The Story of Putto


Once when Jeffrey and I were in London, we went to the Victoria & Albert Museum. Among the many fine works of art, there was one sculpture of a small child holding a dead bird. “PUTTO” it was entitled. This tickled J to no end. “PUTTO,” he kept saying. We saw more PUTTOs, or PUTTI, I think the plural is. “Look at that PUTTO!” Ah, but what was this PUTTO? An artist? A dead bird? A genre of sculpture?

We looked it up on the Internets, no easy feat in the late 90’s. We had to plug into a sketchy looking ethernet cable in our hotel, and pay an exorbitant connectivity fee. A search on Yahoo (people used to use Yahoo as a search engine, can you believe it?) told us that a putto is an “angel baby”. From that day forth, all things small and cute: dogs, children, me (well, me, not so small) were PUTTOs. We made plans to get a dog. He would be a pug. His name, or at least his nickname, would be PUTTO.

A few months later, I had a very very vivid dream. I was in the gynecologist’s office, waiting in the lobby. Everyone in the room was watching a black and white Bing Crosby movie on a TV in the corner. Bing was singing to a crying baby with a perfectly round head, “My putto paaaal…pooooor little man…” The baby of course cheered up by the end of the song and gave a cute little smile. Everyone in the room was transfixed.

Jeffrey was out of town on business, but when we talked on the phone I told him about that dream and I sang him the song. He thought it was weird, but kind of cool. The next day he sent me an IM: “My putto paaal…poooor little man…” and later he left me voicemail singing the little tune. I said I was going to make it a goal to finish that song someday.

Some time later we were at Trader Joe’s and there was an Italian lady there with her two children, aged 3 and 6 or so. They were in line behind us, but she forgot the tapioca, and asked us if we would keep an eye on them while she ran to get it. They were SO CUTE, and they spoke ITALIAN! “TapiOca! TapiOca!” When the lady came back we were chatting, and Jeffrey said, “We only know one Italian word.” She said, “Oh, I bet it’s vino!” and he said, “No, PUTTO!” Turned out we’d been pronouncing it wrong: it’s POOT-O, not PUTT-Oh. Oh well, it was too late, our minds and hearts were set on PUTT-Oh, and Thanksgiving week of 1999, we went to get our Putto.

We had a choice between a girl dog and her brother. The brother was calm and sweet. The girl was going crazy, running around in circles and playing. I really wanted a girl! “Why do you have to pick that one? She’s nuts!” asked Jeffrey. What could I say, the heart wants what it wants, and so started the story of a girl and her pug.