They say that having a child changes you, that it gives you a perspective you could only get from truly loving someone more than yourself. I wouldn’t know anything about that because I’m a little scared of babies, what with their vacant, judgmental gazes and indiscriminant release of bodily fluids. But ever since I’ve been with Brooke, I have felt like, on some level, I understand what they mean. Because when I met Brooke, I also met Puppy.
Puppy is Brooke’s dog. He is three years old and if you ask him, “Is your name really Puppy?” he will stare at you wagging his tail, because he can’t speak. But yes, his name is Puppy. It says so on his collar, so if he ever got lost and some stranger found him, they could read his collar both as a label and nametag: Puppy.
Puppy and I have bonded in ways I have never been able to with my human friends. We play fetch and tug of war, two games most of my other friends don’t enjoy. The other day we were trying to play catch, which is a little harder than fetch because his mouth eye coordination isn’t so great and his paw is too small to grip the toy properly to throw it back. But still, after about the 25th toss, the toy sushi (spicy tuna roll, I think) went high up into the air, and as it came down Puppy snatched it out of midair with the nonchalance of a high priced call girl at a buffet dinner party. I welled up with pride and immediately gave him every bit of food I could find as a reward, mostly because this is the same way in which I like to be rewarded.
There is one form of bonding though that is paramount to all others. It is the bonding only a dog and his true parents (or a paid dog walker) can do. I curb Puppy.
For me, this is huge. Man’s natural inclination is away from poop. Instead I am saying, “Although my entire life I have avoided poop, I will willfully pick yours up, because I love you.” It is terribly intimate, and terribly gross. Yet Puppy and I have managed to enjoy the ritual, him more than me, especially the part where right after I pick up his poop he takes off in a full sprint down the street, dragging me behind him in a victory lap with a bag of poop jangling at my side. I love that little fucker.
The other day when Puppy and I were out for our morning walk, and Puppy began frantically sniffing a spot on the curb as though to say, “It’s here! It’s here somewhere! Where I shall poop!” (Ed. Note: Puppy is British), I noticed something different. He was taking longer than usual. And nothing was happening. Puppy was constipated.
Now, I’m not embarrassed to say that I know how he felt. I’ve been constipated before, although never at a bus stop on 79th St., which I have to imagine makes it worse. Puppy though showed no signs of discomfort. He simply stayed there, squatting, staring straight ahead. So I stood there as well, a good father, staring straight ahead. After about a minute he must have gotten tired because then he sat down. I tried to give him a tug, but he wouldn’t move. Fair enough. Sometimes you have to just sit on the bowl for a while. The people crowded around the bus stop. I stood in front of Puppy for privacy, and stared straight ahead.
Finally, Puppy was ready to try again. And finally something was working. Kind of. After all that effort and strain, all that sat on the sidewalk was a turd the size of a marble. He turned and looked at it, defeated. I coaxed him to move, saying out loud, “Come on, Pup, maybe walking will help.” People stared at me. Puppy started to move slowly, ambling awkwardly down the street. It was evident something was wrong. Then, in a move I can only describe as advanced Bikram yogaesque, he began walking only on his front paws, with his two rear paws off the ground, pointing forwards, as he dragged his butt on the sidewalk. Obviously, not having the dexterity nor the money to buy toilet paper, Puppy was wiping his butt his own way. And in a moment I will not soon forget, I looked pitifully, loving on him, took my plastic bag, wrapped it around my hand and . . . well listen, I did what any good father would do.
And after I was done, Puppy turned to me with a look that said, “WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?” and I said, “Next time get it out yourself,” because I think tough love is important too. And I think he understood me, because then he faced forward again, seeming satisfied, loved, his tail wagging slowly at first and then faster, right before he took off sprinting down the street, me following close behind, my poop bag hand waving dangerously in the breeze.