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Codger’s Column: Cur II is gone

It’s been three weeks since Cur II died and Codger is still being careful not to step on him at night or leave sandwiches where he can steal them.

Cur II, a 12-year-old standard poodle also known as Apollo, 75 pounds when healthy, was such an imposing presence in the house that his shadows remain, sniffing under the table and along the cupboards, sprawling on the bed and couch when he still could climb up, scratching at the sliding doors when he wanted to get out, usually heralded with one stentorian bark.

It was more of a yelp at 2 a.m. on the day he died. He staggered out. He was gone for so long that Codger and Crone went looking for him. He was sprawled in the grass, staring at the stars. He needed help getting back into the house before collapsing on the living room rug. He never moved on his own again.

Later that morning, Codger and Crone needed help from indomitable Animal Control Officer Jenny Zahler, and the powerful Police Officer Sean Clark, to load Apollo into the car for the last ride to the vet.

It was only six years ago that Codger and Crone took the original Cur, also known as Milo, for his last ride. Milo was 14, a 35-pound cocker spaniel, and also very sick.

As they would with Apollo, Codger and Crone stayed to the end, stroking, weeping and murmuring that comforting claptrap about rainbow bridges and how Codger’s dad, Coot, would be waiting up there with treats, including the baloney slices that had kept him happy and hale past his 100th birthday.

Mourning Apollo, Codger remembered his final walk with Milo. They checked out the massacre off Menhaden Lane where dozens of trees had been chopped down, coincidentally or intentionally clearing a water view for several Hay Beach residents. Codger was encouraged to see Amber Brach-Williams, then a Town Board member, already on site, taking notes.

Codger leaned down to Milo and, in the voice of one of his favorite actors, Alan Rickman, in “Galaxy Quest,” growled, “They shall be avenged.”

Thus emboldened, he promised Milo that he would keep a sharper eye on the newly elected Town Board, especially as it struggled with water quality, housing issues and the need for long-term planning.

Make it so. That was 2018. Since the arboricide occurred on County property, it was apparently the County cops who didn’t do whatever they didn’t do to crack the case.

Meanwhile, the non-solving of the Reverend Canon Paul Wancura’s brutal homicide that year continued apace, also under non-local jurisdiction. Brach-Williams is now the supervisor of Shelter Island’s stuck-in-neutral Town Board.

Codger wonders if water quality, housing issues and the need for long-term planning will just have to wait for a new generation of puppies.

Codger is glad he never made promises to Apollo, who in any event was too smart to believe human fantasies. He was a legacy from Crone’s childhood friend Ellen, who on her deathbed asked Crone to take this entitled, elegant, demanding handful, never more interesting than when he changed the rules in the middle of catch or fetch, usually so that humans had to chase the ball.

Milo came from a southern euthanizing shelter and was briefly fostered by a neighbor, Penelope Moore. He was cute and cuddly. He would snooze at Codger’s feet while he wrote, waking to woof at a good paragraph. Apollo apparently expected adequate prose and never offered praise.

When Milo arrived on the Island, Barack Obama was president and Jim Dougherty was supervisor, bright stars in a time of hope. Apollo showed up for Trump, Gary Gerth’s placid regime and Gerry Siller’s tumultuous one.

Apollo stayed around long enough to enjoy a dog-loving president, Joe Biden, whose greatest flaw may not be longevity, but that his dogs bit people. Dog-less Trump is not worthy of best friends.

Codger thinks that people who don’t love dogs should not be judged for that, neither maligned nor pitied, but rather be simply ignored. Canceled.

Milo and Apollo were both gamers to the end, inspirations. Good boys. People who love dogs understand the deep chords of melancholy struck by their loss, and the sudden, sad pleasure of seeing their ghostly faces through a cloudy window.

They were buffers to daily life. Those trips to the hospital, the ER, the local vet, were distractions in a way. Now, getting from here to the election without Apollo looks empty and bleak. His shadows have helped. Who knows, maybe a message can still be sent promising not to let the Town Board — and the country — go to the dogs.