Who’s this Little Fella?
Today I walked my dog. My neighbors walked their dogs too. They barely spoke a word to me as they stood and watched, seemingly in awe, as their dogs smelled my dog’s ass, and my dog followed suit.
There was a time when I would attempt some casual conversation, the human equivalent of sniffing my neighbor’s behind. But, I’ve learned that anything more than casual observations of the weather will not be well received.
My role in this social dynamic is to respond enthusiastically to the mandatory questions, and feign interest in my neighbor’s responses to those same questions. It’s a simple formula: “You sniff my ass, and I’ll sniff yours.”
“Cocker Spaniel! My grandmother Dr had a cocker spaniel!”
My grandmother never had a spaniel, cocker or otherwise, by the way.
My dog sniffed at trees and lampposts with great interest. “It’s like he’s reading the newspaper“ my mother used to say with wonder in her voice.
I saw a man walking a cat on a leash one day. I was intrigued (as I had never seen a cat on a leash). But, I also thought that maybe, just maybe, he would be different. Cats and dogs are much different animals. So, it’s a reasonable assumption that the cat servant and dog slave might be equally different from one another.
He was different.
He was worse.
I had no idea that walking a cat was such a delicate and critical operation. Lesson learned!
As my dog licked some unknown substance off of a random leaf, I tried to glaze my eyes over and empty my brain of all thought, so I could be like them.
My neighbors all looked so content. But, I was not content. I am not content.
Outwardly I was calm. Inwardly I was screaming: “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ——-“ me? —— or them?
My dog wrote an editorial on the lamppost with his urine. “BREAKING NEWS!”
I smiled vacantly, mimicking my neighbors to the best of my ability, as my dog gently pulled the leash and led me down the path.
My dog squatted and strained. Finally, I was about to receive my reward!
Feces emerged from beneath his tail and fell to the pavement with a gentle bounce. I looked around to see if anyone else had witnessed this glorious event.
No. I was alone.
I smiled like a child on Christmas. I tried to pretend that the honor of retrieving my dog’s waste products with a thin plastic bag wrapped over my hand was the highlight of my day.
But - I just couldn’t do it.
As I walked to the trash can with the bag of warm, wet shit cradled in my hand like it was a precious relic I thought: “There’s got to be something more than this.”
As if in reply to my question, more of my neighbors emerged with their dogs leading them down the path.
Desperately, I chose a dog at random, looked in its general direction, and said in my best baby talk voice: “Who is this little fella’?”. His human slave responded on his behalf.
I didn’t hear the name. Or, I heard it, but didn‘t comprehend it.
The name didn’t matter. The name never matters. What matters is that I chuckle in response as if the namer of that beast was the cleverest person in the world. I did so, much to the joy of my clever, content, dog-enslaved neighbor.
Still, I wasn’t feeling it.
I excused myself explaining, in my manliest of manly voices: “I’ve gotta get home and get this guy fed!” We honored each other by exchanging the “man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do“ nod, as if pouring a cup of dog food in a dish was some heroic deed.
My dog sensed my inner struggle and rewarded me with a second bowel movement.
Still, I felt nothing.
More, and more neighbors emerged from their homes, their hands bound by leashes. Dogs of all shapes and sizes came to meet my dog as he wrapped his leash around my legs and I stood motionless in the center of the path. The roll of plastic bags slipped from my hands and unfurled on the sidewalk like a small, green, plastic manuscript.
“What is the meaning of all of this?” I pondered.
I was surrounded by a great carnival of canine ass-sniffery!
Yet, I felt no joy.
I was alone.
Finally, my eyes did glaze over; not with the euphoria of canine companionship, as I had hoped; but with tears.
Giant “puppy dog“ tears streamed down my cheeks, but no one noticed.
I answered the mandatory questions through sobs, but no one noticed: “He’s eleven” “Labradoodle“ “Archie”.
Finally, as sunset approached, my neighbors returned to their homes. Some played ball or frisbee with their dogs in the front yard.
“GOOD BOY! GOOD BOY!” they shouted elatedly.
“Oh, miracle of miracles!” I thought. “The dog fetched the fucking ball!”
But, mock them as I may, I know that I’m the failure, I’m the outcast here.
The soles of my shoes scuffed on the pavement as we turned toward home and I was nearly overcome by despair.
”Maybe tomorrow“ I said aloud, as cheerfully as possible. The dog stopped walking. He looked up at me with hope in his eyes.
“Maybe tomorrow“ I repeated. He wagged his tail gently, then led me back home.