I was walking Otis on Sunset Boulevard when a tan man in aviators asked if my pug wanted to make it big time. He was casting the canine lead for Sofia Coppola’s edgy retelling of a spoiled Austrian teenager’s loveless life and tragic death. I agreed immediately. Otis got in bed with Kirsten Dunst, and in 2006, he won a Palm Dog at the Cannes Film Festival for his portrayal of Mops.
For the young dauphine, the waking hours passed slowly. She filled them with flaky pastries, flute lessons, and feathered poufs, but worldly pleasures did only so much to distract from the immense pressure of winning over a king, a court, and a country. When it was all too much, she held her tawny-colored pug (Mops/Otis) to her bodice and cried. As the tears dripped down her cheeks – bringing with them pomade, powder, and white paint – Mops/Otis was there to lap them up.
In 2004, Miles and I had grown tired of asking how the day went, how tomorrow would go, and how the week was looking. We were tired of browsing used bookstores, arguing about pizza crust, and holding hands when it was too hot outside in Central Park. So we went to the pet store on West 23rd Street and spent $300 each on a pug with a wrinkly face and wheezing problems that we could love together.
When we broke up a few months later, I moved to Los Angeles, Miles stayed in New York, and Otis came with me. On the plane across America, I drank flat ginger ale and read articles in Sky Magazine about faraway places where I would love to be with a lover. I hugged my pug and palmed his furry folds of fat.
Last week, Otis died of stomach cancer. It cost $1,042 to put him down; why in the world do we pay for death? I scattered his pug ashes in the Pacific. I mailed his Palm Dog (a leather collar in a velvet box) to Miles without a note. I ordered an electric eel with a thirty-year lifespan on Craigslist. I’ll name him Louis XVI. I’ll download a dating app. I’ll let myself eat cake. But still, the waking hours pass slowly.