seemed to happen naturally. He was also one of the funniest people I have ever known.
He always gave his dogs people names like Max, Stella and Dave, a dog named after David Letterman because Letterman had a dog named Stan. The fact that he gave them those names may explain why they felt obligated to live up to his trust. Somehow that hasn’t always worked for me.
In the fall of 1995, we were living at the beach in Malibu while our house was being repaired after the Northridge earthquake. One morning my brother called to tell me that he had been diagnosed with advanced colon cancer and would be undergoing major surgery. After I picked myself up off the floor and got the phone back to my ear, we decided that he would stay with us while he recuperated. His only request was that he bring Larry.
Larry, a Border Collie/Australian Shepherd mix, was the most special of all Stan’s dogs. When they arrived at our house, Larry instantly bonded with Cody, our Golden Retriever. The two of them became best friends. They would explode onto the sand, doing laps, swimming, sunning. Yet much of the time they sat quietly by Stan’s side or took walks up the beach with him.
After a few months, feeling somewhat better, my brother decided to move back to his house in Oakland and return to work. Despite a positive attitude, he knew that his time was limited and wanted to live his life as fully and normally as possible.
When it came time to say good-bye to Stan and Larry, I don’t know who was a bigger mess, me or Cody. Being a realist, Stan asked me if, when the time came, we would adopt Larry. Since he was being so direct, I couldn’t offer all of the platitudes that were trying to jump out of my mouth, so all I said was, “of course.”
I have a confession. I started to write about Stan and Larry coming back in the months before my brother’s death but it got too depressing. Let me just say that we lost Stan on July 22, 1996 at the age of 47. That was also the day that his beloved Larry became my beloved Larry.