Monday, April 25, 2011

Scrappy's New York Stories

Cute as he is, my dog’s not that easy to love.

He’s bitey, for one thing, and that puts people off. Also, he can’t play fetch or run for the ball; he doesn’t roll over or high five or get the paper or sing with the piano. He’s got all four legs. Sometimes his anal glands get impacted. He’s not fancy or sought-after for breeding. He’s dirty five minutes after a bath. The MennoKnight says he smells. He eats everything, and then throws it up. He jumps on people and his nails are long but he doesn’t like anyone touching his feet, so they get neglected out of self-preservation because he’s bitey, and there we are, closing the circle.

Also, he has terrible owners. They spoil him, feed him from the table and carry him down the stairs (he can’t climb down on his own, although he’s pretty good at going up, which puts us in a terrible spot sometimes, with a barky, crying dog at the top of some stairs, somewhere).
But there’s a reason for this badness. You see, Scrappy is blind.


And New York makes me love my dog more. Bless its smelly little heart.

The other day it was brutal outside, rain, wind, miserable. Canada-level weather, something I have sadly and enthusiastically become unused to. No matter what the weather, however, I still had to take Scrappy out for his crappy.

It’s after nine in the morning, but from the sky it looks more like Armageddon o’clock, so I get the Wellies on, the umbrella out. I find a baggie and put the lead on the (stupid goddamn) dog so we can go out in the (stupid goddamn) rainy New York morning.

So there we go, into the rain and while I’m thinking that the highlight of this experience will be scooping up my dog’s poo into a baggie, we get to the corner and see the crossing guard.

“Hi Scrappy! How are you today?” She leans over and gives his head a scratch. We chat for a second, how’s my tooth, what do I think of the weather, when’s Michael coming back and when Scrappy walks face first into the corner trash bin, thoughtfully provided by the city of New York.

“Awwwww,” she says.

Then it’s around the corner. We see the terrier-who-wears-the-Mets-jersey and her daddy and we exchange a couple of head scratches (for the dogs) and bitch about the weather (for the humans) and then go our separate ways.

We see Rusty and Sam, and Sam’s mom whose name always gets lost in the excitement Rusty feels when he sees Scrappy. It might actually be “Patty."

We let the dogs grapple and we chat. When’s Michael coming home seems to be the question of the day. I’m just saying ‘next week,’ when a beagle puppy and his owner, get caught up in the dog mob, and Scrappy, in his enthusiasm for the new smell, walks right into the new dog. Bam!

“Awww,” everyone says together.

“Scrappy’s blind,” I say, by was of explanation. We all look at Scrappy, and repeat, “Awww.”

“How old is he?” Beagle daddy says.

I say he’s only 4.


I’m on a roll, because it looks like Scrappy might start growling at the beagle. “He has a little bit of sight,” I say, and we all look down at Scrappy, happily, deeply smelling the other dog’s butt. Or so he thinks. He’s actually smelling the dog’s leg.


Then there is the inevitable question, “Isn’t there anything you can do?”

When we first got Scrappy, a rescued-dog, I took him to the vet to get a check up. He looked okay to me, but it’s in a the pamphlet, how you should take him to the vet, so I did.

“He’s got scribolocoubulomisticexpealidocious,” the vet said. Well, that wasn’t the exact diagnosis, but it was a long word, and it did sound very expensive. “It’s unfortunately congenital. It’s not uncommon with shih tzus.”

My reaction, of course, was to cluck sympathetically. That’s the only thing you can do at the vet’s, cluck sympathetically. To say what’s really on your mind – that being, how much will it cost and do I have to look in his poo, is to seem cruel and evil.

So: Cluck, cluck.

The vet, satisfied with my non-evilness, said, “We have a dog ophthalmologist who flies in once a month from Alberta. I can set up an appointment for Scrappy. The doctor will be here in a week. How’s your next Wednesday?”

Pthssst! I spit milk out my nose. Milk I wasn’t even drinking. Dog ophthalmologist?! By this time the vet had gone to his book and was looking at dates.

Wednesday. I started to cluck, but I couldn’t quite make it all the way through. A dog eye doctor. An eye doctor for dogs.

“Um,” I said. Better like this, or better like this? How did they point which way the E was facing? How did they read the bottom line?Seriously? DOG ophthalmologist?

What kind of a neighbourhood did you grow up in, where Dog Ophthalmologist was a real career choice, as opposed to a comical one like Beaver Inspector?

What kind of a limo-riding, foie gras-eating, tiara-wearing life were you living as a child that you came to your parents at 16 and had this conversation:

“Mumsy? I don’t know what to be when I grow up. I’m trying to choose between Money Haver and Dog Ophthalmologist. What do you think?”

I can only hope that most Mumsys got in touch with their inner sensibilist and said, "Oh please."

So, we could have gone the dog ophthalmologist route, but we chose not to. We chose to let nature be nature and congenital be congenital, mostly because it was free and as a working writer somewhat between bestsellers, it was the option, along with the sympathetic cluck, that seemed best for us.

Which is why we love the people of New York, particularly of the borough of Queens, because when they ask me if there is anything I can do, I tell the congenital-dog, tiara-wearing story.

And they say,“Well yeah, for sure, it’s a dawg right?”

Perspective. Sometimes, like bad directions, you can only get it on the street.

They always pet him and cluck sympathetically and tell him how cute he is. And when he walks into the garbage bin, everyone always says the same thing.


I ♥ NY.

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