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Bonfire of the Puggle

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Bean's Journey: From Gramercy Park to the Bronx.  

The next call was from a nice guy who said he’d seen Bean the day before sitting under scaffolding on the building next to Cricket’s, but he had been too busy walking his own dogs to intervene. He was filled with guilt and insisted on looking for her. A while later, he called to say he’d gone back, searched the block and the park nearby, but hadn’t seen any sign of her.

The next caller had a southern accent and the can-do phone manner of a TV Realtor. He introduced himself as a pet detective, saying he’d just come in from successfully resolving a case up north when his secretary had informed him of our loss. He spelled out his Web-page address. I told Cricket very little about him, just that he sounded like a grifter.

IV. New York

We got back into Manhattan in the early evening, stashed the car, and went out looking for Bean. We moved block by block, calling down into darkened stairwells, looking under Dumpsters in the rain. Then I slept for a bit, but Cricket couldn’t, so she got up and designed a new flyer, uploading it to her Web page so that her friends could print it out, then went to Kinko’s to make copies.

The calls continued. One man barked on her answering machine for two full minutes. A woman called to say she’d seen Bean running through traffic down Union Square East and across 14th Street but that she “looked really happy.” A young guy, dreamy and drunk, left a message at 1 a.m., saying he’d only recently moved to the city but he was sure everything would be cool, that people might seem mean in New York, but they’re actually good and they look out for you.

And it was true: As we went door-to-door, I was surprised by the number of doormen who took a flyer to post. Cricket met a girl out walking her own puggle who spread the word to her online puggle group. The people at Halstead Property e-mailed her flyer agencywide.

In the early afternoon, Cricket got a phone call from a man named Roberto. He asked her if the reward was for real, and when she said it was, he said he knew where Bean was. He’d spotted her running along 14th Street the day before and thought she was a pretty dog, so he chased her and caught her, took her to Petco, bought her a collar and lead, and decided to name her Queenie. But when he brought her home, his mother said he couldn’t keep her, so he gave her to his neighbor. He would try to get her back and would call Cricket later.

Then a girl called to say that she’d seen someone trying to sell Bean on Second Avenue and 11th Street. We rushed over and searched the neighborhood; the guys who sell battered J. G. Ballard paperbacks on St. Marks Place had seen a Hispanic kid trying to sell a small dog, but we never found him. We moved along St. Marks toward Alphabet City, posting flyers as we went. It was now well past dark, and we were nearing collapse. In Tompkins Square Park, approaching a trio of drunks with the flyer, I ended up locked in a beery embrace and had to endure a few seconds of waltzing before I could escape.

They were nice at the police precinct, and they were polite at the Sanitation Department when they told us that they didn’t keep records of the dead pets they find. Then Cricket got a confusing call from a young man, a girl talking behind him. He had a dog, and he wanted to know how Cricket could prove it was her dog, and was it true that she’d gone to Roberto’s job with the cops. Cricket had no clue what he was talking about; suspicious, he said he’d call back, and hung up.

Roberto called, claiming he knew where Bean was, and asked her to come to him in the projects to get her back. He described Bean as looking as if she’d recently had babies and as having long nails, details Cricket found compelling. Then he said Bean was really timid one moment and really friendly the next, which was all Cricket needed to believe—that was just how Bean would act with strangers, she thought. I was more skeptical. She said she wouldn’t meet him alone, which he said was smart of her; he agreed to come to my house to discuss things face-to-face.

Roberto showed up on the steps of my building at about 10 p.m., a wiry, muscular Hispanic man in his late thirties with a graying Caesar haircut and jailhouse ink on his arms and legs. As backup, he’d brought Cliff, a gangly black guy in his late forties who played the chorus to Roberto’s plaintive protagonist, amplifying various lines of Roberto’s pitch to underscore his sincerity.


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