I Touch Their Poo: Life as an Urban Dog Wrangler
I’m passing legions of people my age all headed for beach houses or apartments overlooking Rittenhouse Square, while I pray the 19-year-old, fully blind and almost immobile cocker spaniel in my arms doesn’t have one of the “fits” described in the note left by his owner.
I’m resisting the urge to grab the nearest bro-ham festering in his own Axe shaping gel and shout, “The 14-year-old you’re going to impregnate tonight gets really really fat!”
Instead, I just overhear him begin a story like he has most likely begun so many others: “So, I walked into the Starbucks…”
I look down at Chester, knowing full well that even though I am only about 12 inches from his face, in all likelihood, I’m just the latest human-shaped blur to carry him somewhere. I engage in a coughing fit while wondering how exactly I managed to contract a sinus infection in the middle of June.
We reach the park and I gently place him on the grass, breaking only nine of his bones. He immediately trips over the root of a tree while simultaneously a troupe of “Rittenhouse” girls search desperately for the nearest spot to pay at least $11 for a drink.
This is one of those days where I feel like I’m in the opening scene of a movie where the protagonist eventually assassinates the president.
I was hired as a dog walker the day the Eagles first signed Michael Vick. It was like getting drafted after a terrorist attack.
People seemed genuinely fearful that the Eagles’ new backup quarterback had plans to perform door-to-door dognappings, which if you watch some of his highlight reel, he certainly has the speed for. But the truth was, dog owners in Philadelphia—everywhere, probably—tend to hold onto their creatures for dear life. So it was explained to me that while the dogs are the unpredictable animals, what you’ve really got to look out for in this business are the human beings.
However, the chief communication with these people (and there are many more cool ones that duds) is a note written in my handwriting, describing their dog’s shit that day. They are all but a nonfactor.
What they need to teach people like me is one simple, unchanging truth: Every dog always wants to die. It doesn’t matter if you’re walking Chester up there, who calls it a win every time he touches the ground and his legs don’t shatter, or Doc, the husky puppy with a boner for oncoming traffic.
I was walking Petey the German Shepherd once. Petey and I were a good mix, we differed mainly on our positions regarding crotch-gnawing. Petey liked to do his on street corners or in parks, while I prefer a much larger audience. He was both attractive and unassuming enough to get girls to come talk to me on their own, which, when you’re hungover, wearing Aviator sunglasses, pale, and alone walking a large animal in the middle of the day, is no easy feat.
Petey and I were cruising down a trail, him pretending to know where he was going, me pretending that he was an off-duty police dog with rage issues and I was the only officer bad-ass enough to train him. It was only a matter of time before we were exposing police corruption and taking down the Mendoza cartel.
A couple of girls walking a bread crumb of a dog were approaching from the opposite way. In terms of scale, this thing may have been able to settle down and have a happy life with one of Petey’s toe nails. But for whatever reason, probably that he was a dog, this microscopic organism showed an immense interest in Petey from across the way.
So, he did what any logical person acting on some of their rougher instincts would do and plunged immediately into a lane of heavy foot traffic. Like all dogs, his death wish was an unsquelchable fire burning within. Being scrawny and murine, his advance went undetected by his owners.
For a split second, the space was empty, and I felt confident to wave this one off as a close call. Sure enough, two roller blade enthusiasts came barreling around the corner, bumbled, and collided as they tried to avoid the tripping wire set out by Teensy McSprinkles and his insufferable curiosity.
Petey was not amused by the entire display, and as the skaters (or “bladers?” That can’t be it because Microsoft Word just tried to auto-correct that as “bladders”) collected themselves, I got him out of there.
Petey’s pleasant enough, but his gut reaction to most scenarios (candy wrappers on the ground, a disturbed hive of bees) is to just start chomping. Not to bite intentionally, mind you, I think he just likes to practice because it reminds him of eating. I didn’t want anyone’s purse dog using its legs for the first time falling victim to his urge to digest whatever walks in front of him.
These are the dangers while overwatch commander for another living thing. It makes me wonder how people keep babies alive. I guess the satisfaction comes from being able to explain why the things they did are dumb later in life, when they’ll actually register.
For a dog, there is no such date when the lights finally turn on. They just lurch at their most recent impulse without ever being able to know why such behavior isn’t universally accepted. As they get older, they lurch a little slower. Some don’t really lurch at all. I fear to know what its like for a dog to keep on living after its ability to investigate has been naturally eliminated.
Anyways, that’s whose leash I’m holding for most of the work day: Friendly, oblivious quadrupeds torn constantly between eating, shitting, and trying to die. Did I mention I’m a dog person? Totally. I have, like 10 of them. They just live at other people’s houses.