Sweet Corner Bakery on Hudson Street, sidewalk service.
Thanks to Brannen’s post on Undefine Me!, I now proudly claim the label of Dog Lover (more on sustainability and labels in another post).
The day that I adopted Gracie, I told her to be patient. I told her that when I retire we will hang out on the couch and read, go out for long walks, head up to the dog run, and take naps together.
It hasn’t exactly turned out that way. I’m a little too anxious to just relax and hang out at home. I’m restless. When I’m not on the computer, or in the kitchen cooking, I like to keep moving. It is not easy to take her with me when I run errands. Gracie’s behavior in public spaces is not impeccable. There are only so many places you can take a dog in New York (food trucks, banks, and bookshops are the best). When I want to fulfill my promise to her I fill my thermos mug with coffee and we walk.
I grew up in Manhattan and I’ve always walked wherever I was going. It is not unusual for me to walk eight miles in a day. It is good exercise and it clears my head. I’m a brisk, heads down walker. It is my thinking time, unless I have Gracie with me. When I’m with Gracie I am on dog time. She wants to stop, sniff, and socialize. Continue reading →
This week I was happy that I have a dog. Happy to have an excuse to take a walk and go up to the dog run. Dogs don’t think you are a freak. Dogs don’t need to talk everything out. I would say that dogs are simple, but Gracie is quirky. I’ve had her for over six years, and I still think of her as my “new” dog. I’ve watched Gracie, I’ve studied her, I’ve paid a lot of attention to her. I don’t completely get her. We are not a perfect match; but we are good enough.
My desire to have a dog was based on Timmy and Lassie. If I had a dog I could have an adventure. I could have a trusty companion. I could be loved unconditionally. My mother was quick to point out that dogs were dirty, and that Stuyvesant Town forbid them.
I settled for stuffed animals. My favorite was Lucky the Lion. He was so big that he took up the whole foot of my bed. He was the first prize I ever won. My name was pulled out of the raffle drum at the “father and sons” dinner at Congregation Rodeph Sholom. Daughters were allowed, but I pretended I was a son. I carried Lucky the Lion home on the bus; he took up two seats.
Randy Sides passed away on September 23, 2013. His memorial service was last week. I cried all the way through it. Randy had a long battle with cancer; he struggled to stay alive. He did not want to abandon his wife, Tracey, or their dogs (Butch, Dolce, and Mickey – “the boys”). He was only 58. He should have had more time.
I met Randy and Tracey in 1993 or 1994, after I got my first dog, Lena. We ran our dogs on the broken down piers off the West Side Highway. It was illegal. It was unsafe. Dogs ran onto the highway, there was broken glass on the pier, there was always garbage that the dogs wanted to get into. Randy and Tracey worked with the authorities for years to establish a community dog run (The West Village Dog Run). They wanted to provide a protected and clean space for the dogs. The run is my haven. Continue reading →
Last week I took Gracie to the Vet for her annual check-up. We were a few weeks early, but something was going on with her gastrointestinal system. Gracie hates the Vet. To get her there I have to go on a roundabout walk that just happens to end at their door. Halfway down the block she realizes where we are, stiffens up, digs into the concrete, and refuses to budge. Her eyes narrow into little slits. I’ve betrayed her again.
In the waiting room I sweet talk her and give her a biscuit. I scratch her ears and tell her she is a good girl. She is anxious. She whines. I’m embarrassed that my dog is a bad patient.
Each visit she is a bit more obstinate. Each visit she has to wear “a party hat” so the Vet can draw blood, take her temperature, and give her shots. She doesn’t like it, and it is a tussle to get the muzzle on properly. She is fear aggressive, and it takes two of us to get it on safely.
Gracie would not pose in a “party hat” for me. This is a better behaved dog.
Gracie is six, middle aged but juvenile. Something she has in common with me. The stool and blood tests come back; she has a little giardia, nothing to worry about, it has been going around. They give me five packets of a powder. I mix one a day into her dinner. I pick up some heartworm nuggets and Frontline. I pay the bill. Hopefully, we won’t be back until next year.
I stare at the telephone unable to make the phone call, unable to cross off “make appointment with gynecologist” from my list. I hate going even though I am sure the doctor is a lovely person. I am way overdue, but I feel fine. For years I didn’t go to a doctor. I wasn’t on birth control, I didn’t want children, I never got sick. I only started going during peri-menopause when I began hemorrhaging from fibroids. Continue reading →
Gracie loves routine. Gracie expects to walk down to 11th Street in the morning and she expects to go to the dog run before dinner. At night, she expects me to play “tricks for treats”. She expects a rawhide swizzle stick after the last walk, and she expects to be invited up for a snuggle right before I go to sleep.
If I try to skip a routine because it is late, or because I am tired, she sits and gives me a withering look. She whines. She is a willful little bitch. The last time I counted, we had over twenty daily routines. I will not list them. She keeps track. Dogs like consistency. If you asked Gracie what she wanted to do tonight, she would probably reply “The usual.”
I enjoy Gracie’s routines. They are a form of intimacy. I love her enthusiasm for giving me high-fives. I like how she pulls me to the right at the corner of Horatio and Washington because it it time to go to the dog run. Gracie and I understand each other. We know what makes each other tick.
There is great comfort in being known, even if it is by a dog. I don’t have to explain myself. I don’t have to make excuses. I don’t have to pretend to be someone else. I can stick to the routine.
It is a good thing that I have Gracie, because Donna chafes at routine. Continue reading →
When Gracie meets up with another dog, she goes right to butt-sniffing. Serious sniffing. This forces me to make small talk with the other owner. At first, being a shy person, this seemed like a weird thing to do. Now it is natural. The standard questions are boy or girl (if it is not obvious), what is your dog’s name, and what kind of dog is that. I’ve learned to recognize a lot of unusual breeds and “designer” mixes.
Some owners know what mix their mutt is because they adopted the dog as a puppy and know the dam (and sire). Some owners guess based on what the dog looks like (ears, muzzle, tail, markings). Most of us are curious. To solve the mystery, I could do a DNA test and find out Gracie’s genetic material. I’d have to swab her dog’s mouth, put the results in a plastic container, and send it to the lab. A few weeks later they would tell me how many different breeds were identified, and the percentage of each breed in the mix.
When asked, I say that Gracie was supposed to be a Flat-Coated Retriever mix, but she seems more like a Border Collie mix. I haven’t done the test. What if it came back that she was a Chow/Chihuahua mix, or a Spitz/Field Spaniel mix? Would I feel differently about her if I knew her true genetic identity? What would Gracie’s results tell me? We’ve already figured out each other’s personality, routines, and obnoxious habits.
I love kissy dogs. I love snuggly dogs. Dog lovers can be divided up into kissers and those who think getting licked on the face by a dog is gross. Dog lovers can be divided up into rescuers and purchasers. The rescuers also need to be rescued. I am a kissy rescuer. Just one problem. Gracie doesn’t kiss. She will air kiss, she will nuzzle me, but she will only lick me after I eat cheese. She tolerates me kissing her, but I know she doesn’t like it.
I’d kiss you back if you weren’t so needy.
I take Gracie to the dog run almost everyday. I have people friends and canine friends there. I wave and say hi to the humans, but there are a number of dogs who whine and mob me when I come in. Mickey and Lulu always demand kisses and scruffing up. Gracie is a jealous bitch. She will try to worm her way in-between me and the other pups. When it comes to dogs, I am polyamorous. I can’t get enough love. When it comes to women, I have room only for one. Lucky Donna. Continue reading →
Gracie asks for what she wants. When she wants to come up on the bed or couch, she grunts a little low “urg” to get my attention, and waits for an invitation. When she wants her belly rubbed, she rolls over and taps her tail. When I have ignored chow time she lies down in my sight line and stares at me. When she is ready to go out she goes to the door. When she is bored she goes to her toy box and throws everything that is in it onto the floor. When there is an “urgency” she noses me and dances around. There is no confusing or mistaking any of these signals. Gracie is confident. Gracie is a good girl.
I find it difficult to ask for anything. I learned to suppress my desires. I learned to stop saying what I wanted because I wanted to be a boy. What game do you want to play? What do you want to dress up as for Halloween? What do you want to do when you grow up? Do you want to play house? What do you want for your birthday?
The message was clear. If I told the truth, I got in trouble. If I lied, I betrayed myself and ended up with a Barbie Dreamhouse. Either way, I was not getting the hockey skates. The safest thing was to say nothing, but you can’t stay silent forever. I know, I tried, it doesn’t work.
Donna wonders why, after all of our time together, am I still so secretive? Why can’t I just tell her what I am thinking? Why is it so difficult for me to talk about my feelings? Why can’t I tell her what I want? Why do I hesitate? Why don’t I trust her?
I still feel like the eight year old who yearns for hockey skates but is afraid to ask for them. I hope that refusing to suppress my trans*-ness, my boy-ness, and my more than vanilla butch-ness, will eventually let me loosen my tongue. I would like to answer Donna’s questions honestly, without fear, and without squirming in my seat. I would like to be as confident as Gracie. I would like to be a good boy.
If I could be as cute as Gracie women would stop me on the street and ruffle my hair and say that I was the cutest thing ever.
I never felt cute as a child. I desperately wanted to be cute. I wanted to be handsome. My fantasy was that I would be scooped up and hugged because I was too cute to walk by. I wished that women’s heads would turn because I was so handsome.
I did not want to be pretty; pretty was for girls. If anyone’s head turned it was because I was one awkward chubby kid with short hair in an ugly dress. And my mother was probably speaking sharply to me.
When I walk Gracie women stop me on the street and say “oooh what a cute dog!”. Gracie is a big flirt. She lays her ears back and pulls on the leash to say hi. She smiles at the woman passing by. She gets up on her hind legs and waves her front paws. She loves toddlers. She sticks her nose into strollers. She will make a bee-line for a woman on a park bench. She will sidle up to strangers and rub her head against their legs asking for a little scratch. She has admirers in the neighborhood. Tom and Bill carry special treats just in case they run into Gracie out on her last walk in the evening. She is a popular girl.
I was not a popular girl (already I can hear myself muttering “I was not a girl”). I was not a popular child. I was a shy kid who wanted to be a cute boy (in my mind there was no other kind). The girls at P.S. 40 said I had cooties. I was teased and picked on. I kept to myself. I thought it was my fault for being weird.
I get to be cute by extension when I am out with Gracie. When I am walking her I feel cute too. Loose, relaxed, bouncy, free, real, approachable, friendly. Now if I could just learn how to flirt.