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Dogs on the Subway - Hatrick's Dog

In today’s New York Times at: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/12/nyregion/does-that-mutt-have-a-metrocard-subway-riders-are-divided-on-dogs.html?_r=0 there is an interesting story about dogs, contrary to the law, riding on the New York Subway system.

I share with you a story from Moments of Truth, my memoir in short stories, about the late Tommy Murphy, a gritty New York character, who took to the subway with a dog he would end up kidnapping for a small cash ransom to satisfy his thirst for beer.

Hatrick’s Dog

One Friday later that summer (1954), Tommy (Murphy) finished up on the docks in mid-morning and headed back to Queens. Shortly after 11:00 o’clock he stopped in Hatrick’s, a popular bar on 48th Street and Broadway across the street from the east entrance of the 46th Street subway station. Bill Hatrick was a powerfully built and good-natured man, who easily handled trouble whenever it developed in his establishment. Tommy was the only customer that morning, enjoying his first of many drinks that day, when the liquor salesman arrived.

Hatrick was moving back and forth along the bar checking his liquor inventory, while the salesman sat in a booth making notes in his order book. Meanwhile, Hatrick’s large dog, a friendly drooling boxer, was pacing back and forth with his leash in his mouth. The dog camped at the door and began to whine for his late morning walk. At first, Hatrick ignored him. The dog reacted to the lack of attention by barking and pawing at the door. At that moment, Hatrick made a serious error in judgment.

“Tommy, I’m going to be tied up here for a while – would you mind taking the dog for a short walk?”

“Sure Bill; I could use a walk myself.”

Murphy leashed the dog and they began a journey that was long talked about in the surrounding neighborhoods. Murphy and the dog sauntered up Broadway toward Northern Boulevard while the dog made frequent stops at every hydrant along the Woodside Housing Project. Just down the street, at the corner of 53rd Place, was a bar called the Green Dolphin, where Murphy stopped for a beer. While Murphy was enjoying his beer, the dog raised himself up on his hind legs to lick some spilled beer from the edge of the bar.

“So you want a beer too,” Murphy said, laughing. He ordered another beer and leaned down to allow the dog to lap it out of the glass. The dog finished the beer and Murphy finished his.

“Give me another, and one for the dog,” Murphy said to the bartender.

“Tommy, is that your dog?”

“No, it’s Hatrick’s.”

“That’s what I thought. I don’t think getting his dog drunk is a good idea. Suit yourself, Tommy, but I don’t think Hatrick’s going to appreciate this.”

“His dog certainly does,” Murphy said, laughing.

“I’m serious, Tommy. I wouldn’t fuck with Hatrick.”

“Ah, let me worry about that.”

Murphy finished his beer, looked at the bartender and still laughing said, “We’re going to have a good time. We’re going bouncing,” a term used when people went from bar-to-bar in the course of their drinking on a given day or night.

With the dog in tow, he left the Green Dolphin. Their next stop was a bar just up the street next to the Northern Boulevard subway station, where Stanley Bloom was tending bar.

“That dog looks hungry Tommy. Why don’t you get him a hamburger?” Stanley suggested. At that, Murphy left the dog in the bar and got them each a cheeseburger at the White Tower next door. Following their greasy lunch and a few more drinks, Murphy decided it was time to visit Manhattan.

Well-primed with alcohol, Murphy put on his sunglasses, said good-bye to Stanley and left for “places unknown,” as Stanley would tell Bill Hatrick later that afternoon. Murphy and the dog walked past the White Tower to the entrance of the subway station. Feigning blindness, a staggering Murphy led the woozy dog down the stairs into the station. Passing the change booth, he flashed his open wallet to the transit employee as he made his way to the exit gate used by students, subway employees, policemen, firemen, and other people with special passes. As he did, he called out, “blind man.” Once through the gate, Murphy pulled the now frightened dog down the platform to a wooden bench, where two middle-aged women were waiting for the ‘GG’ train.

Presuming that Murphy was actually blind, the women made room for him and told him they had done so. Murphy thanked them and sat down with the dog, who proceeded to sniff the ladies and the bench before lifting his leg to pee. Murphy whacked the dog in a failed attempt to stop him.

“You’re not blind, you’re drunk,” one of the women said.

“You’re blind drunk,” said the other.

“Got this new seeing-eye-dog today – never been on the subway before.”

“That’s a lie. Those dogs are trained for everything. I don’t believe you for a minute.”

“Honest, lady. I’m blind – the dog’s new at this.”

“Don’t give me that. You could see if you weren’t drunk, I’m going to tell the man in the change booth to get the cops.”

The arrival of the train saved Murphy, who boarded the last car with the dog and took a seat adjacent to the rear door of the train. The next station was 46th Street, where the train paused directly under Hatrick’s. The women reported their concerns to the conductor, who delayed the train until he found Murphy. The conductor confronted him about his status, and again the frightened dog peed. The motorman came out of his compartment and walked back through the cars to join the discussion. By this time, Murphy was convinced he was blind and persuaded the skeptical subway employees to let him remain on the train. He exited the train a few stops later at Queens Plaza and boarded an ‘E’ train for the stop at 23rd Street and 8th Avenue in Manhattan.

Murphy introduced the dog to a number of his favorite bars in Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen. Early that evening, while Hatrick was searching far and wide for his dog, Murphy got a sudden urge to visit Greenwood Lake. He stopped a taxi, put the dog in the back seat, gave the driver a $10 bill, and told him to take the dog back to Hatrick’s in Queens. The driver jumped out of the cab, returned the cash, and told Murphy to remove the dog. A long discussion ensued and a compromise was reached. The driver took them both to the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

Murphy, fully oiled after seven hours of drinking, was now quite confident in his blindness. He entered the terminal, purchased a ticket for Greenwood Lake, and moved cautiously towards his bus gate. On a Friday night, especially in the summer, the bus terminal is jammed with people, many the dregs of New York, so the sight of a drunk with a large dog wouldn’t merit a second glance. Noticing the driver was not on the bus, Murphy led the dog up the stairs and proceeded to a window seat in the rear. The dog crawled under the seat directly in front.

As the sunlight began to set over the Hudson River, the driver arrived and the fully loaded bus embarked for the Lincoln Tunnel. As the bus entered the tunnel, its interior darkened and the dog panicked and started to bark incessantly.

“Jesus,” Murphy muttered to the woman sitting next to him. “I think my dog’s scared.”

The bus exited the tunnel in Weehawken, New Jersey, and pulled over to the side of the road beyond the tollbooths. The driver rose from his seat and began walking toward the rear.

“Who’s got a dog on this bus?” he asked.

Murphy raised his hand and called out, “It’s a seeing-eye-dog’.”

“How’d you get on my bus?”

“I walked on.”

“I didn’t see you.”

“I certainly didn’t see you,” Murphy said laughing.

“You’ll have to get off the bus.”

“I’ll need the dog as a guide.”

“I want you and the dog off the bus.”

As Murphy and the dog made their exit, he tugged the driver by the arm and led him to the side of the bus. Again he asserted his blindness, convincing the driver of his status with a $20 bill, and a promise that the dog wouldn’t cause further problems. The dog, now frightened by the roar of the heavy traffic, cinched the deal by peeing against the tire.

They re-boarded the bus and the dog slept all the way to Greenwood Lake. Murphy walked the dog to his uncle’s house, explaining to Packy (Connelly) he had found it on the road. Sometime on Sunday, about the time that Packy was running out of patience with his nephew and the dog, Murphy ran out of money. In desperation, he hatched a scheme. He picked up the telephone and called Hatrick.

“Hello Bill, how’s everything going?”

“Who’s this?”

“It’s Tommy Murphy.”

“I’ll kill you, you fucking bastard. Where’s my dog?”

“The dog’s fine. I took him bouncing with me, and before we knew it we wound up in the country. He loves it here.”

“Where are you, Murphy?”

“Lend me a ‘C-note’ and you can pick up your dog.”

“I’ll kill you first.”

“Bill, I’m sorry about this, but if you want to see your dog again, go to the Western Union office near Steinway Street and call me at this number.”

Hatrick called 15 minutes later, whereupon Murphy instructed him to give the Western Union clerk the $100 and to put the clerk on the phone. Murphy instructed the clerk to immediately wire the money, in his name, to the Western Union office in Greenwood Lake, and requested that Hatrick wait for confirmation that he received the money. A half hour later, Murphy called to confirm he had the money and advised Hatrick where to find the dog. Murphy had a few beers at Eddie Chester’s before tying the dog to a tree across the street from the Western Union Office. A relieved Hatrick retrieved his dog and returned to Queens. Murphy repaid the money a few weeks later, but he was banned from Hatrick’s for more than a year.


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