Sarah Dale is sitting in the window of the Silver Lake boutique Pull My Daisy, which she has owned for seven years. She looks tired and has been crying. It’s been just two days since her dachshund/soul mate, Bingo, died on Sunday, March 30, after being hit by a car.
The straight-talking Ms. Dale, who owned Bingo for 10 years, has found herself at the center of an outpouring of grief from the neighborhood. Bingo had become a genuine icon, with a T-shirt and tote-bag line of his own. He patrolled this block like a friendly 12-pound beat cop, and was so beloved that he was recently portrayed on a mural around the corner. Bingo was supposed to be the ring bearer at Dale’s upcoming wedding.
Through the window behind Dale, one can see passing traffic and a sidewalk altar filled with colorful chalk-written messages, all addressed to Bingo, most in English, but some in Spanish and French. “Bingo Is Love,”“Long Live the Mayor of Silver Lake,” “Rest in peace Bingo, My Heart Breaks a Million Times.” There are alsodrawings of dachshunds with unicorn horns and angel wings.
“Someone came yesterday, and they wrote something and left the chalk,” Dale says. “When I got here this morning, half the sidewalk was full.” A neighbor roped off the altar area, making the front of the store look like the entrance to a nightclub.
Dale says she was not at the store when the accident happened. Instead, Bingo was helping to manage the store in her absence. She had long ago resigned herself to the fact that her dog insisted on being at the store even on her days off.
“He would run to the door and bark until I took him to the store. He took his job very seriously,” says Dale, who regularly dropped him off in the morning when the store opened and picked him up at the end of the day.
“It was our routine,” she says, lighting a cigarette and eyeing a new set of passersby who stop to look at the elaborate altar that has taken over the front of her store.
When news of Bingo’s accident reached Pull My Daisy, the woman who was working at the time, with help from the proprietors of the two neighboring businesses, Den of Antiquity and Bar Keeper, immediately closed up shop and decided to contact Dale’s fiancé and have him break the news.
According to Rhachel Shaw, who was working at Bar Keeper that afternoon but who also works at Pull My Daisy part time and baby-sat Bingo while Dale was traveling, a meter man who was on the scene at the time of the impact picked up Bingo’s body and wrapped it in a piece of fabric. Witnesses saw the car that hit Bingo slow down, and say it looked as if the driver might stop and get out, but ultimately the person drove off.
“He had never done that before,” Dale says of Bingo going into traffic. “You only get to do that once, because when you do that, you get hit by a car.”
From the first day that Dale opened the store, Bingo started patrolling the block and acting as if he owned the place. For seven years, he spent his afternoons lying in the sun on the sidewalk, watching over the nearby businesses and accepting scraps of bacon and chicken from the patrons of Casbah and the now-defunct coffee shop Eat Well.
Two young girls on their way home from the music conservatory up the block stop and draw something on the sidewalk memorial. Another, Selena, who attends Micheltorena Elementary down the road, says she visited Bingo every day after school.
Ann Magnuson, the actress and a neighborhood local, walks into the store. Dale gets up. The two hug and start crying.
“The mayor of Silver Lake,” Magnuson says of Bingo, after they stop hugging. “Everyone thinks it’s Rodney” — meaning legendary DJ Rodney Bingenheimer — “but really it’s Bingo, the Eastside version.”
Joe Keeper, who owns Bar Keeper next door and tells how Bingo would come by at least three times a day for string cheese — and to lie in the sun in his back-door garden when the front sidewalk got cool — says it will be a long time before he gets rid of the string-cheese stash he has for Bingo in the fridge.
“He was a good friend. He would come in throughout the day just to see everything was cool. Bingo was my boy,” Keeper says, with tears in his eyes. “Everyone had a unique relationship with Bingo. It was like he was Sarah’s husband or something. It’s the end of an era, and we have to mourn together.”
Dale is in the midst of planning a public memorial in front of Bingo’s mural. She has posted fliers, and her friends and employees are calling many of Bingo’s known friends.
“I knew I had to do something public,” Dale says. “I just want people to come and tell stories about Bingo and eat bacon.”
“My wife is gonna make pigs in a blanket,” Keeper says, “and I was thinking I would get bacon and fry it up and hand it out, kind of like matzah — toast Bingo with a piece of bacon.
“He was the heart of the neighborhood,” Keeper goes on. “Bingo gave a lot more than he took. He was a truly altruistic person. With a person, it’s a two-way relationship, but with Bingo, it was him giving all the time. Bingo was an extremely public person. On my birthday, he would come in and give me a kiss and he would stand on my foot. He didn’t have a bad thing to say about anybody. I mean, how many times in your life do you get to meet somebody like that? Bingo was a complete person; he just happened to be trapped in a dog’s body.”
“You are Bingo’s mom,” says a gentleman who walks into Pull My Daisy. “I am so sorry!”
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When he leaves, Dale says she doesn’t know who the man was — he was just one of the hundreds of people who knew and loved her dog.
“You know, Annie [Sperling], who painted the mural, came to touch it up, so that it would be perfect for the memorial on Sunday. And on his name tag, she added my name. And she said to me, ‘Well, Bingo belonged to you and you belong to us. In a neighborhood of nonjoiners, you two were joiners, who could rally the rest of us.’ Doesn’t that shit just kill you?” Dale says, her voice cracking.
“People can really say the right things sometimes. I know he was everyone’s dog, the universe’s dog. But I was the lucky girl who got to take him home at night.”