One of the things Brooke and I like so much about the new apartment building we moved into is how many people have dogs. No just because Puppy now has friends to play with (despite the fact that his favorite game is rape), but because, in my opinion, owning a dog says something about you. Unlike babies, who can creep up on you thanks to tequila shots or unfulfilled promises of pulling out, no one buys a dog by accident. It is a willful choice to care for another living thing, a declaration that says, “I am so unselfish that I want to devote the next fifteen years to keeping this dog alive,” or “I am so selfish that even though I can’t keep this dog alive, I am going to try anyway so that I will have someone to complain to when my friends and family screen my calls, and every so often petting it will be very soothing.” Either way, there’s lots of dogs around, and I love dogs, so it would be awesome.
Or would it?
The problems of having a 30-story apartment building full of dogs became evident shortly after we moved in. First it was the smell on the elevator. Not so much an overwhelming stench, but certainly enough that when the doors opened you thought, “Whoever was on here before me smelled a lot like a dog.” To fix that, the building installed these time release air fresheners. They are mounted up in the corner of the elevator car, and every so often they shoot out a burst of air freshener. Good enough, except that the first time I was in the elevator when the burst happened, I thought someone had shot a blow dart at me, like indigenous people do, which was doubly confusing because who knew indigenous people were such good hiders, and what did I do wrong anyway?
Then came the poop. (Note: Also a very good first line for a novel.) While the large grassy park across the street from my building is a doggy dream, not everyone treats it with the respect it deserves. Meaning they shit on it. Not the people, but the dogs. Which is fine, but what I don’t get is how an owner can be so calloused as to just walk away from a huge pile of poop your dog just made. How is this ok? There’s even free poop bag dispensers surrounding the park, so really your only excuse is laziness. And in my opinion, poop deserves the utmost vigilance. Some people may say the capacity for emotion or the notion of an afterlife is what separates us from animals, but I like to think it’s the fact that we dispose of our shit. Which is why when I walk Puppy, I always keep my eye on other people walking their dogs. Sure, I may be known around the community as “that guy who stares at my dog while it’s pooping,” but if that’s what it takes to shame owners into curbing their pets, so be it. I’ve been called worse. Well, not worse. But different.
Then there’s the most recent problem. The barking.
Now here’s where you may be saying, “Hey, shithead” (because you’re having a bad day and projecting), “how did you not see odors, poop and barking coming? Don’t you have a dog? Is it really just a stuffed animal and you’re a deranged person who puts it on a leash and drags it around outside three times a day?”
Great question. And the answer is, fuck you. But 1. Even when Puppy starts to turn, he still smells pretty good. Like corn chips. There was only one time I can remember him actually smelling awful and that was because he had a piece of doody hidden in his butt fur. Not his fault. 2. I always pick up after Puppy, even in extreme situations. Or, in the rare case where I find myself stranded and run out of baggies, I will at least cover up the poop with some leaves or woodchips, the same way you might dump a body on “Law & Order.” And 3. I lived in
So over the weekend when Brooke and I were relaxing watching a movie and we suddenly heard a yap, followed by many, many more yaps, we grew concerned, first for the safety of the dog (is it being kicked?) then for our own comfort (would someone please kick it?). Five minutes in, another bark started, this one deeper, huskier. Together, the barks rang out like a call and response – the yappy dog perhaps saying, “CAN ANYNE HEAR ME?” and the larger dog responding, “YES, CAN YOU HEAR ME?” and both dogs promptly forgetting the conversation ever happened and starting again.
The problem was, we could hear them clearly, but due to the way the building is situated we couldn’t see which apartment the barking was coming from. After half an hour, Brooke, who doesn’t boast a very high tolerance for annoyances (she once called me fat for talking during “Gossip Girl”), was about to go insane. So we made a plan: I would get an approximate read on which floor the barking was coming from, and then I would walk up and down the building hallways until I passed the door it was coming from, at which point we would be able to lodge a complaint with the building. I would take my cell phone to communicate with Brooke at home base so she could tell me when the barking started and stopped.
It was a pretty good plan except for a few things. First, I had no idea where the barking was coming from. I’m no ear doctor, but the way I understand it sound travels in pretty weird ways. For example, if I stuck my hear out one window, I was sure that the barking was coming from below me. If I stuck it out another window, I heard it from above. So either the dogs were toying with me (payback for watching them go to the bathroom), or this was going to be harder than I thought.
The second problem didn’t come up until I started scouting random floors in the building. I had assumed that because I lived in the building, it wouldn’t look strange for me to be roaming the hallways. Not true. It turns out, despite the fact that you know you aren’t a robber waiting for a woman to show up at her door holding a bag of groceries so you can perform a home invasion, the other tenants don’t know that. The first time I got off the elevator with someone and looked around suspiciously, concentrating on listening for barking noises, while they unlocked their apartment door keeping a fix on me out of the corner of their eye, the discomfort was palpable. I had to quickly adjust and make pretend I was on the wrong floor, muttering to myself in something of a British accent (more harmless), “What? . . . Hey . . . oh, silly me . . .”, shaking my head as I walked back to the elevator.
It was then that I decided I should have a cover story. It would be this: I am a boyfriend who just arrived home, only to receive a call from his girlfriend with whom he lived saying that she wants to run out and do some errands, so I figure instead of walking all the way to the apartment I should wait in the elevator bank while she finishes getting ready.
I decided the smart thing to do would be not to stray far from the elevator bank, so if I heard someone getting off the elevator or exiting their apartment, I could run back and stand casually leaning against the wall while pretending to talk on my cell phone about what we would buy at the grocery store. Still, though, I would need to creep down the hallway a certain distance in order to hear which apartment the dog barking was coming from.
After trying this tactic on three different floors, I exited the elevator on the 15th floor and thought I heard muffled dog noises coming from an apartment halfway down the hall. I slowly walked down the hallway, craning my head forward to hear better. It was a little farther away from the elevator bank than I was comfortable with, but I figured the risk was worth it because I was pretty confident the endgame was in sight. So I crept further.
Suddenly, I heard a door unlocking right next to me. With reflexes that couldn’t exactly be called cat-like (unless it was this cat), I sprang for the elevator bank while simultaneously reaching for my cell phone. Just as the tenants entered the hallway, I nonchalantly put my phone to my ear and pretended to talk to Brooke. Except that amidst all the confusion, I’d forgotten my cover story. The couple approached the elevators and I looked up, making eye contact with them, smiling. I had to say something, otherwise I was just standing there holding a dead phone against my ear, pretending to look nonchalant, just like a home invader might.
Forcing the words out of my mouth, I said, “So you want to go to the reclaimed lumber yard?” (Brooke and I had been watching a lot of HGTV lately and looked up reclaimed lumber yards online earlier that day.) “That sounds good,” I continued to no one, “Maybe we can hit the farmers market on the way back.” The couple gave me a half-hearted smile as the elevator arrived and I acknowledged them with a slight head nod. Essentially, in my effort to sound less like a home invader in had inadvertently sounded like a douche bag. I was like Inspector Gadget. “Go, go gadget cerebral cortex function!” And instead my roller-skates popped out.
Worst of all, I never did find the barking dogs. And when I returned to my apartment, dejected and slightly creeped out by myself, I stood in the middle of the room for a second, savoring the silence, hoping that the barking had stopped. But then came one yap. Then two. Then a corresponding woof.
I distinctly heard, “ASSHOLE.”