Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Travels With Chuck

Saturday morning, I finally got up the courage to go to BARC and volunteer my services as a dog walker. I had been wanting to do this for some time, but [this may shock many of you] I am actually quite shy when in comes to anything that seems like an audition or sitting at a table of strange girls in the cafeteria of a new school.

But this past Saturday, I got up, slathered on sunscreen, packed extra plastic bags, and walked all the way to North 1st and Wythe. I passed the dog park that Trey and I often visit, wondering which dog the shelter would assign me. Trey and I have been both dog crazy AND Dog Whisperer crazy: dreaming of a family of five demented mutt dogs: observing neighborhood dog owners’ facility or lack thereof with the leash. She watches Cesar we’d whisper to each other. Oh wow, he totally needs to watch Cesar. I thought of maintaining my calm, assertive energy.

At BARC, I filled out my paperwork and Vinny seemed to approve of me. He reviewed the list of dog walking rules: Do not bring the dog to the dog park, don’t try to “train” them, don’t talk on your phone, etc. I nodded, a responsible dog-walker to be and Dog Whisperer In Training.

“Okay, follow me,” he said and went around back. I waited, calmly and assertively, for my placid pit bull, who would immediately accept me as his pack leader.

But Vinny did not bring me an elderly pit bull — Vinny brought out a smallish black and white dog of indeterminate provenance who was so excited to be outside he kept barking and jumping up as high as my breast! Vinny put the leash in my hand and the dog grabbed part of the leash in his mouth, jumping and twirling.

“This is Chuck. He’s really high energy so he needs a good walk.”

I panicked! Chuck was too hyper! I wanted to blurt “Wait, can I have a different one?” But no, that would be wrong! I felt myself blushing and feeling completely incompetent. Chuck kept jumping and twirling. I figured I should just walk. I started walking up North 1st street, Chuck jumping alongside me. Everyone can see I have no fucking idea what I am doing, I thought.

We made it around the corner and Chuck pooped. I was afraid he would escape while I tried to pick it up, as I had never picked up dog poop in my life. But I got it!

Chuck sniffed everything and peed on so many things he ran out of pee within 2 blocks! I worried maybe he was dehydrated. He was also panting so much I didn’t know if he was choking. I kept slipping my fingers under his collar and checking to make sure he wasn’t garroting himself. He seemed fine. [The night before I had dreamt I walked my high school friend Martha’s dog, and in giving a correction on the leash I drew blood, and started to cry.]

Chuck and I began to fall into a rhythm. He was good about waiting with me to cross the street. I decided we should go to McCarren Park and do a couple of tours around there.

We entered the park and then it happened: the moment Chuck’s paws touched the grass he lay down flat, stretching his front and back paws as if to make sure that as much of his body was touching the grass and clover. My heart spilled open like an egg. All he wants to do is be a nice dog, laying on the cool grass. I sat down next to him and scratched him all over, and he rolled on his back, lolling his tongue. I found him a little stick and he gnawed on it, in the grass, being a dog. All my meta-bullshit fell away.

We went around the park a couple more times and since he kept trying to drink out of the rain puddles I thought I needed to get Chuck some water. But I couldn’t leave him alone, so I screwed up my courage and asked this random girl if she would run into the nearest bodega and buy me a water, and she did.

Outside the deli I bent down and gave Chuck his water and he seemed very thirsty indeed. After he drank he looked up and solemnly held my gaze. It was the first time he really looked at me.


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