There’s that moment in the show when the poor hapless protagonist, be he a cartoon duck, a rascally Tramp or an oafish husband, is so exasperated by all the foolishness around him that he stops and looks right into the camera, inviting the audience–begging them, really–to intervene, sympathize, do anything to stop the inanity. The audience is thrilled to be in on the action, and we laugh and nod and say, “Yep, life’s crazy, hang in there buddy.” Thus encouraged, our hero goes on to defeat the forces of stupidity and ensure that decency can maintain a precarious existence in the universe. But what would the protagonist do if there were no camera? Where would he look? Who would share his troubles? I happen to know. He looks all around, at tree tops and shoe tops, and finding no cameras anywhere, he looks into the eyes of the dogs at his side. And yet he finds no consolation at all.
In my case, the source of my flabbergastation is that very dog. Not to say that it’s the dog’s fault; in fact if it’s anyone’s fault, it’s mine. But that doesn’t make it any easier. Let me explain.
Some dogs have what I call “leash sense,” defined as an innate awareness they are connected via a continuous and impermeable strand to the person walking them. Some dogs figure this out with experience, while others just seem to have the smarts. Sally, for example, is smart enough to never put a tree between my arm and her neck, and if she should take a wrong turn she quickly backs up and rejoins me at my side. Poncho seems to be trying to snare the trees with the leash, but he too remembers himself and can figure out which way to go to unwind. Morgan takes it to another level. She tends to step over the leash and also pull it so the pinch collar becomes crooked, but all I need to do is stop and hold the leash in front of her with some slack and she will lift a leg, dip a nose, do a twist and untangle herself with a quick little dance. I beam with pride. Other dogs don’t have this gift. For them, walking down the street is a delightful series of diversions (each getting about 0.2 seconds attention) occasionally interrupted by that guy who’s always following along and who somehow keeps getting himself tangled up in bushes and fence posts. These dogs need watching, because they’ll dash all about in hot pursuit of smells and weave a leash web across the road that will ensnare cars, pedestrians and your will to go on. Buddi and Orecchio belong to this second category.
Let me set the stage. Near a corner of a busy street, right where one straight line of apartments stops and the next row begins, there is a gap that forms to accommodate the curve in the street. Someone saw this little wedge of earth as a great place for a little lawn, filled in with some tall and somewhat aggressive bushes. I don’t know how else to describe these nasty shrubs–you wouldn’t want to have to trim them, and any soccer balls that fall in their midst require the recruitment of friends and parents for elaborate rescue operations.
This happens to be one of Orecchio’s favorite places to poop, and since being able to write “#2” on the dog’s report card is sweet vindication for those trained in the art of canine ambulation, I begrudgingly let him enter his little jungle. One day, however, he went in just as his co-Bulldog, Buddi, started attending to his own business on a little patch of grass on the other side of the sidewalk. I looked over to mark the spot so I could pick it up, and when I looked back, oh horror! ‘Rec had taken a right at the first bush, a left at the second and then tried to go through a third on his way back to me. The poor guy means well (unlike his brother), but he just doesn’t have the leash sense. I stood a moment in deep thought, as if studying the Gorian knot. I couldn’t reel him back in, and I couldn’t really go in after him and leave Buddi loose on the sidewalk. But while I was absorbed the puzzle before me, Buddi decided to see what was up and walked right up to his little bro, taking a path that brought several more bushes into the equation. And this is when I look for the camera. Even a candid camera would do! Standing six inches from a vicious tree with arms stretched wide, connected by taught ropes to two strange creatures that stare at you as if you had any answers, you hope someone’s getting a laugh. Or else you might just have to cry.
As I said, none of this is the dog’s fault. It took longer than I care to admit, but eventually I figured out that since each dog was effectively tethered to several trees, I could let go of the leashes and not have to worry about anyone running off down the street. This was a great opportunity to save myself. I could go back to the house, leave a nice note explaining that the dogs are fine, just hanging out down the street, and then go curl up in a fetal position for a while. But no, when I walk dogs we become like a unit of elite commandos, and no one gets left behind. So I bushwhacked a bit, freed my captive canine comrades one at a time, and eventually continued with special operation codename “pottybreak.” There were no unnecessary casualties. Or witnesses. And in hindsight, I am very, very glad there weren’t any cameras.