I recently acquired my first dog. This is a big deal for me, because when I was young I was afraid of dogs. My parents attributed this fear to an incident that happened when I was an infant. They were pushing me along in my stroller, and a German Shepherd ran up and jumped on me. My father pulled the German Shepherd off me, yanked his crook away from him, and hit him over the head with it, while saying, “Nien! What’s wrong with you! Scaring little children like that!”
In the meantime, while the German Shepherd was apologizing for his despicable behavior (he blamed the errors of his country for his low self-esteem) the German Shepherd’s dog-- a border collie, of course-- jumped into the stroller and bit my fat little arm. And ever since that incident, I was afraid of dogs. I should point out that I was also afraid of the slide, the teeter-totter, the spinning jenny, and meatloaf. So my fear of dogs was probably less about the incident in the park and more about being a gigantic pussy. But don’t worry, like Ernest Hemingway, I made up for this early cowardice later in life, by drinking heavily and getting into bar fights.
My wife is not scared of dogs, and over the years I got used to them as well, and so several months ago, we adopted an abandoned dog from Georgia. He was slated to be gassed, and I think they were going to torture him as well, so we did a very good deed. My children love him, and I love the fact that my children are not scared of dogs. I feel like a real man when I’m walking him-- he’s a tough looking mutt, black and athletic with short hair, a cropped tail, and spooky yellow eyes-- and people often shy away from him. It’s the closest I’ll come to brandishing a gun in public. Little does anyone know that this dog uses the same technique as Sir Robin when he is confronted with danger: run away! run away!
I love taking the dog out in the early morning. It’s meditative (aside from when you have to bend over and scoop up his warm feces from the wet grass with a little plastic bag . . . that part isn’t meditative, and if you’re hungover, it will induce vomiting). Despite the fecal hardship, I love walking the dog. It’s an escape from the bustle and chaos of my house. It’s my time to think. In fact, I’ve had some of my deepest, most profound thoughts while taking Sirius on a stroll. I’ve jotted some of them down for you to enjoy:
1) Go poop! Go poop now!
2) Please go fucking poop. Neither of us want to be out here. It’s raining.
3) Stop pulling on the leash. Stop pulling the leash or I’m going to kick you in the ass . . . I swear I will . . . okay, that’s it, I warned you . . . here it comes . . . except there’s a nice old lady walking her miniature Schnauzer and she’s looking this way and so I would never kick you in the ass because you’re a good dog . . . so this is how I stretch my legs because I’m a soccer player and sometimes I kick my legs to stretch them, yes, lady, this is how I stretch my legs when I’m walking the dog so you don’t need to call PETA, because sometimes, by mistake, when you stretch your legs, you kick your dog in the ass and anyway, if I didn’t rescue this dog he’d be dead anyway, gassed to death in Georgia, so stop judging me . . .
4) Please go poop. I need to go to work. If you stop sniffing around like an epileptic vacuum and poop, I promise I will never kick you in the ass again.
5) Wow! Sometimes dogs poop twice. I should bring two bags . . . but I didn’t, so be cool.
6) Why won’t that poop come off your butt? Shake that poop off, that’s right shake it off! Dammit, it’s stuck. Let me scrape it with this stick . . . that’s not working . . . okay, here’s a used napkin on the ground, I’ll pick that up and wipe it off . . . oh weird, there’s stuff still in there . . . oh, that’s right! You ate a mitten the other day. Let me just pull this long cotton strand out of your anus . . . hmm . . . this used to be a white mitten.
I am definitely not a dog whisperer. I am more of a dog hollerer.
I do some of my best dog hollering when I’m biking with the dog. I own a product called The WalkyDog Hands Free Bicycle Leash. It’s essentially a metal rod that connects to your bike under the seat and juts out perpendicular to the wheels. A bungee cord runs through the rod, and, if you are brave enough, you can attach this bungee cord to your dog’s collar. And don’t let the cute name fool you. The WalkyDog Hands Free Bicycle Leash marketing people worked a long time on coming up with a name that sounds safe and innocuous. This is total bullshit. They could have easily called this product The Sling-Shot Canine Powered Kiss Your Family And Your Ass Good-bye Because You’re Never Going to See Them Again Unless There Is An Afterlife Rocket Bike Attachment. I have also had some profound and interesting thoughts while using this product with my dog. Here are a few:
2) Please don’t poop . . . no, don’t stop and poop, I don’t have one of those bags . . . we’re going for a bike ride . . . who needs to take a shit in the middle of a bike ride? Okay, do it quick, I’ll look over here at the river and pretend I don’t notice you pooping . . . so then I don’t know your pooping, and then we’ll make our escape . . . the ranger will never catch us, I’m on a bike and you’ve got four legs.
3) Oh shit . . . a bunny . . . ahhhgggg!
If you were lucky enough to witness number three, as three lesbians at a picnic table did, then this is what you would have seen: me biking along the Raritan River, without a helmet, my faithful dog running along at my side, until a bunny rabbit scampered across the bike path, directly in front of us-- from left to right. My dog, who was on my right, chased the rabbit, and so he ran directly perpendicular to the motion of the bike-- setting up an interesting physics equation-- which was further complicated by the fact that he ended up on one side of two large metal garbage canisters, and I ended up on the other side. The rod and the bungee cord that connected us hit the garbage cans, stopping my bike and my dog dead in their tracks. The garbage cans fell over, spilling cans and bottles. My dog’s head popped from his collar, and he ran in a circle once and then rolled on his back, traumatized by the crash. I flew over the handlebars of my nice new mountain bike, and while I was in the air, I thought: why didn’t I wear my helmet? My nice new helmet? Because I’m too cool? No! Because I'm an awful, stupid hypocrite! I make my children wear helmets! But I'm too good for a helmet? Now I’m going to be punished for my hypocrisy! I’m going to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair because I attached my dog to my bike with a bungee cord and didn’t take the logical precautions!
Despite this minor miracle, I still had the awkward job of righting the garbage cans, putting all the bottles and cans back into the cans, getting my dog's collar reattached around his neck, getting my dog reattached to the Walky Dog Hands Free Bicycle Leash, and finding my six year old son, who was riding in front of us and never saw the crash. He had disappeared somewhere into the bowels of the park.
You’d think that the three lesbians, who couldn’t have been ten yards from me and saw the whole thing-- including the fact that my small child had rode off into the unknown-- you'd think that they would have offered to help, or at least applauded my feline agility-- and if you’re wondering how I knew these women were lesbians, it is not because I stereotype people because of their haircuts . . . it is for two very good reasons:
1) my town is full of lesbians
2) if these women were straight, they would have ripped off their bras and panties and thrown them at me, and then swooned at my feet, in celebration of how I handled myself during this spectacular crash.
Instead, I felt like Kitty Genovese. Once I got rolling again, they chuckled at me, as if to say: stupid boys and their toys. And they were probably right to think this, but still, when Sirius and I are racing along the path in the park, me pedaling furiously, him loping along, mouth open, tongue out, and someone in front of us hears our thunder, when they turn and see this human/ animal/ mechanical juggernaut flying towards them-- two large hairy mammals, one atop a giant mountain bike with 29 inch tires, the other attached to a tautly stretched red cord protruding from a metal rod-- when they see us hurtling towards them, they drop their cell phones, they leap for the side of the path, they grab their children . . . they get the fuck out of our way . . . and that’s awesome.