The Rule Still Stands

If you think about it, the word “Dog” is a  bit of a concept.  I’d be hard-pressed to explain to you the difference between Dogs and Cats, but I surely can tell a French bulldog from a Siamese cat, and not just because of the accents.

Dogs have a certain “Dogginess,” and that’s how we know a Saint Bernard and a Chihuahua are both Dogs. Shimmer, having spent his early life in a cage, and only knowing other Greyhounds, had a big learning curve ahead once he moved in with Joan. He got to meet the outside world, and its Dogs of many coats, and colors, sizes, and smells.

He caught on pretty quickly, and the first rule about Dogginess was: if it was on a leash, it was most certainly Dog. (It turns out there are Dogs off leash as well, and they’re a bit harder to tell, but if it was tethered, it was Dog.) A rock solid rule, and one that made his life a bit easier, I imagine.

And, then he saw IT.

IT was a cat on a leash. And what’s more, it was walking. On. A. Leash. If you’ve never put a cat on a leash, this is quite an accomplishment, they absolutely hate it.  But not this one. He was large, and black, sinuous and slinking through the park, eyes and ears alert in all directions, curious about everything. He seemed unconcerned he was in the middle of a dog park, full of dogs. What’s more, not a single dog had any interest in him. Not even the small yappy ones who are always up in every one’s business.

Shimmer could not grasp what he was looking at. He positively gawked, refusing to move, and it was getting awkward.

“So, is that a cat on a leash?” I said, and instantly knew his walker was going to think I was an idiot, crazy, or high, and blew my chances of learning more about this mysteriously, wonderful super-cat.

“Yeah, his name is Neptune,” he said, cutting to the chase, and looking for a way out of being trapped in a conversation with the doped-up, stupid guy.

“How’d you get him to do that?” I was now at full rube level. I just needed overalls.

“He always wanted to get out. So we put him on a leash and we went. He asks everyday to go out. All the dogs leave him alone. We don’t know why. C’mon, Neptune, we got to go.”

“Bye! Thank you. Nice to meet you, Neptune! Bye! Say ‘Bye,’ Shimmer!”

Neptune, who could never be bothered with mouth-breathing cretins like Shimmer and I, continued on his imperious stroll.

Cat on leash2

Two days later we saw a small kid on a leash, and Shimmer couldn’t have cared less.

I knew what he was thinking: Fine. If you want to live your life as a Dog, you’re a Dog. I’m still not smelling your pee.

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His penmanship is terrible!

Today, Shimmer and I were one of THOSE people.

Here’s the story: I needed to pick up cat kibble for our cats. A task Shimmer couldn’t care less about, except that kibble was involved. He’s a fiend for kibble: dog, cat, monkey—he’ll chow down on it all. So, he wasn’t exactly disinterested when I told him we were going to the store to get some cat kibble.

He had been inside the store with Joan before, so it wasn’t a new experience for him, but I was still uncomfortable with the idea. There was a sign that said No Dogs Allowed Except Service Dogs by the door, and it didn’t feel right to go in. Shimmer, however, just like any other customer, walked right through the automatic doors.

“Do you mind if I come in with the dog?” I asked the sad-eyed cashier.

“Everyone else does,” she said wearily.

Shimmer headed directly towards the Pet section, which he dismissed immediately. No interesting squeak toys, chew bones, or plushies. One dismissive glance and he turned around and headed back to the exit, giving me only a moment to grab a bag of cat kibble.

I told him we had to pay for it, which I did, while he studied the candy section, and probably thought of all the ways life was unfair. First, he had to go to the store for cat kibble, and then, there were no dog toys for him! Imbécilles!

I told him of course I’d help him write a complaint letter to the store about their terrible selection of dog items, but only when he learned to sign his name.

After all, I still have to shop there.

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Today’s Conversation

Her: “Excuse me, is that dog all right?”

Me: “He’s resting because it’s hot.”

Her: “It’s, like, not even seventy outside.”

Me: “Well, he gets hot.”

Her: “He doesn’t look right. You should get him home.”

Shimmer belches, end of scene.

Hot dog

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Picture from the walk:

early spring

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An uphill battle

We live on the top floor in a home, on the tippy-top of the hill, of the third highest hill in the city. And, as I remind Shimmer when he’s apt to explore a new trail towards some dark morass, every step down is one up.

It turns out dogs aren’t so good at abstract thinking. Like gravity, he’ll insist on pulling us down. Sometimes we’ll be on a walk, who-knows-where, and I’ll see our home, literally in the clouds, looking like it’s miles away. My heart often drops thinking about our trudge back.

However, we found a way to make it more enjoyable. Shimmer, being a race dog, is happiest when he’s in the lead. I found that if I walk a little faster and pass him, his old instincts kick in, and he’ll pull ahead. We’ll walk normally for awhile, and then suddenly, I’ll charge to the front. Back and forth–him with dogged determination and me with many unmanly giggles– we challenge each other to the top of the hill. Shimmer always wins, of course, and he’ll sometimes look back and shoot me a look of condescending pity.  It doesn’t matter, at least we’re home.

Home on the tippy-top of the hill, of the third highest hill in the city.

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Picture from the walk:

Peace Love, Justice

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Go, Billy, Go!

Shimmer and I were walking home when we heard what I thought was a bird in distress. A high-pitched “Pip, pip!” was coming from up a nearby hill, so we went to find out what was happening. The coyotes have new babies, and by the sudden increase in Missing Cat posters in the neighborhood, I know they’re hungry. Shimmer and I were ready to stop any trouble. We didn’t have an actual plan, mind you, and probably would have stood there and yelled along with the bird, but off we went.

Instead of finding a scene out of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, I saw our neighbor, Katherine, and her dog, Billy. And, it turned out she wasn’t yelling, “Pip,” but “Poop.” She’s from England, so there was a bit of an accent issue, which I joked about, but she didn’t seem to find it quite as funny as me.

“I’m late for a class,” she explained. “I heard that you can get a dog to do his business on command, so I’ve been training him. Poop! Poop, Billy! I suppose I sound like I’m a bit crazy.”

“Maybe you should have used a different word,” I suggested, noting Billy was studying a nearby gopher hole with sphinx-like intensity. Clearly his attention was elsewhere.

“Poop, Billy, poop! Poop! Poop!”

Shimmer and I, recognizing we weren’t helping, or even welcome,  said our good-byes and left.

At the bottom of the hill, we could still hear her exhorting Billy to do his stuff. “Poop! Poop!” As her desperation increased, her voice seemed to grow higher with each word.

She should have said, “Fly, Billy, fly,”  for all the good it’s going to do her, I whispered to Shimmer. He peed on a bush in agreement and we continued home.

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