When Osama bin Laden orchestrated the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001 , I was six days shy of losing my slowly-dying mother in Los Angeles, two months shy of becoming a pet parent to Lucy, four years shy of moving to Manhattan but only one week removed from American Airlines Flight 77, which hijackers flew into the Pentagon that fateful late summer day.
From nearly 3,000 miles away, I mourned the losses of the thousands killed in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, in the air and on the ground. I thought about being on American Airlines Flight 77 exactly a week before and wondered if the same crew that worked my flight was on board on 9/11. Did the hijackers really do a trial run on board my flight as I read? I cried hard for Cantor Fitzgerald CEO Howard Lutnick, whose life was spared because he took his son to his first day of kindergarten but whose firm lost 658 employees, including Lutnick’s brother and best friend. What I didn’t do was think about the dogs and other animals affected by 9/11. Not until I read Osama bin Laden Bit My Dog (He’s Sorry Now But I’m Still Drinkin’ About It), a touching memoir by Steve Dougherty that recently became available electronically. The former People writer vividly takes readers back to 9/11 and the days that follow as he tries to reach his mixed breed pooch, Audrey Golightly Dougherty, a rescue from the North Shore Animal League, a Long Island-based no-kill pet shelter.
Dougherty was in his Battery Park City apartment across from the World Trade Center when the first plane hit the North Tower but outside to witness the second plane exploding into the South Tower. He delivers a powerful narration of not realizing what happened to the realization of the attacks to the uncertainty that followed. Deftly shaping Osama bin Laden Bit My Dog around reaching Audrey and his daughter Eva, who was at her middle school two blocks north of the WTC at the time of the attacks, Dougherty moves at a fast pace and puts readers at the scene of the murders. It’s not all pretty but it is mesmerizing as Dougherty races to Eva’s school — but without his four-legged companion, who is left alone at home. I quickly swiped my iPad screen, wondering the fate of Audrey Golightly (Eva is responsible for the pooch’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s-like name and the pup’s adorable photo on the book cover).
Will the window Dougherty left open blow enough ashes and soot inside the apartment to choke Audrey?
Is Audrey’s water safe?
Does she have food or does it even matter because it’s probably full of carcinogens?
Will someone rescue her before it’s too late?
Though Dougherty is trying desperately to reach Audrey, if he stopped drinking, could he think more clearly and come up with a rescue plan?
I’ll never know what it was like to be in Manhattan that day, the steps I would have taken to reach my dog or how I would have handled witnessing what Dougherty did. But while reading Osama bin Laden Bit My Dog I was in the middle of the chaos, confusion and carnage. As I neared the end of the e-book, I looked down at my longhair Chihuahua Lucy, whose chin rested comfortably on her bed. She stared up at me with her large, adorable eyes and gave me a pleading look that said, “You would do anything for me.” And she’s right.
(In full disclosure, Dougherty was a co-worker at People. I haven’t been in contact with him in well over a decade and had no idea about his personal 9/11 experience until I read Osama bin Laden Bit My Dog. I hope he gets a handle on his drinking. Even if I didn’t know Dougherty, I’d still give his memoir a paws up.)
Download your copy of Osama bin Laden Bit My Dog here.
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