There’s a dog-park not far from me and I took Booker there for the first time today. We (back when we were we) hired a dog-walker who comes three times a week to carry an ecstatic panting black animal down to the large fenced-in-area to socialize, sniff, and fetch. The dog-walker has been controversial of late because of his habit of throwing a handful of dog food on the ground over which the dogs compete. All this was reported to me second-hand by someone who watched as Dog-Walker was confronted by a concerned owner who was probably afraid that her little dog might end up mauled. Seems reasonable. Dog-Walker could be bi-polar (he is a residual of my ex-girlfriend’s restaurant) or may have some other psycho-malady, but whatever it is he doesn’t like to be told when he is wrong. Words exchanged, shouting ensued, the injured and indignant Dog-Walker, martyred and defiant, defended his position dramatically as, according to the witness, Booker sniffed on unfazed. Crises—I needed to make a decision.
True to habit, I decided to wait and see. I haven’t actually talked to the dog-walker since then because he picks up Booker when I’m gone from the house. I really don’t want to hear his side of the story, not because I’m uninterested but because he tends to get over-excited and loud. He speaks very fast. Talking to him is one of those moments when I find myself repeating “yea…but…I know…but…umhmm…yep…but…” throughout any of many one-sided conversations.
Once he took on a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses outside of my house. They had approached me earlier, and I gave them my usual stock spiel about how I had my own beliefs about the creator and that I respected theirs and wished them luck. Dog-Walker chose the moment they were walking off my porch to pull up in his blue Plymouth Volare. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, two very gracious but indoctrinated and dogmatic ladies, made the mistake of asking about the acceptance of Jesus Christ in Dog-Walker’s life. I, by this time, had begun to return to whatever I was occupied with before the door-bell rang, but soon was interrupted by something that sounded like a high pitched re-reading of Orson Wells’ sermon in Moby Dick. “Do not presume to tell me who MY God is!” I heard. “I know who MY God is and he accepts me as I AM!” By the time I got to the street Dog-Walker was brandishing a crucifix at the terrified ladies, the silver neck-chain taught as he asserted his claim to a Christian God that the Jehovah’s Witness’ could only hope to know. When I intervened, Dog-Walker was out of breath from ranting, and he was also hurt that I had not come to his aid. He couldn’t believe that my aversion to loud religious exchanges in front of my house won out over any loathing I might have for creepy religious pandering.
All judgments withheld after that. Life went on. I had seen how agitated Dog-Walker could get, and I’d pocketed another odd story about my neighborhood. But even with this new incident there is something now that’s keeping me from cutting Dog-Walker loose. His relationship with Booker.
Let me just indicate first that Booker loves me. He does the Dino Flintstone when I come home from work and, if it’s been “one-of-those-days,” he senses it and calms down quickly. But if he senses that it’s been a good day, and usually it’s because I’m singing some stupid made up song about checking the mail and feeding the cats, he charges around grabbing his Frisbee and wagging his tail furiously. He’s a good dog.
But when Dog-Walker shows up it’s a different scene all-together. Firstly Booker knows the sound of Dog-Walker’s engine. In the winter, when the front door is closed, he jumps literally three feet off the ground to get a glimpse of Dog-Walker through the glass panes of the front door. Dog-Walker’s entrance into the house is a sort of ritual, with Booker doing a hind-legged dance as the leash comes down from the coat-rack and the humans exchange greetings. A mad rush to the kitchen to retrieve treats might be followed by a taunting invitation with the Frisbee. If not, it’s out the door and into Dog-Walker’s front seat as the two toodle down the street like an old married couple on a Sunday drive. It’s kinda weird and kinda sweet.
There is no doubt in my mind that Booker is as good for Dog-Walker as Dog-Walker is for Booker, mainly because Dog-Walker tells me. These are the conversations I don’t mind. This is a man who’s been dealt some very difficult cards in his life. Life can’t be easy for him, but time with Booker seems to be one of his high-points.
So I went to the dog-park today just to get an idea of the surroundings—where these two go every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. I met a good group of people who love their dogs. The majority of the dogs are rescue dogs. The owners proudly tell of the traumas, and joys, of finding and caring for them. A heated confrontation at this place, between two-legged animals anyway, seems like an anathema. Owners sat casually under the shade trees and watched each other's dogs while a canine greeting party was organized and sent forward for every new arrival. Booker lead a couple of these.
It seems to me that the initial trouble at the dog-park is with the food that Dog-Walker is dropping on the ground. If he stops this, there could be a resolution. This is how I’ll handle it:
If it looks like Dog-Walker’s getting his gander up at the mention of changing any of his habits to satisfy a few heinous and unreasonable dog-owners I’ll simple remove the food from the cabinet and hide it. Another solution is to always make sure there are dog-treats, not just dog food so there won’t be any dispute over kibbles. The Dog-Walker can keep a milk-bone handy to give to Booker only. People are very particular about what their own pets eat, and I should try to respect that.
One plus of the whole saga, it got me down to the park. There is a fantastic place for Booker to swim, not just wallow, and the company of strangers felt right. Dogs are, among other things, conversation starters, and meeting, greeting, patting and admiring each other’s dogs quickly put all at ease. I met all shapes and sizes of people and dog, and Sunday (still a tough day for me, possibly the only one left) became tolerable and happy.
So Dog-Walker stays, as long as things return to normal. More instances like this and I’ll have to revisit my thinking on it, but I know that I have a new place to take Booker. New avenues are good for me now, and it took Dog-Walker’s indignation, and possibly his obliviousness to reason, to get me to this one.