Photo by Claire Flack
“Thaddeus in the corner pocket!” This frisky Cockapoo works all the angles on the pool table at his favorite East Village bar.
BY HEATHER DUBIN | Living over a bar in New York City has its perks. There’s that last drink on the way home with old familiar faces, and a built-in group of friends on the block.
Thaddeus, a 6-year-old Cockapoo, a cocker spaniel and poodle mix, finds similar comfort, five flights down from his apartment, at his East Village local. He likes beer and covets attention. But what keeps him coming back, aside from his owners, David Crane and Mark Hammer, might be the dog treats behind the bar and free rein of the pool table.
Standing on his hind legs, Thaddeus rests his front paws on the pool table, and plants himself directly in front of one of the pockets where the balls end up. When the cue ball is mishit and loudly “scratched” into a pocket, it thunders through a chute to the slot on the bottom of the table, where Thaddeus is poised and ready. Once it gets there, Thaddeus works himself into a frenzy, and scratches his front paws at top speed round and round the ball.
“He likes pool balls because he ain’t got none,” Crane joked.
The couple, who hung out with Thaddeus at their local for a recent interview, tried to remember the exact year they met.
“We date our past by our politics,” Hammer said. After some discussion as to whether it was 1996 or 1997, Crane, a Community Board 3 member, was able to trace their beginnings back to ’97, when former Mayor Rudy Giuliani tried to sell off the neighborhood’s community gardens. They’ve been together ever since.
“When you find something precious, you hold onto it,” Hammer said.
Thaddeus falls solidly under this category for the couple, who spent a year looking and pining for the right dog, with frequent visits to the Tompkins Square Park dog run for ideas. Also, they wanted to adopt a rescue dog in need of a good home.
“There are so many wonderful animals, there’s no reason to buy a dog,” Crane said.
One night, Crane decided to turn to Craigslist for their quest. Crane had worked in financial services for 20 years — “it was gruesome” — and after a friend suggested he switch to the nonprofit world, Crane found his current job through Craigslist. Currently, he is the director of engineering at donorschoose.org, a nonprofit that matches public school teacher classroom requests with private donations.
“I love Craigslist,” he said. “The first time I found my job, and the other time I found my dog.”
Hammer works at the the New York State Department of Health AIDS Institute as director of program integration and special projects in the H.I.V., S.T.D. and H.C.V. prevention division. He joined Crane in answering the Craigslist ad for Thaddeus. They admitted to writing five “essays” instead of five short responses, and Hammer reveled in one essay’s “winning line.” The couple already had two cats, Beazy and Lucy (short for Beelzebub and Lucifer), who are the same age as Thaddeus. Together, the couple wrote, they were “Four hearts waiting to be joined by a fifth,” Hammer said. “The rescue ladies loved that.”
Another essay question inquired about past pet ownership. They had an edge with Crane, originally from Dallas, who had seven dogs growing up, one of which was his brother’s. This helped to balance out Hammer, who is from Cuba, in Upstate N.Y., and had never lived with dogs. But a childhood without dogs was not a deterrent.
“It was love at first sight,” Hammer said.
According to Crane, Thaddeus was dropped off at the pound, at 15 months, by a woman with a note that read, “I hate his hair.” Cockapoos are known for their curly manes, and while trying to trim Thaddeus’s hair, his previous owner had left cuts all over his body instead. Crane suggested the woman did not know how to take care of or handle Thaddeus.
“Her stupidity is our great fortune,” Hammer said.
The woman also left behind Thaddeus’s papers, which is not typical. In addition to his breed, “We know his parents, which is unusual in the rescue world,” Hammer said.
The couple’s essays landed them a next-day response from the Craigslist ad. They went to Brooklyn to see Thaddeus, impressed his foster moms, and a rescue representative called them that night with the good news.
The couple brought home their new dog the very next day, and explained the origin of his name.
“Thaddeus was one of the lesser-known apostles, also known as St. Jude,” Crane said. But as Crane noted, Thaddeus is the only apostle of 13 listed twice.
Hammer, however, said the Cockapoo, in fact, takes his name from a congressmember who was a famed abolitionist.
“He’s named after Thaddeus Stevens,” Hammer said. “For this, he is reviled in the South.”
“Where I’m from,” Crane interjected. “Nevertheless, I think of him as a hero.”
Thaddeus has celebrity status with the couple. He is part of their family and joins them most places they go — from an art festival in Brooklyn, to dinner in a dog carrier, to hiking Upstate along the Hudson River, where he likes to get muddy. Crane proudly showed a video on his phone of Thaddeus in a Yankees baseball hat plunging his whole head into the water.
“Thank God for shampoo,” he said.
The couple takes 25-mile bike rides pretty regularly, and Thaddeus, who wears “doggles” for the occasion, sits in a steel basket at the front of Crane’s bike. They recently rode bikes to Clifton, N.J. (with a train boost), to visit Hammer’s 98-year-old Aunt Beatrice in her nursing home.
“Thaddeus is much loved at Daughters of Miriam,” Hammer said.
Thaddeus has many loves himself, and water is a definite first. He’s been in the Mississippi and Hudson rivers and the Atlantic Ocean. When the couple travels to California soon, he will be Pacific-bound.
“He loves Yorkies,” Hammer added. Crane piped in, “He had two for breakfast.” Thaddeus really does love to eat crawdad (Texan for “crawfish”), and has had two in his life. Both were in Dallas — one Crane caught, and the other Thaddeus found solo.
Thaddeus also loves to fish-gaze for hours at koi in the community garden on E. Sixth St. near Avenue B. Maybe it is because he has a thing for sushi, though he only gets shrimp tails.
“If you say the name of a person or a dog he likes, he gets excited, and he touches your nose,” Crane said. This was demonstrated by Crane when he asked where Mama (his mom) and Jeanette (Hammer’s mom) were, his two favorites.
Thaddeus also responds by nodding yes with his nose to foods he likes: carrots, nori, kohlrabi, corn, edamame and lettuce.
“He likes any vegetables I’m cooking with,” Crane said, “pastries, anything I bake — banana bread.” Hammer acknowledged that he lives with his “personal chef.”
Other Thaddeus eccentricities involve eating flowers, and an affinity for ladies and Edgar Allan Poe — especially “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Which is no surprise as Hammer began to recite “The Raven” from memory.
Although his pool ball obsession is enough of a treat, Thaddeus performed a few tricks he picked up in class at the Ruff Club, a new dog bar in the East Village.
“He learns routines, and that’s the poodle side,” Crane said. Highlights featured Thaddeus jumping through Crane’s arms that he held to make a hoop, and twirling in a circle on his back legs to calls of “Pretty Princess.”
Thaddeus likes to perch on his owners’ shoulders, and at the end of the night, Crane had him around his neck like a towel.
“He’s my heated stole,” he said.
When he got down, Thaddeus took off to dance on his hind legs with Hammer, who held onto his front paws. All and all, it was a just another night for Thaddeus at his local.