EDITOR’S NOTE: It is City Councilmember Lauren Meister who famously declared that “West Hollywood is going to the dogs,” which was a statement of pride as the city opened two new dog parks at West Hollywood Park. Some say it was Spike, Meister’s dog, who died on Sept. 20, that helped her get elected (and re-elected) to the City Council. After all, his smiling face was next to hers on much of the campaign literature. The West Hollywood City Council last week adjourned in memory of Spike, and Meister graciously agreed to write the following essay for WEHOville that tells his impact on her and her family and the impact of our pets on all of us.
The day after Spike passed away, I woke up at my usual time. The silence of an empty house – no pitter-patter of little paws – unbearable. I went through the motions of my morning regiment (minus Spike) – washed my face, brushed my teeth, put on my walking gear, gulped down my vitamins and left the house for my daily walk to Starbucks and back.
Later that day, I went out to the backyard to the guest house, where my parents live, and my mom said, “You didn’t come out to say ‘hello’ this morning.”
That was our usual routine. When Spike and I started our day, I let him out in the backyard to do his thing. Naturally, I’d go by my parents’ window to see if they were awake, and say, ‘hey.’ They’d ask me about the evening before – how was the meeting/event/dinner. They’d yell out to Spike, their favorite grandson. He’d come running over to greet them. Sometimes he’d do a crazy run around the yard – I swear he did it because he knew it made us all laugh.
I felt bad, and I also realized how our pets bring us closer together, and how they make a house a home. Anyone who says animals don’t have an important role in civilized society has obviously never had a pet.
Before I adopted Spike, a three-month-old Bill Foundation rescue from South Central LA Shelter, I said I would foster him – just to make sure we were a match. We all knew that was a joke – once Spike was here, he would be here forever. This was before my parents lived here, and they and my sister came over to meet him. We all sat on the floor, and he jumped into my sister’s lap, held her face with his two puppy paws and proceeded to kiss her face as if he knew her in another life. We all looked at each other, laughed, and said, “oh, he’s a keeper.” It was a memory that would start a five-member family bond that would not end for 14 and a half years.
When we were building the guest house, my parents would stay overnight so they were here to help make decisions about their new home. Spike would sleep with them in the guest room – as if to say, ‘You’re my guest, and I’m going to watch over you.’
Once my parents moved into the guest house, Spike’s life got exponentially better – and, I believe, so it did for my parents as well. My dad took Spike for walks twice a day. Spike received lunch-time treats just for announcing to my dad that lunch was ready. Of course, I didn’t know that was happening until one day, I walked out and observed that not only was my dad chewing something – so was Spike. If I had only taken a picture of the two guilty faces looking at me – caught in the act – I’m sure it would have been an Instagram sensation! Did I get mad? How could I? For my dad, Spike was his best buddy. For my mom, Spike was her grandson – deserving of treats as any grandchild who provided so much joy.
On “family night,” a tradition we started a few years back, he sat in the middle of the room – so happy that everyone was there with him. He loved to amuse us — he would chase his tail – stop, look at us, wait for the reaction (of course, we were laughing), and then continue on in the opposite direction. He knew he was funny and loved being the center of attention. We didn’t disappoint – to us, he was a star.
There are many stories I can tell, but my point is that pets have a significant impact on our daily lives and our interactions with others. And in today’s busy “digital always-on” world and the constant need to be on the go, a pet can teach us to take a beat, enjoy the moment, laugh, and communicate with one another.
That’s why, although my heart is breaking with the loss of Spike, I could never be without a furry, four-legged child. While there will never be another Spike, there are lots of rescue dogs in need of adoption, and I know that my house will soon be a home again.
Rest in peace Spike Meister, my sweet boy. And here’s to future furry four-legged family members – wherever you are.