In the early 1980s, I was hired as a disc jockey at WHCN/Hartford. It was my second radio job, and I was thrilled, even though the only thing I knew about Connecticut was that you had to drive through it to get from New York to Boston.
Since I had no place to stay, the radio station put me up at a hotel for a few days so I could look for an apartment. But I couldn’t find one that quickly, so I was offered an alternative. The station’s news director, Karen, had just married one of its weekend deejays, Peter, and they were going off on a two-week honeymoon. They generously would let me stay for free at their place while they were gone.
They told me they had two dogs, to which I replied that I wasn’t a pooch person. I’d never had any pets, and my only relationships with dogs were with the ones who used to scare me by chasing the bicycle I rode to and from elementary school, seemingly nipping at my heels the whole way. It was a traumatic experience that has stuck with me, negatively impacting my opinion of all dogs to this day.
My only other experience with a four-legged animal was in college, when I lived in an off-campus house with a friend who had a cat he named Schmatta-Head (look it up in your Yiddish dictionary). It mostly stayed in his room and ignored me while I ignored it, so we got along fine.
Karen and Peter assured me I’d have no responsibility for their dogs because friends were watching them. With no place else to turn (who am I, Felix Unger?), I thanked them, took the keys, and went to the apartment with all my worldly belongings, which fit into a single suitcase.
When I got there, I found a rather unpleasant surprise. The dogs may not have been present, but no one had mentioned there was dog hair on everything. And I mean everything — the carpet, the couch, the chairs, the bathroom mat, etc. I had to buy a dozen lint rollers just to get it off my clothes every day.
To make the situation worse, the place had the foul stench of dogs. It was the kind of funky smell dog people get used to but I couldn’t. I bought cans of air freshener and sprayed them all over the place just so I could fall asleep at night, but the stink was so embedded that by morning the air had reverted to not-so-fresh.
Since I didn’t go on the air until 6pm each day, I had to find something to do outside the apartment. It just so happened that the Showcase Cinemas in East Hartford had recently begun showing movies in the early afternoon. I think the theaterplex had eight screens, so several times a week I’d drive over there and, without even checking the listings in the newspaper, watch whatever was playing at 1pm. More than a few times, I viewed something I’d already seen just to kill a couple of hours. Remember, this was over 40 years ago, long before I could while away the day browsing the internet or watching something on a streaming service.
After the movie, I’d have lunch somewhere before going to the radio station to do some production work (commercials, mostly) before starting my show. Afterwards, I usually went to a downtown bar (I still drank in those days), where I was ignored by each and every woman in the place until closing time. Besides, even if I had met someone I wanted to take home, the dog hair/stench dilemma would have made any carnal activity impossible.
Before the two weeks were up, I rented a room in a house in Meriden, about a half-hour south of Hartford. The rent was cheap, the three other guys who lived there were fun to hang out with, and — most important of all — there was no evidence whatsoever of dogs on the premises.