Brooks was my neighbour. He was well known on Bayview for his Saturday visits to his favourite haunts while his owner, Susan, was busy shopping.
His many friends were used to the dog with the huge IQ and charming personality, but strangers were startled when he wandered into the bank to sit quietly and contemplate his beloved paintings. Legend has it that when the manager was asked to select new art for her branch she asked for his favourites to stay.
Next stop for Brooks: the video store where he cruised the aisles in search of photos of babies of any species. These would be studied at length.
His day job was acting. Susan said he earned more than she did.
He could take complex direction in human language and then do the scene in one take. He did blow one audition when the dogs were asked to speak on command. Brooks just sat there while the fools barked. Play the part of a dog? What was his motivation?
Susan was often away and I had the joy of babysitting.
I used to clip a bow tie to his collar and we travelled by TTC to my Yorkville office. This destination could be reached from St. Clair station by subway (turn left from the bus and follow the hall to the platform stairs) or by streetcar (around the corner to the right and up the escalator).
One morning I forgot to tell him my choice for the day as he got off the bus and trotted toward the subway. I called his name and said we are going by streetcar today. He stopped, turned around and headed to the escalator. Several people on the bench had mild breakdowns.
He attended all office meetings. When my biggest client, Mr. Pinstripes, pulled out the power seat at the head of the table, Brooks jumped into it and sat. The first time he saw this, Pinstripes was rattled. When it happened again, though, he just looked bemused and took another seat. Soon he was asking Brooks for his perspective on the discussions.
Brooks had a passion for technology. Keyboards had to be out of paw reach. On one expensive afternoon he called Australia and I found him with his nose on the speaker as a tiny, confused Mel Gibson voice was speaking into his nostrils.
Heading home in rush hour he would be on my lap, bowtie askew, yawning. People nodded at him empathetically. He would fall asleep after dinner in front of the TV.
One night Susan was stopped by the police on Moore Ave. They saw a woman in dark glasses talking to an empty passenger seat. The officer accepted that she was sober and had lost her regular glasses at a dinner party, but he wanted to know whom she had been talking to.
To him, Susan said, pointing. The officer aimed his flashlight on the dark seat, where Brooks sat, wearing dark sunglasses. In her panic, she forgot he was wearing eyewear, and blurted, “He likes to dress,” and the officer lost all professional demeanor.
In an effort to breed another Brooks he was flown to North Carolina each winter to visit his main squeeze, Ms. Chantilly Lace. Many beautiful puppies came along but without his charm and IQ.
There was only one Brooks.
In 1990 Susan was Canada’s oldest person with Cystic Fibrosis. As her health failed she gave Brooks to a family with two little girls who loved him. I last saw him relaxed in the backseat of a convertible driving away to his new life.