joe head

The True Story of Joe

Each issue of ZuZu was introduced by a brief column called "Notes from the Editor's Dog".
As the official mascot of ZuZu headquarters, Joe was privy to tasty "Behind-the-Scenes" bits
and put his own spin on what to expect in each issue along with his own musings.
Kids began to ask me if this precocious pup really existed and so in the big dog issue of May 1993,
we published the following account of how Joe came to be the editor's dog.
This story is about 4,000 words long.- you may want to print it out.

This is the story of me. I'll tell it to you like I'd tell it to a friend. Some parts I remember, others were told to me later on. I'm not above letting other people fill in the gaps.

I was born in Brooklyn. I ended up in the East village, way east - Avenue D. Worked my way west to a prime empty lot on Avenue C., Leader of the Pack, "the Mayor" they used to call me. I hung out with nameless sorts, dog types and a guy named Cuba. Well, he was from Cuba, his real name was Rudolfo.

Was my name Brooklyn then? No, I was called Blackie, Luckie, Jack, but never, I repeat never late for dinner. Born with a sense of humor, and a cat's taste for multiple lives, how did I end up a publisher's assistant? It wasn't my high SATs, if you know what I mean. In fact, it all started with a major case of canine agression.

I was a street fighter. Cuba was proud of my abilities and I fought for him for slices of bologna from his bowling bag. I knew how to take care of myself. At least I thought I did.

On this particular Sunday in March, six years ago, I was in the biggest fight of my life. I was holding my own with a big pit bull with attitude. The pain in my ear, my neck, my side, it was nothing new. People were gathered around. Only some were screaming. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash. Unfair fight! The second pit bull grabbed me and I felt a pain unlike any other. I looked around, I knew I had to bail. One of the dogs was being pulled off me, the other was coming in again. I ran through an opening in the crowd and kept on running. I was blind with pain. Things were blurry, I headed west, farther than I had ever been, past any familiar scents.

I hit concrete, sidewalk, grass patch, concrete, I didn't stop. Cars were screeching. I couldn't put my front paw down, the pain was too great. Three good legs sped me across a wide avenue. I could hear people gasping, making noises like the fight crowd, but different. I stopped and lay down. I checked out the damage, small tears, here and there, nothing big. When I looked at my left front paw. Hello bones, Hello muscles. It was like I could see right inside. Yuck! Blood was pouring out, puddling onto the sidewalk. Footsteps were echoing around me, I licked my wound and looked up. Who was this? The last thing I wanted was company. I let this girl pet me, mindful of my manners even in the midst of extreme agony. I suppose I could've growled, but I felt growled-out. The distraction of this person was helping with the pain, but when she started talking to some of the others around, I decided it was time to split. I sped off. Nice knowing ya, I thought. I just wanted to get somewhere quiet and sleep this one off. I had some close calls that next few moments, crossing Houston Street - eight lanes of pure traffic!

I smelled car exhaust and heat and fear. Still I sensed those footsteps in the crowd, following. I lay down in front of a shop, pillows and shams, foam and rubber. There she was again. Offering me water this time, digging in her pockets for a telephone coin. Go ahead, pet me if it makes you happy, I thought as this stranger stroked my head. Kids approached, the kind that tease, I ran for it again. Familiar sounds, salsa, familiar smells, as I made it back eastward, feeling lost, needing to move.

I ran into an unfamiliar building. Was this girl really still following me? Well, points for persistance. Up the cool stairs, it was quiet there. I lay on the first soft place, a doormat saying "welcome." I didnšt recall anyone saying "thank you." Downstairs I heard the girl talking to people. I knew they were peering up at me. Scuttling was going on. I let them whisper. Someone was saying "eeeww, dog blood" over and over. Hey, don't rub it in. I tried to sleep.

BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. These footsteps were familiar, loud, no nonsense. I knew the type. Dogcatcher. Great. This guy wraps a rope around my nose and drags me down stairs. Whose idea was this? I'm beginning to wonder about this girl, the one I was beginning to think was ok.

Bang, darkness, cold. This is life inside of a dog catcher's truck, a small compartment designed to snuff out your life before they return to the pound. I had heard about this. It was the kind of thing old dogs bragged about, like old people talk about war stories. I heard voices saying "Save him, Save him." Spanish, English, weeping raised voices, then light. I was dragged back up the stairs, retracing my own bloody footsteps and tied to a post. Was there any logic being applied here? I thought, looking up at the girl. More whispering, a ramp, more dragging, Then, my first ride up the FDR, sure I was in pain, but this was cool. From my blanket in the back of an old pickup truck, I gazed out at all the moving things. Water everywhere, Wow!

This is the part about the famous Animal Medical Center. Open 7 days a week 24 hours a day. Big deal. At that moment, I was pretty close to calling it quits when they rushed me into the emergency room, so I'll rely here for the most part on what I've been told happened next. Laurie, the friend that brought me up to the hospital with Beck,(the girl who followed me) named me Joe. It just spilled out. I'm grateful for her simple taste.

I was in the hospital for three whole weeks. The girl came to visit me and brought a rather bored looking fellow, I respected his aloofness. Him, I could relate to. His name was Larry, the boyfriend. Finally the big day came. The girl came and picked me up in a big truck. See ya later I said, to the poking, prodding staff of the Animal Medical Center, for good I thought.

A blanket, a corner and a silly squeak toy were my next memories. I slept a lot. The house was bustling all day and quiet at night. There were footbaths. Everytime I would drift into dreamland there she would come with this wierd blue water. Unwrap my bandage, soak my foot, dry my foot, wrap it back. Was this for a reason? I thought, or are you just without a day job? Ok, ok, I know it was all about infection and yes, it saved my life, and I should be grateful, and well I am - now.

One morning in the park, I slip out of my collar and run like the wind. I'm fast on my three good legs and I make it to avenue B, then C, my old stomping grounds. I run from stoop to stoop. Where is everyone? Still sleeping under cardboard blankets? I see an old pack mate. We're all wagging tails, I'm getting ready to tell my story, when here she comes, Beck.

Snap, I'm trapped again. She drags me to a couple people sitting on a stoop and asks them if they have ever seen me. I know they know who I am, and they know I know, but nobody's talking. It's like that in this neighborhood.

So back I go to three blue footbaths a day and three rather square meals a day. Lots of people come and visit Beck. They are all suspicious of my intentions. Hey, this was not my idea. Just open the door and I'll find my way. They told me later that Beck put up flyers with a little drawing of me and asked around, but noone ever came forward to claim me.

I got used to my little walks and the food even started getting better once we made friends with the guys in the pizza parlor. Everyone stopped and looked at my bandaged foot. The bandage was bright red and Beck made sure it was always clean. Then one day, the worst thing happened. Cats. See it seems I was hanging out in this empty apartment that was being fixed up so Beck and Larry could move in with the rest of their stuff. Stuff which included three cats. How humiliating, living with cats. Oh, and what snobs they were. Unlike my street cat aquaintances, these guys had the soft life. Ox the Prissy, Felina the Meanie, Nick the Timid, and Ray the Ghoul. Sure they told stories about the old days when they too had roughed it out on the streets, but somhow I doubted them. We hated each other, this cat pack and me. But for the sake of Beck, I kept my mad chases down to a few dozen per hour.

I wondered often about Cuba and my buddies on Avenue C. About sleeping outside and coming and going as I wanted to. I even missed fighting, and woke up snarling sometimes, eager to even the score. When we went to the doctor and he cut the bandage off, I thought I'd get my chance. Then all of a sudden, my head is being squeezed into this plastic cone and it is tied around my neck. Excuse me, but I don't remember trying out for the part of the canine megaphone. Everywhere I turned, BANG, this plastic collar was bumping into everything.

These were an angry, hostile few weeks. I could barely drink my water without spilling it, I had to lower my "conehead" over my dog food in such a perfectly aligned fashion or else it was mess time. And out on the street, if another dog so much as looked at me sideways, I wanted to rip its throat out. I guess I was quite a sight, this barking plastic top growling down the sidewalk. And all I wanted to do was chew on my paw which was itching and hurting all at the same time.

Finally this too passed and my foot seemed to be healing ok. I was used to my little world now, I had the cats completely under my control except for sometimes when they would ambush me from a dresser. I appointed myself guard dog to Beck, who, I have to admit, I had grown quite fond of. I would miss her when I ran away again. But I was planning it every day.

Months passed and I tried to walk on my foot, but there was still something wrong. I became a regular at the veterinarianšs office. This was such a drag, I missed being on top. I wondered who was "The Mayor" now. Probably that nasty old pit bull.

It is during this time, I am told, that Beck was in a constant dialog with many doctors. They were all worried that my foot wasn't healing properly and they were going to have to amputate my whole leg. I'm glad I didn't know it then. The boyfriend was beginning to become tired of my freeloading ways and would not hesitate to remind me every day that Beck was saving my life. I tried to be grateful, I ran after squeak toys and chased tennis balls. I even stopped caring if I ever beat up that pit bull. I knew Beck didn't like me fights.

Another trip to the Animal Medical Center and into surgery. When I woke up, I looked down and HEY, I only had three toes instead of four on my left front paw. What next? I thought. But you know what? Without that one little toe, my foot healed faster than all the months before. Soon I was walking, then running on that foot. I was so happy. I even went to the beach for the first time in my life. I rode in cars, went to parties, art openings, all the time proudly displaying my scars for people to fuss over and whisper about. I took up my old habits, eating pizza crust off the street, burying bagels crusts under the bushes, chasing cop cars, and other colorful behavior. I got a piece of glass in my foot one day and I went hopping right over to Beck and she fixed it. We were in love. Even the boyfriend was warming to me.

One summer night we were into our routine. Dinner, walk, ice cream, video. I stayed outside the video store with Beck, hanging out on my leash. (ok, I gave in on that one.) Then I hear this familiar voice. It was wierd, a lot of memories came back and then a hand was petting me and the world was spinning. It was Arturo, Cuba's brother and my old street buddy! I was wiggling all over. "My friend, My friend," Arturo was saying, "We thought you were dead!" He reached over and unsnapped me from my leash as Beck looked on. She was babbling about my foot, how she tried to find my owners. I was so blind with surprise that I didn't even notice that Beck had started to cry.

Larry came out of the store and said a few words to Arturo and off he went. I thought it was great to see Arturo, but to be honest, I was into living with Larry and Beck now. The next day, there was a lot of tension in the house. The doorbell rang and I did my usual barking routine, its part of my job, see. The elevator opened and who should appear, but Cuba! I was so excited, I went pee all over Cubašs pants leg. It was my oldest friend. The next thing I knew I was out on the street, a few other old friends from the neighborhood were there and they were all saying "You're alive, You're alive.' I ran off, so eager to spend the day in the sun, I forgot to say goodbye to Beck.

So I spent a wonderful day in the neighborhood catching up. I ate a lot of greasy chow from everyone who came to greet me and look at my foot. I slept with Cuba under the stars, in an abandoned building, like in old times. The cops came a few time in the night, but they left us alone. People were yelling in the morning as I got up and roamed around the empty lot. Most of the same old dogs were there, but some of them had either died or were living in other places. There didn't seem to be any interest in having a mayor anymore, oh well... I roamed around most of the day and a little later, Beck and Larry came to visit me. Cuba and Beck chatted for a while, in broken Spanish-English, mostly about me. She gave him some medicine for me and Cuba tried to interpret what to do with it. I hoped he wouldn't understand. And he didn't. Beck was all upset, I didn't understand why, I mean, here I was now with two families!

I trotted over to Beck's building and then around the neighborhood each day, but I never saw Beck. What I didn't know was she was looking for me too. Well we missed each other for a few weeks and I thought well, I guess she doesn't really want me. So I went back to my old life on the street. Cuba got used to me being around again which meant that he kind of ignored me and let me do whatever I wanted.

I missed Beck and Larry. Even the cats were in my thoughts. So one day I went and hung out in front of Beck's building until someone let me in. I went up the stairs and around all the floors. Finally, the super of the building said "Hey Joe" and took me to my apartment. When Beck opened the door, she was so excited, chattering to me in her sqeaky happy voice. "How did you get here," she kept asking. Beck called Cuba's brother who lived in an apartment and said that I was going to sleep over.

The next day, when we walked back over to Avenue C, something weird happened. We visited with Cuba, which was cool, but then when I wanted to keep walking off with Beck, Cuba wouldn't let me. He was using the leash. And Beck was letting him. What was going on? Didn't Beck like me any more? I was very confused. So when she disappeared and Cuba let me off the leash later, I didn't go over to her house for a few days. I was miffed. Then I couldn't stand it any more, and again the super let me in and I spent a few days that time with Beck.

I kept up this pattern for a couple of months, my two families, holidays here and holidays there. I was into it, it was the perfect amount of freedom. Sure, crossing the streets and hanging out until someone let me in was a pain, but it was freedom right? Sometimes Cuba would forget to share his food and I would have to go begging, trash-picking. I even got in a fight now and then, but my heart wasn't into it anymore. A dog catcher tried to pick me up and there were lots of close calls I think it best Beck never know about.

Then one day, Cuba disappeared. I found out later that he went to a place called Miami to visit some relatives and get away from the neighborhood for a little while. When Beck came looking for me and couldn't find anyone, I think she decided something. The next time I went to stay with her, she called Arturo and said, "I think Joe will live with us now." and so I did. Cuba and Arturo and all the gang in the old neighborhood loved me but they kindof ignored me a lot. I think that Beck needed me more than they did.

We continued to go over and visit, but Arturo got sick and passed away and then Cuba went away to a correctional facility in Connecticut for some trouble with the law. Sometimes now, in the old neighborhood, people recognize me and call me Blackie, I don't mind, but I don't answer to that name any more. Now I am Joe. I have a good job as the editor's dog. At ZuZu headquarters, I act as receptionist and keep the cats from tearing up photographs. I earn my keep here and I guess I have it pretty good. I am really bad sometimes, but mostly I try to act very civilized. Larry and I are pretty tight now too and I think he thinks dogs are ok. I have lots of friends and have watched many puppies and kids grow up in the neighborhood and taught them all a thing or two.

My foot sometimes hurts on rainy days and I'll always have a funny footprint, but I wouldn't trade places or my story with any other dog in the world.


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