Monday, October 15, 2007

Sunday Morning in the Park

I've been sold a pig in a poke--whatever that means. Polk?

This is my man, Smokey:

I hold no grudge against the dog himself. He is, in fact, one of the finest of his kind.

I will say this, however: When I agreed to the dog-sitting gig, it was specifically mentioned that, for the Sunday morning off-the-leash walk in Prospect Park, I could bring the paper along and read it at my leisure while Smokey did whatever he had to do.

Fine, I thought. Splendid. Sign me up for the dog-sitting. Nothing I like better than dogs and reading The Times in a pastoral location. Seemed like the perfect combination. Perhaps a cup of coffee...

Anyway, let me set the stage: Sunday in the Park (with apologies to both George--whoever he is--and the guy with the very small paintbrush):

Now, Prospect Park's version of the Great Lawn is a rolling swath of grass and trees, perhaps a hundred yards wide and 3/4 of a mile long. Really quite stunning.

Now picture yourself on a train in a station.

No...that's not right. Picture, instead, the park filled with dogs and people. Perhaps a thousand of each. Look more closely. Consider that perhaps 80% of the dogs are both black and medium-sized. Now scroll back up to take a gander at Smokey the Wonder Dog. Medium-sized dog. Black (by and large). You do the math.

Actually Smokey has a couple of highly distinctive characteristics. His right eye has no pigment in the iris--it's a milky white while the other one is a more traditional doggy brown. Had Smokey been involved in Pickett's Charge, the confusion related to "wait 'til you see the whites of their eyes" might have caused a good deal of disfunction among the Union ranks and perhaps resulted in some of my southern brothers being spared for another day.
Captain, are we waiting 'til we see the whites in both their eyes, or is one enough?
Good God, man. Fire the musket! Fire the musket!
Smokey also has a kind of a white goatee. I think men with goatees seem like they are trying a bit too hard. But on the dog it's a good look. Really.

And this, I have to tell you, is all well and good when you are, say, sitting on the couch and Smokey is five or so feet away. But try using these features for definitive identification when the dog is a hundred feet away, running at top speed, and you are so hung over you're seeing double and what you really want to do is throw up, but you're afraid that if you do, you'll bleed to death through your eyeballs.

Anyway, it goes without saying that there was no Times-in-the-Park-on-Sunday-for-Geoff. Instead? Non-stop terror. What if I lose the dog? What if I lose the dog?

Honestly, I can't even imagine that conversation.

Were you in Vietnam? Two things I remember: First, crawling through fields of barbed wire, wearing nothing by GI issue boxers, slathered with animal lard so the barbs didn't catch the skin, K-Bar in my teeth, nothing but bad intentions on my mind.

The second? Non-stop terror. You can't even imagine.

What you likely can imagine is how jarring this whole walk-the-dog thing has been.
Shoot her!
She's a civilian?
Shoot her. Shoot her
No way.
Okay I'll shoot her. And her little dog too.
Bobby? You okay? Bobby?
Just for the record, that whole hung-over thing a couple of paragraphs ago sprang straight from my imagination. I don't drink nearly that much anymore, and besides, I didn't dare go out Saturday night. Got-to-watch-the-dog. What-if-something-happens-to-the-dog?

Non-stop terror. You can't even imagine.


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