Lean on me


‘Another Dog Day Afternoon. Er, Morning’

One of the nice things about the Ken & Barbie House, teensy though it may be, is its proximity to Central Park. Every morning I’m here, I roll out of my itty-bitty bed, tie on my sneakers and go for a walk.

That’s when I like the Park best — in the mornings when pretty much the only people there are the ones walking their dogs. Oh, there are the crazy runners and bikers, but they’re on the road. On the paths, it’s the dogs who rule.

The doggie brigade leaving my building this morning

They run around tossing balls to their masters, doing high jumps over the fences, terrorizing the squirrels (who just laugh at them), and gleefully sniffing each others’ butts.

Even the people seem in a good mood. For New Yorkers, that is. Like, if you smile at a dog’s antics, its owner will smile back. Which is the equivalent of grabbing you for a bear hug in, say, Kankakee.

Two Park regulars goofing around. The white one is the guy who has an appetite for mittens

This morning a very outgoing puppy bounded up to me, grinning a doggie grin and proceeded to eat my mitten. His owner was mortified and apologetic, but I just said, “Oh that’s okay. It is a pretty tasty mitten, as mittens go.”

I’m really enjoying my encounters with Other People’s Dogs. It reminds me of growing up, when we had a couple of outstanding canine companions. I’ve written a piece about Sandy, the dog who was part of our lives the longest. (See “Swim, Sandy, Swim!” for tales of her charm.) She was so sweet, my mom said she would lick a burglar’s face and lead him to the silver.

Sandy was not a lap dog, per se. But that didn’t keep her from trying

Oh to be sure, when she was growing up, The Child used to lobby for a dog. But when she’d bring up the subject, I’d reply, “Sure, we can get a dog — when you’re ready to pick up poop in a baggie.” So we stuck with cats.

This is Mango. A cat who impersonated a dog rather well. Read more about him in “Lost Cat: Answers to the Name ‘Mango'”

Lately, she and the SIL have been making noises about getting a dog. Now that they’re married and have a house and a yard and all. When she brings this up to me, I remind her about the poop-in-a-baggie deal and also point out that you can’t exactly leave a dog with a big bowl of water and some food. (They travel a lot.)

In fact, when I’m feeling feisty I go so far as to point out that if she’s going to go to all that trouble for a living breathing being she might as well pull out all the stops and go for a baby. (I know, I know.)

Her Childness has “borrowed” a lot of dogs. Like this Laptop Lapdog at her office

But back to this morning and another cute canine encounter. I happened to see a wiry little dog drop his ball under a bush. I was helpfully trying to retrieve it for him when his owner explained that he was a “rescue dog,” as in “search-and-rescue” — that he would hide balls all over the Park, then find them the next day. He didn’t need my help, but accepted a pat.

Even better was a random meetup with a dog that looked exactly like that Muppet dog who played the piano. (I just googled, and his name was Rowlf.) Anyway, this Muppet Dog comes up to me and — this was so cool — leans on me.

(This happened to me one other time — in Australia in 1985. The photographic evidence is at the top of this post.)

Trust me, I was absolutely verklempt. Completely disarmed, I looked up at the dog’s owner, who was grinning from ear to ear. “I think she likes you,” he said.

Well. Trust me, it’s hard to feel bad about the world — even a world with Vladimir Putin in it — when that world also contains a dog who leans on you. I hope you get to meet one on a morning walk soon.

New York City. March 2022


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