Posts Tagged ‘Dogs


Defending Territory

What is it about a dog that encourages people with no interest in each other under normal circumstances to interact with each other?

Since I have been dog-sitting these last few days for a traveling friend, I have earned all kinds of attention. Carrying a dog, puts one in an instant spotlight. I am not just the anonymous guy who wants to be left alone on his way around the block. I am A Guy with a Cute Little Dog. People come out of the woodwork to say hi — just not to me.

“You have a beautiful puppy,” a woman said on the sidewalk. Absent the dog, would she have thought to remark about the weather or stop to tell me my zipper is down? Hardly. The dog invites the niceties.

Even my surly neighbor, with her enormous, thuggish boyfriend, crouched down in the elevator on the dog’s first day in the building. “Hey, there,” she said allowing the dog to sniff her hand. When she asked me “What’s her name?” I counted the most words she had said to me in a year.

“Honey,” I said.

“Oh, how cute.”

“Yeah, she’s just visiting,” I said gamely but awkwardly, startled by the excitement I felt, hopeful we might speak more. Maybe she’s nicer than she seems, I thought.

But that was it for three floors.

Conversely, the harmless old guy on the subway had a lot to say as I held Honey on my lap in her stylish polka-dot carrier bag. “Is it a boy or a girl?”

“A girl.”

“She looks tired.”

“Yeah, she’s had a busy day.”

Honey rides in style on the G train. Heh… “Honey on the G Train.” Sounds like the title of an urban porn film.

I realized for the first time the power of talking about yourself through your dog. I should try it more often. Honey’s not coming to work today. Honey doesn’t feel like doing the laundry. What I was really saying was that I was tired and didn’t want to talk. Don’t come closer to pet my dog, and don’t ask me questions about her. I am just minding her for a friend. Apart from her breed and her name, I don’t know much.

“I bet you she’s just going to go right to sleep when you get her home.”

“Hmmm.” With any luck, I thought, I will.

“How old is she?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“How old do you think she is?”

“I have no idea. Maybe three?”

He directly addressed Honey with various and sundry encouraging affectations, though I couldn’t properly hear him through the rasp in his voice and the din of the wheels on steel.

“May the wind be at your back and God hold you in the palm of his hand. That’s Irish wisdom,” he said to me after downing a tea-colored 50 mL bottle.

About as Irish as that whiskey, I thought.

Usually what I get is a “Mira! Perrito!” from small children as Honey races by on the sidewalk eager to sniff the next clump of weeds at the edge of a neighbor’s lawn.

I felt like a prick when a couple of parents clearly wanted me to stop with the dog, but I merely smiled and continued walking right past them even as they stopped so their stroller-bound child could see her. I just defer to the dog. She doesn’t want to stop, and neither do I. So I let her dictate the next move. Sorry, I’d totally stop, but my dog … well, you know how she can be.

It’s a strange feeling to interact with people while being invisible. A family with two small children was talking about the dog on the train the other day. The kids would wave and make funny faces at Honey while their ice cream cones dripped on the floor. Their parents said encouraging things to them en Español. And every time I looked up, the kids turned away, looking embarrassed, and the adults stopped talking. Turn away, and they burst into action. Look up, and silence.

My cat doesn’t care how big Honey is or what her carrier bag looks like. Her primary concern is the strange new intruder.

She outweighs the dog by at least 50%, and Honey is scared of her. She won’t walk past her. We keep them separated, but Mukau camps out at the doorway of the spare bedroom where we keep the dog, guaranteeing that she stays there.

They get along fine, as long as they stay out of each other’s way, but sometimes out of the clear blue Mukau just gets it into her head to mess with the dog. I was giving the cat some extra attention one day thinking she may be getting resentful of our houseguest, and in the middle of a hearty belly scratch, she leapt to her feet, darted across the floor, and started hissing and batting at poor Honey. It’s like, “Ooh, that’s good. Up a little bit. Up. Yeah, right there… Ohhh… Oh — wait a minute. Sorry, there’s um… this thing… that I, um… forgot to do. Be right back. Won’t take me a minute. Just gotta scratch this dog’s eyes out.”


One Track Mind

The pet owner is bundled up against the winter elements. His dog, because this is New York City, is teeny-tiny and dressed in an outfit that costs as much as the man’s. The dog scampers along in front, keeping pace, pretending there is no leash connecting them. And then he stops to inspect the base of a retaining wall. The owner passes him and pauses, giving the lead a gentle tug. Come on. Time to go in, boy. The man shifts on his feet and shivers.

The animal stands there with his ass in the air, clearly shivering. He’s one of those little guys that shivers on a warm day. A bitter wind whistles under his tail and across his exposed belly. His single-mindedness and determination is almost inspirational. I’m coming, I’m coming. I just really have to smell this because it’s so … interesting, and I … Oh, wait, what’s this? Oh, now that… that smells awful. Isn’t that awful?


To the Dogs

Walking from my gym to the E train at 8th avenue last night, I had occasion to pass Penn Station. I saw a dog shitting on the corner and its owner picking up the pieces. The wee thing was shivering violently and looking as if the cold were some kind of punishment. “Just give me the rolled-up newspaper!” I could hear him calling. “As long as it’s indoors!” Must be an out-of-town dog, I thought. New Yorkers love to dress their dogs in ridiculous outfits.

I passed by.

As I crossed 8th, there was another woman walking two dogs. I passed by.

Then there was a man holding a little bulldog. Carrying him across the street. Well, it’s slushy and cold. What a nice guy. I passed by.

Then I saw a great big cage on wheels. OK, a kennel on wheels. In it was a beautiful breed, though I’ll be damned if I know what it was.

OK, what’s going on here?

My eyes travelled along across the street ahead of me, from the kennel-on-casters all the way to Madison Square Garden. It was a surreal, orderly, linear exodus of dogs and owners. Some were caged. Some were carried carried. The majority were on foot. It all depended on their size and preciousness. The kennelled ones were witout exception skinny little things, shivering horribly, unused to such harshness. Great big ones lumbered by, sniffing all the random objects before them — the garbage can, the empty planter, the mailbox, other dogs — anything within leash range. One owner pulling a kennel was trying to surmount the snow drift between him and a taxi. The wheels were stuck and the dogs looked completely freaked out.

All these breeds, and there wasn’t a Siberian husky among them that would help pull?

It was like the Ark had just docked into a West-side pier. Not Noah’s, but rather his younger, less intelligent, rather more myopic brother. There were several varieties of terrier, a dalmatian, precious shih tzus, a robust English mastiff, a shaggy and ostentatiously tall Afghan, a couple enormous great Danes, French bulldogs in triplicate, several kinds of spaniels, border collies, bizarrely sculpted poodles (at least their haunches were warm, I thought), some creatures that looked like miniature greyhounds, or really big four-legged spiders, I couldn’t tell.

Ah… of course. This is the after-party of the Westminster Dog Show. Funny how the show’s lustre is dimished somewhat as soon as the animals are forced to deal with the real outside world and everyone’s rushing back to the Hotel Pennsylvania for a rub-down in the doggie spa and a snausage night cap after such a long and tiresome day. Even at events where it’s the humans being judged, the red-carpet affairs, when everyone shows up individually to make a carefully timed appearance, is where the glitz and glamour play out. But at the end of show, when everyone has a kid to tuck in or a martini with their name on it, we are all reduced to cattle.

The canine queue stretched all the way into the loading bay of the Garden, far back into the innards of the building. These must be champions. They were all certainly well-behaved. With the exception of the first little pup I saw, who I’m nt concinved was with this crew, I saw not a single turd among them.

the untallied hours