This is the story of my first borzoi. However, it is not the usual borzoi story, or the story of a great show dog or a beloved pet. I did not even know the names of the two dogs I met one day that would someday lead me to him. I met them in the least likely place I would have expected. Yet their influence reached into my distant future in a most unexpected way.
I remember it was a sad period in my life. I felt as if it was over before it began. I was a young, single mother at a time when such a thing was relatively uncommon and the stuff of scandal. Judging myself as having failed at adult life, I took refuge in childhood pleasures. I had always loved dance and music for as long as I can recall, so I often escaped by going to the ballet and opera. I lived close to New York City, so I frequently went to Lincoln Center to see these performances. In that regard, I was very fortunate.
One day, I had tickets for a matinee performance of Giselle. Giselle is a ballet in two acts. The first act is extremely different from the second act, as if they were two completely separate ballets. Act One is gay and raucous, a village scene depicting a courtship, with a panoply of characters populating the stage in what seems like an interminable celebration of youth and life. Giselle, the maiden, dies of grief at the end of the act when she learns the handsome youth who had been courting her was a prince betrothed to another girl, a princess. Act Two takes place after the death of Giselle. It is a dreamy elegiac vision of death. Deep in a forest, young maidens who die on the eve of their wedding are transformed into beautiful fairies known as Wilis. They lure the young men who spurned them, and then kill them by forcing them to dance to death.
As I sat through Act One, I wondered how many people could be on the stage at one time doing so many different things. The music is loud and fast tempo and I thought it was all very silly. Suddenly, a tall, older man – the local aristocrat, of course – walked onto the stage with a brace of large dogs leading a hunting party. They were – what else – borzoi.
Their sudden appearance on the stage shook me from my reveries. I sat up as straight as I could to get a better look. How splendid they looked on the great stage of the Metropolitan Opera House. How gracefully they moved across the floor, like ballerinas themselves. I remembered thinking their beauty surpassed that of any dog I had ever seen. How could a dog be so graceful? I wondered how I ever could have been bored. I suddenly thought the ballet was wonderful. My heart pounded as they slowly walked across the stage. Shortly after, the curtain fell. During intermission, I asked my companion, “Did you see the dogs?” “Yes, but?” was her reply. No one seemed to notice, and no one seemed to care. I remember feeling uplifted at the sight of them. I had a vision of a future life when everything would be all right again. I felt happy.
Act II of Giselle, unlike Act I, which imparts the illusion of fun and happiness, achieves its dark and tragic reality of life. The effect is very cathartic. I remember feeling exhausted as I walked out the great doors of the opera houses into the bright sunshine of the plaza that day. The plaza seemed strangely deserted. It was a beautiful spring day and not many New Yorkers would have gone to a ballet. Then, I suddenly saw them again – the man with the two dogs from the stage, standing at the fountain. I decided to walk up to him and said hello. When I reached him, I asked him if the dogs were borzois and he said yes. I told him how beautiful they looked on the great stage of the Met and that I would never forget it. I remember asking, “Are they as nice a dog as they are beautiful?” and he replied, “Yes, they are.”
The years passed, and with them, more heartache. I do not know why this was so. What I remember best looking back on those difficult times were the loyal dogs that accompanied me after so many people had walked away.
One day, in a park near my home, I unexpectedly met a woman with a white dog. Although many years had passed since I had seen one, I recognized it right away as a borzoi. I decided to ask her a question. “Is it as nice a dog as it is beautiful?” I asked. She replied, “Yes”. I had a new Lab at the time, and this woman and I often saw each other at the park with our dogs. A short time later, she told me her dog’s breeder had another borzoi to sell. He had shown him but he had not turned out. She had recommended me to the breeder, and asked if I was interested. Without hesitation, without knowing anything else about borzoi other than these two lovely encounters, I said, “Yes, please do!”
In a short time, I had my very own borzoi – and a show dog at that! Sadly, he was a dog with a broken spirit. Someone I knew met us once out walking shortly after he came to me. He looked at him with scorn and said, “What do you want him for? You were taken!”. It did not matter to me. I knew exactly what to do. His burden eased with each passing day. Today, he is a happy dog. When he turns his head upward, and looks at me with his large, brown eyes, I know I found something for which I had searched my entire life. His eyes speak volumes. Yes – you are loved.
March 1, 2005