It's not about the house.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Large, Friendly Dog in a Very Small Room

I've mentioned Chuck (TFT)'s brown bread, have I not? How the slow transmission leak he had for a few months has turned into a roaring case of Motor City's Revenge? Well, it did. And this is it, folks. The Big One we've been waiting for. You hear that, Francine? He's coming to join you, honey...

(That's not the best link to give you to explain Francine, but a search turned up the shocking discovery that I've never really written about her here. Hm. We'll have to rectify that someday. But for now...)

Since Monday, then (which is really not too long in the grand scheme of things), I've been busing and hoofing and otherwise prioritizing all the to-do in my life. Drinking Budweiser, for example, because you can carry 18 of them home from the packy in one hand.

I've also been taking the dog for actual walks. I'd more or less stopped doing this, because we both loved going to the you-know-place so much -- but the you-know-place is almost two miles down the road (I may have said it was one mile before; I may have lied. The point is) you can't walk there, and play there, and walk back, and have any time left in your day to write. And let me tell you, that dog is a bear if he doesn't bang out his daily thousand words. He really is a diligent dog, after all.

So we've been walking in the neighborhood, and it's... you know. Lots of crossing and re-crossing of streets to avoid unfriendly dogs. This is part of why we stopped it in the first place. The Old English Sheepdogs who try to come over the fence. The German Shepherds who bark largely from the back of theirs. The trio of Dachshunds who get all I'll-bite-your-kneecaps if you laugh at their yippy 'tudes. Charlie is a friendly dog at most times, but you'd be well advised to avoid pissing him off. And the best way to piss him off (other than trying to hump him in his you-know-place and not stop when he asks you nicely) is to be a dog and refuse to sniff hello. If you're not sniffing, he figures, you must be a Bad Guy -- and before you know it I'm flying a 90-pound-dog-shaped kite up in the air.

The other day, after taking an unscientific Facebook poll about its couthness and deciding it was cool, I decided to take him to the cemetery near my house. The Old North. It's an old one (hence the name, der) -- Abigail Adams's folks are buried there; other stones date back almost 400 years -- so I was pretty sure we wouldn't run into any living relatives who might bristle at the idea of a Shetland pony pooping on Deargrandmother's remains (he really is a very big dog, after all).

The Old North really is almost a mile from my house, and if you'd seen us on our way you would've thought I never walked a dog before. It was my first time with a new leash, see, and it was the extend-a-kind -- which I'd asked my Dad to send along precisely for occasions such as this. I can't very well let him off-leash in the graveyard, I figured, but I could let him extend-a-ways and give the place a thoroughgoing sniff.

As I said, though, I had a hard time getting used to the device. Charlie was in the middle of the road before I realized you're supposed to keep your thumb down on the big black button all the time, and we had one foot in the graveyard before I found the small button that makes it so you don't. But I did figure it out. Eventually.

The Old North is built on a series of small hills -- wooded, now, though I doubt they were when it was consecrated -- with the newer graves spread out on the flat land around the edge. I kept Charlie on a short leash through the new part, and when the road curved sharply up and to the left it seemed safe to give him a little head.

Not -- jeez, people! Gross! Not like that! I meant "give him a little" as in "let him have his." Jeez! It's a horse thing -- and not a Catherine the Great horse thing, either. Jeez.

Anyway, I let him have his head, and at first he just went out before me on the road. But when he realized he was more or less free he set off to explore -- sniffing under bushes, drooling over headstones, peeing on trees -- wondering if this might be a whole new you-know place after all. Not thirty seconds in, though, I saw something out of the corner of my eye that gave me pause: a man, middle-aged and maybe a little rough-looking, running for the wooded corner in a crouch.

Junkie, I thought. And maybe you'll think I'm overreacting, but this town is gross. It might seem all idyllic and Olde Newe Englande, but really it's just South Boston with trees. Just yesterday, in fact, Johnny asked a friend to run him to the package store so he could haul home an economy-sized case of Bud for the weekend, and when they ran back in for cigarettes somebody stole the 36-pack from the car. Nice. So, although it hadn't occurred to me before I set out for it, it's not hard to imagine junkies in the wooded corners of Old North. The real-life guy that Johnny Depp played in the movie Blow was born here, after all.

Thinking all this, I found myself very glad to have a Giant Black Bear by my side. He really is a fierce-looking dog, after all. Although, of course, if it weren't for the Bear I wouldn't be here...

Ah, la vie. Elle est tres magnifique, il n'est pas vrai?

But wait! Rough-looking dude's not a junkie! He's gone rushing to the corner in a crouch to catch his dog! I don't know if he let the beast off-leash on purpose and is only catching him because I came along, or if the bugger somehow managed to get away, but I suspect the answer's A. This is still Townville, after all. And if you're paying attention, how can a dog possibly just "get away"?

Still, though, like I said: life is always easier if Charlie gets a chance to sniff hello. He is a very sociable dog, after all. So as we approached one another I chose not to rein him in. I was still on the roadway, Junkie Dog and Man were practically in the woods, and as Charlie rapidly crossed over the three or four graves between us, I called out to Junkie Man "Is he okay?"

"He's not that friendly, actually."


How do you work this button thing again?

I hit something that jerked Charlie to a stop, which sent Junkie Dog into paroxysms of rage, and Charlie went all monkey-see on his ass -- leaping and barking and bristling the I'm-gonna-git-you-squirrel hairs on his withers ("withers" would be "between the shoulder blades," for all you non-Russian Empresses-y types). Thankfully the Junkie pair kept right on moving -- which really was the smartest thing to do -- except for the small fact that Charlie just kept right on moving, too. And soon he'd wrapped his Brand New Extend-a-Leash around Somebody's Grave. From which position he kept right on monkey-doing, in an attempt to launch himself into the air.

You know what a thin nylon rope does when you jump it up and down a few times along the weather-beaten edge of a 400-year-old piece of slate?

It snaps.

And now I see how how a dog can possibly just "get away"...

I wasn't worried about what Charlie'd do -- I knew that, for all his swagger, he'd just doofus up to the new guy and say hello. He really is a friendly dog, after all. But Junkie Dude had said his Junkie Dog was not nice, and what that meant I had no way to know. So, despite the fact that he was officially off-leash on consecrated ground, I put on my where's-the-stick voice to say "I'm gonna get you, Charlie!," and I lunged.

What fun!

We're off the leash! And playing tag! This is a brand-new you-know-place! And what's over here? A pinecone!? Oh my god!

He's really not a very smart dog, after all.

But thankfully Junkie Dog was just as easily distracted, and in a minute both he and Junkie Man had moved along. When they had, I donned my on-your-bed voice, gave the order, and Charlie hung his head and quit the game and sat right down. I grabbed the two-foot length of nylon that was still hanging from his collar, explained that we had to go now even though the fun had barely started -- and, since this was all the leash we had, he wasn't going to be able to sniff things on the way.

"O-kay," he sighed. And then he brightened.

"But when we get there, I still get to poop?"

He really is a very good dog, after all.


Ladyscot said...

OMG, I can just picture this. LOL

12ontheinside said...

I was expecting one of them (the junkie or his dog, either works here) to have a go at you.

Anonymous said...

I love seeing "packy" used in a sentence, it's one of those "wicked pissah" massachusetts words that just make me smile.