Friday, February 12, 2010

Making Out and Breaking Up with Dogs - For Real

I love animals. Dogs, cats, rabbits, sheep – any furry non-rodent. And they love me - sometimes a little too much, as you’re about to learn. I’m particularly popular with the dogs that get walked in Central Park during morning and evening rush hours. They see something in me. Whenever they first notice me (whether they’re two feet away or twenty feet away), they stop whatever they’re doing to rush over for a hyper-affectionate meet-and-greet. And I usually encourage it, even when their stunned owners do not. When I was walking home from work through the park the other night, there was a spry, strapping dog (sporting that post-urination glow) about a yard ahead. The moment she turned around and took me in, her eyes lit up something fierce. Like the Central Park dogs that have come before her, she maniacally sprinted toward me, panting, tugging at, and (by the looks of it) almost breaking, her leash. After a brief, but animated, ground-level petting session, she suddenly jumped up on me, wrapped her front legs securely around my waist, took a moment to gaze lovingly into my not-yet-unnerved eyes, and proceeded to vigorously lick my face. When I started laughing, she stuck her tongue into my opened mouth and forcefully swirled it around. The physical intensity completely overpowered me and I almost lost my balance. Her tongue felt twice as big as my entire mouth region – and she didn’t even put the whole thing in. It took me nearly half a minute to push her off. And that tail never slowed down. I feel a little sordid, a little changed - in the confused way an 18-year-old coed might react after getting stroked by her regular campus shuttle-bus driver or one of her elderly classics professors during an office-hours appointment. I started to look at myself more critically. Had I led this dog on? Was it something in my smile or in my eyes, in my walk or my touch that sent out a signal that I wanted it? Where was the dog’s owner during all of this? Right there, two feet away, watching from start to finish, holding his end of the leash, looking as though he couldn’t have been more bored. “She likes you,” he said. Here’s another one: One of the regular morning dog walkers on my route is a scruffy and petite middle-aged man. He walks behind a beautiful, human-faced Bernese Mountain Dog who always looks as though she doesn’t want to be seen with him. Every morning for weeks, when I passed by I exchanged kind smiles with the dog and then with her keeper. Then one day a few weeks ago, the dog more pointedly walked over and into me, instead of sticking to just the interested-glance routine. We stopped and messed around a bit and then her dude and I shot the shit for a little while. I can’t even really remember what we talked about. I vaguely recall him having schooled me on how Bernese Mountain Dogs are in the same family as the St. Bernard (and my responding as though I was fascinated). Then we parted on very cheerful terms. I had to be at work a little earlier the following morning, so I didn’t run into them the next day. But the next weekday after that, we were right back on schedule. As I barreled through our little section of the park, there they came toward me. I gave the guy a big toothy grin and a friendly “Morning!” He slowly and hostilely walked past, glaring at me the whole time. When I smiled at the dog, she looked up hella sheepishly as if she had been expressly forbidden to ever make eyes at me again. Next morning, same thing – only worse. This time the guy (still glaring) actually tried to use his arm and lower body to physically block the dog from even thinking about inching closer to my side of the path. The bullshit has been ongoing ever since, so I’ve completely stopped looking over at either one of them when we pass. And there’ve been days when I haven’t seen them at all. I miss that dog – she had been one of my favorite regulars. Just what, pray tell, does Mofo think I’ve done? Maybe right after I left them after our final pleasant interaction, Bernese Mountain started acting so strangely that her can’t-get-nothin’-by-me master thinks I cast a spell on her. With a reaction like his, I can only conclude that it’s along the lines of something that nuts. Trust me, if I had spell-casting abilities, I wouldn’t waste them on an innocent bear-like dog from the Bernese mountains. I’ve got a few (all bipedal) prime candidates who have just been asking for a spell to be cast their way. Now there are two Golden Retrievers who are really into me – but it’s not the same. At the end of the day, Golden Retrievers are crowd-pleasing patsies with the blandest personalities. As good as they might be for a short-term rebound, I need more than just a pretty face.

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