Man’s Best Friend (On A String)
I live in Manhattan and every morning I see them out there — the proud sleepy-eyed owners whose first cup of coffee hasn’t quite hit yet—tugging around by the neck their prize, their pet, their mammal-on-a-string.
From Binky to Rex, with cuteness, size, fur, and aggressiveness to suit every gender, personal style, and financial status—they’re out there to do three things, if you include getting a bit of fresh air.
(The many lists online of “best dog names, by gender”, have been helpful in the writing this piece.)
Before we jump into this deep inquiry of man’s-best-friend-on-a-string, let’s all begin with a Mindful Meditation: There are approximately 600,000 dogs in New York City —now, focus your mind on the thousands of gallons of little yellow streams trickling their way down city streets every day. Establish your concentration, and you will be able to objectively observe the flow of thoughts, and urine.
NYC Fun Fact: The “curb your dog” idea lost traction around the time that the iceman stopped coming.
It is a rarity to see Buddy or Princess anywhere near the curb — they’re busy sniffing and marking all the other spots where Lucy and Pepper have pissed and shat.
And these sniffs and pees must be short and informative because (ow!)—every few seconds that leash tugs on the neck—time to move on, Mommy has a pedicure appointment this morning.
The sidewalk flower gardens — with all manner of signs pleading for the plant’s lives — still get no attention from the humans (who are distracted by Beyoncé running up the wires into their ears). The vegetation is alas still watered by Daisy or Teddy and often it does not survive.
There are laws in New York City against bringing animals-on-strings (unless they are service animals) into groceries stores (health issues) or on subways (unless they’re in a container). But more and more often mammalian scoflaws have taken to boldly ignoring these rules.
I once confronted a woman in a grocery store and she told me that little Fifi the Fluffy was a service animal. I did not question what service it provided; assuming it had to be emotional.
The responsible owners carry around little green bags—a color that indicates they care for Planet Earth—so they can reach down and pick up the hot steaming little piles, close up the bag, and deposit it in the public trash on the corner. You rarely see them sniff their hands at this point.
The less than conscientious owners just look around to make sure nobody is looking, and walk away. Besides, Bella’s or Lucky’s piles are just a few little lumps — it won’t matter.
You can see those piles smeared in all directions a few hours later, as pedestrians take their crap-infused shoe soles to the office or home.
Those always hustling New Yorkers have so little time for the simple pleasures of taking Duke or Duchess for a brief defecating outing and thus dog-walking is a huge business in the city.
Money determines whether you get a chap or gal to walk your critter solo, or have it marched around with a whole troupe of fellow urinators down the city street.
In the wealthier neighborhoods you see The Help out with the mammal-on-a-string in the morning. Depending on their busy work schedules, The Mr or The Mrs might take Oliver or Ginger for a walk in the evening.
Those who live near a park may even get to go for a run on occasion—where they can leave hidden surprises in the grass for future picnickers.
But the vast majority of dogs in the city basically get to apply their 300 million olfactory receptors to the confines of one city block.
Ask some of the string-holders and they will hyperbolize that the tongue-out anxious neediness that greets them at the door is “unconditional love”.
I would call these special case definitions of the words unconditional (an existentially questionable concept altogether) and love—which I only on occasion associate with heavy-breathing and drooling.
Ironically, since they’ve de-sexed their best friends, I hear that singles often meet each other as a result of their stringed mammals doing some nasal investigation of each other’s rear ends.
Hi, I’m John and this is Gable—he’s a Bedlington Terrier.
Oh hi, I’m Joan, and this is Garbo — she’s a Borzoi.
A paragraph’s worth look at the 500,000 cats imprisoned in New York City.
Here you go Milo — these rooms are your domain. Here is your food, here is a box of specially prepared sand-substance where you will bury the end results. Since you felines are worse than humans around this sex stuff, we’ll have to remove that life-force from you. Besides, your species sleep most of the time anyway, so you won’t miss it. Here’s some catnip—you’ll be fun to watch, especially after we smoke some pot.
Human love for other species is of course conditional. Here are just a few things it relies on.
• Cuteness and entertainment value—especially when that furry ego-extension is paraded in front of other humans.
• The need for warm furry things to stroke when friends or lovers are being, perhaps intentionally, unavailable.
• The extremely questionable desire to have their faces French-kissed by the butt-licking creatures’ tongues.
• With the advent of smartphones, photograph-ability for Facebook or Instagram posting has climbed up the list.
Dogs and cats are the two most popular pets, but let’s take a brief moment to acknowledge the other species owned by humans— birds in cages, fish in aquariums, amphibians in tanks, hamsters running around cute plastic tunnel habitats, mice burrowing in wood chips, horses in corrals, chickens in coops, fleas in a circus, and so on.
[Full disclosure & summary:
• I support humane treatment of all animals in every way possible!
That said, I remain a descriminating vege-pesco-carnivore.
• My current habitat came with a cat. I’ve adjusted, somewhat. It chases laser beams and looks longingly at the mourning doves on the fire escape. It pets itself when humans are not available. It also throws up and scoots (if you don’t know, don’t ask.)
• I do not think my species should be taking their show on the road to Mars or further beyond. But I can envision a science fiction story where we all leave Earth—still habitable—to all the other species; a cage-less and unleashed Utopia where they get to live unrestrained, fulfilling their instincts, killing and eating each other—for which they were created by God the Father and Mother Nature (our filicidal parents). Amen.]
Words and photos © AleXander Hirka 2019. All Rights Reserved.
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For your consideration, my blog: Tempest Tossed in New York City — writing and art and life in New York City