Noe Valley Voice September 1999

Boychik Goes to Dog Heaven

By Voice Staff

On Aug. 11, 1999, the Noe Valley Voice bade a fond farewell to "Boychik" Smith-Yagudin, a brindle boxer who was the newspaper's mascot for more than a decade. He was 101/2 years old.

"Boychik slobbered excessively and knocked a few people over in his time (sorry, Lindy), but he really couldn't help it," said Voice copublisher Jack Tipple. "He was a lap dog in a big dog's body."

Boychik was born Oct. 1, 1988, and adopted as a six-week-old puppy by musician Misha Yagudin and Voice copublisher and editor Sally Smith. His name means "Little Boy" in Russian and Yiddish, but at the age of 1 he already weighed 85 pounds.

Although he never learned to read, he could speak. In a "More Muzzles to Feed" column in the 1993 April Fool's Voice, his parents claimed that his first words were "ground chuck." In another April Fool's edition (1991), he masqueraded as the owner of a pet store, boasting that he'd "have a sale on those exotic birds.... They make real good squeak toys."

Boychik originally lived with his dad on Foerster Street (off Monterey), but moved to Sally's flat at 27th and Sanchez about seven years ago. He felt more at home in Noe Valley, maybe because he got "skunked" twice at Sunnyside Park.

On 24th Street, he visited the Animal Company almost before he could walk, triggering a lifelong addiction to those beef jerky sticks handed out by the owners. Another favorite spot was the Holey Bagel (now Manhattan). He loved bagels.

But by the '90s he'd gotten tired of the noise and hubbub on 24th Street, and he avoided the strip unless he heard about a Mutts March.

When walking up Sanchez from 27th to Downtown Noe Valley, he'd accelerate at Jersey, dragging Sally "Stiff-Arm" Smith straight across 24th Street to Elizabeth, where there were a few choice trees. Then he'd forge ahead to the Voice office in the Noe Valley Ministry. "He'd insist upon going in, but once he was in, he'd rather go out," said Sally. "He was very social, but not a good journalist."

In his middle years, he enjoyed going to Upper Noe Recreation Center, where he hoped to meet a girl, a boy, ... somebody. "He was quite a hunk," said Misha, pointing out Boychik's dark eyes and white paws. "But he died a virgin."

"Maybe that had to do with the drooling problem," noted Sally.

After checking out Upper Noe field, he'd head for the dog water bowl at Mikeytom Market on Church Street. Tom and the rest of the gang always had a biscuit ready, and even hosed him down on hot days. Along Church Street, Boychik would stop off to see Trudee at Key Kraft and Mia at Mia's Flowers. He might also visit Speckmann's Delicatessen and ask if he could bring home the bacon.

Another hangout was Chloe's Cafe, especially if Vera was waiting tables. He was fond of the median strip along Dolores Street ("Oooh, palm trees!"), and was once personally thanked by a city gardener for training his humans to pick up his litter there.

Nearly all his forays led back to the hill on 27th, where he'd run up the steps at Preston and David's house, hoping to catch a glimpse of Lucy, their beloved bulldog (may she rest in peace). Closer to home, he'd stop to get a super-scratch from neighbors Mary and Larry.

Many people volunteered to babysit Boychik. Some twice. His best friends were Victoria of Hoffman Avenue, who gave him his prized stuffed bear and the liver biscotti; Karol of Sanchez Street, who promised he'd get to meet her cat Esmé one day; his longtime patron Rayne "I Am My Dogs' Mom" Wolfe; his pal Nina, who works at Rose Quartz; and Helen of Blair Terrace, who once let Boychik sit on her lap and kiss her on the lips.

Like all animals, he loved the Pigeon Lady of Sanchez Street (June 1997 Voice), who carried dog treats in her pockets along with the birdseed. He also lapped up any attention he got from Jim, Doug, and Elliot of the Voice staff.

And he appreciated Voice ad manager Steve Steinberg for telling him about Advantage, the antiflea product used by Steve's cocker spaniel, Mitzi. "Advantage changed my life," Boychik said.

It changed his owners' lives, too. "After he got rid of the fleas, he insisted on sleeping on the bed," said Sally. "Still, he was never deliberately bad. He never ran away. Never chewed a slipper. Never whined or barked obnoxiously. And he never bit anyone, even though he probably wanted to."

About four months ago, he was diagnosed with melanoma, which progressed in spite of surgery and other treatments.

During his last couple of days in August, he visited with friends, played with all his toys, and was allowed to completely shred a plastic 49ers Nerf ball. He slept on the couch in front of the TV with an actual pillow under his head; had his fur brushed and blow-dried; nuzzled with Bonnie Jean, the cute little sheltie collie with the slight overbite; and ate part of a Whopper and fries from Burger King.

He was even allowed to eat chocolate (a no-no for dogs). It seemed to revive Boychik, who wagged his tail and smelled the air out the car window all the way to see Dr. Rick at Avenues Pet Hospital.

Inside the vet's, he was chipper till the end. Sally recalled, "The last thing I said to Boychik as I led him down the hall to Dr. Rick was 'You've been a good dog. I love you (sob).' To which he replied, 'Gee, Mom, get a life.' Then he ran toward the Light.... Or maybe it was the female Rottweiler in the next room."

Perhaps he thought he'd finally gotten lucky. Bye-bye, Boychik. We'll miss you.

Special thanks to Rayne Wolfe and all Boychik's friends for helping with this story. --Sally Smith