A dog named Dudley dies and Tribeca mourns


By Deborah Lynn Blumberg

Now, patrons come to offer condolences, rose bouquets dot store counters and passersby pause in front of the window to pay respect to a memorial for Dudley, who passed away last Saturday from arthritis and cancer. Born and raised in Tribeca, Dudley grew up as the neighborhood grew up, Fox said, and will be missed by his many human and canine friends.

“Duds was the inspiration for the store,” Fox said as she peeled the petals from a bouquet of pink roses and laid them next to the framed photo of Dudley in the store window. “He loved meeting and greeting people, had a big personality and was very majestic. An era is over.”

For the past 14 years neighborhood children have doted on Dudley, a golden retriever, chow chow and Samoyed mix, sneaking him treats even when Fox insisted he was gaining too much weight. Customers coming to the store for dog food, treats and toys would find Dudley sprawled out in front of the shop’s front door, demanding attention.

“We were all friends with Dudley,” said Electra D’Amato, owner of the nearby Bazzini’s. D’Amato, and her dog Hudson visited the store Wednesday to offer condolences. “No dog in the neighborhood can go by this store without a treat.”

With his thick fur, Dudley would lounge on the sidewalk in winter and chew on his favorite treat — pig ears. On his birthday each year — October 31 — Fox threw a party for her furry friend, inviting neighborhood dogs to come in costume and win prizes. Only Dudley decided not to dress up. “He refused,” Fox said. “If you put anything on him, he wouldn’t move.”

Before the nearby dog run was built, Dudley also played with neighborhood dogs at night in an empty parking lot on Warren and Greenwich Sts. “I knew Dudley since he was a pup,” said Melanie, whose dog at the time, Tibia, used to play with Dudley. “We used to sneak in at night and hope the guy wouldn’t kick us out.”

Dudley entered Fox’s life in 1990 when her daughter gave her the two-month-old dog as a Christmas present. When Fox’s daughter found her own apartment in the city and moved away from home, she wanted to leave her mother with a companion.

“She decided that I needed company,” Fox said. “In the back of my mind I thought, is she crazy? I was finally free and she gave me a baby for Christmas.”

But as the two soon found out, the Tribeca family giving away the 12 puppies had already promised Dudley to a local man and his family. The dog was destined to be hers though, Fox said. Soon after the man took Dudley home, his wife decided she did not want a dog and returned the puppy to his littermates, and days later Fox brought Dudley home. He was the first pet she owned since she was a child, and took him everywhere — even on vacation to Martha’s Vineyard each summer.

When Fox lost her job in personnel management in 1991, she and Dudley spent days walking around Tribeca together. In April he had grown too big for her to bathe him herself and Fox took Dudley to a groomer in the Village — no such shop existed in Tribeca at the time, she said.

“When I walked in the store a light bulb went off.,” she recalled. “I said to myself, this is what we need in Tribeca, and I knew I had to open a pet store.”

Fox borrowed money from family members, who agreed to help fund the store after listening to her idea for the business during a family reunion. Years later she paid them all back, and said that today, business is going well. So far, no big chain pet stores have moved into the neighborhood, and Fox feels no threat from other such stores in Manhattan.

“You’re always concerned when big operations proliferate,” she said, “but the community is so supportive of the store and people like to shop in their own neighborhood.”

A woman with a golden retriever passing the store popped her head in the door, “I’m so sorry,” she said, giving Fox a hug. Fox then excused herself to answer the store’s phone — another sympathy call and kind word about Dudley.

“The response has been wonderful and the community has been fabulous,” she said. “Some people have suggested that I get another dog right away, but personally, I can’t. I have to grieve for Dudley.”

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