Friday, December 14, 2012

Walk This Way

I dithered for a while about whether to write what's hurting all of us so much right now, what deserves our prayers and attention, or to instead recognize that our hearts can be broken as a people, as parents, but we might want to think about something less awful for a few minutes.

Let me introduce you to Raoul, my walking buddy. Raoul was brought into the rescue group where I volunteer; we were told he was a Chihuahua. This made sense, as he was short, brown and opinionated in the way I associate with a Chihuahua. Then, he grew. Rather, his torso remained the same, but his legs doubled, then doubled in length again. He was Chihuahua on his mother's side, and on his father's side? Atat. With this extra legness came more energy and stamina than you would find in a platoon of caffeinated Marines. To volunteer meant all the usual challenges of working with multiple animals (smells, cats carrying on about low-blood sugar, more smells), plus Raoul repeatedly jumping four to six feet in the air next to them, screaming for attention. That doesn't make people want to volunteer. I can't always work with scores of cats, what with being weakly dependent on respiration, but I could take him for long walks.

I said, "May I take Raoul for long walks?"

As it happens, I could take Raoul for long walks. It's possible the dog and I were pushed out the door before I finished the sentence.

Raoul and I are well-matched for walking. Our dog likes about a two-mile walk, at most, preferably with his fiancee Qloe the Pug (Yes, Qloe: my friends' nine year-old daughter named the dog), because neither of them want to do anything more than amble for a bit before snoring. I enjoy those walks, but for cardiovascular integrity, give me a spindly brown maniac in a harness collar. This is not to say the walks are without care; Raoul has...issues. First, Raoul and I have a favorite walk about a ten minute drive from where he boards. Either in the ten minutes getting there or back, Raoul vomits. Every. Single. Time. We've tried not feeding him, we've tried taking him for a preliminary walk before getting him the car; all for naught. I crate him and then tie down the crate; these provide the dual benefits of possibly exposing him to less motion and, once any motion at all bothers him, corraling the vomit. Looking back, I had some high-spirited friends in my 20's who could have used a crate on certain Friday nights.

Then we arrive at our walk, and Raoul is delighted. JOYFUL. ECSTATIC! We do the first mile on his steam alone, my flapping behind him like those blow-up figures at car lots. That is, of course, unless we meet a very attractive female dog. Oddly enough, according to Raoul, we've never met an unattractive female dog. They are, to a bitch, unbelievably desirable and would be offended if Raoul didn't honor their appeal by trying to have sex with them. It's nice when he tries to make sweet, sweet love to a Rhodesian Ridgeback, kind of like watching a spider climb the Chrysler Building. I unhinge him from the future Mrs. Raoul and we dash off in pursuit of another worthy Eve to his overheated Adam. He's been fixed for months; let's stop to consider how many canine decathletes we've saved the world.

In those  moments when it's not sexy around here, it's sometimes very angry. Raoul has two bĂȘte noires. The first - bicycles - is obnoxious but acceptable. There is something about the sound of a bicycle which inflames Raoul's very marrow; that they continue to bike past him, fleeing his canine opera of rage, only confirms to his that they know what they did. We're working on that by feeding him treats as the bicycle goes by. After all, it's pretty easy to know when a bicycle is coming. Start the snacks ahead of time and, with any luck, by the time I'm sneaking the kid's Valentine's candy, Raoul will be indifferent to bicycles.

The second quirk makes vomiting in the car only the second-most obnoxious thing he does. Raoul hates Hispanic men. Show him someone who strongly resembles a figure in Mayan artwork and Raoul loses his mind. This is troublesome on a number of levels:

1. Unlike bicycles, people don't always make noise as they come towards you. Sometimes my first clue that there's a blameless Hispanic man who just turned the corner towards us is Raoul screaming. It's hard to get his attention once he's settled in to screaming.

2. The city is awash in men who look like Mayan figures. I also live in the neighborhood where many of the Mayan-appearing people live, which I had never really thought about until Raoul brought to my attention.

3. I am a suburban-looking white woman, attached to a dog who is about to have an embolism over his loathing of a man who has done nothing more interesting than have olive skin and a strong bone structure. No matter how many times I look horrified, smile apologetically and force Raoul to sit, I cannot help but think all of the east side of LA thinks of me as "That white lady who trained her dog to kill Mexican people."

And yet, I still walk him. Why? I'm not sure; I don't actually like him very much. But I know the more he gets walked, the more likely he is to become less peculiar and become winning enough to be adopted. It's nice to have someone temporarily in my life who thinks a seven-mile hike sounds swell. And he needs me, but in a manageable way where I can't disappoint him. And on a day like today, when I feel so helpless and frightened, there is something very cheering about grabbing the crate, putting in the vomit towel, and making something's life a little better.

CODA: People have asked to see Raoul. Here he is. We tried getting a picture with legs in it, but then a bicycle being ridden by a Hispanic man went past.


Anonymous Korie B. said...

I am cuddling (clinging to) my 3yo after a particularly hard news day. Thank you QC"

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Juli said...

Thank you. I think we all needed a little chuckle today. And a way of acknowledging that doing any small, good thing is better than doing nothing--in the face of such awfulness.

5:20 PM  
Anonymous Lehua said...

Big ups to you and Raoul! I adopted a shelter dog in the early 90s when I was young, bra-less, and taking a lot of Women's Studies classes. My dog just happened to hate men who wore baseball caps and looked butchier than I did back in the day :) I did not train him to snarl and growl at was just a coinky-dink. Thanks for the smiles, sure came in handy today!

7:21 PM  
Anonymous Robin Raven said...

My beloved dog, Marta, hated all men. She grew up only around women, and she just couldn't stand men. If any came over, she'd completely freak out and growl and snarl, but, if female strangers came over, she'd greet them with a kiss. I adopted her as a puppy so either this was a very early trauma, or just a personally trait, quirk, I don't know.

I think your volunteer dog sounds marvelous. Giving him those walks and fun is a wonderful thing to do. Thanks for sharing this with us.

8:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Raoul the lover sounds like Pepe le Pew! Thanks for the laugh!



7:24 AM  
Blogger Marianne Arensmeyer said...

Seriously, you tell me about a chihauhau ATAT and don't post a picture?

8:43 AM  
Anonymous SusannahS said...

You should call Cesar Millan. I would pay to see the Hispanic Dog Whisperer face off against the biased ChihuATAT.
(Don't get me wrong. I love Cesar.)

9:15 AM  
Anonymous Kelly said...

Raoul looks like a Miniature Pinscher. My min pin is also that color, and has her issues as well. When we adopted her, she had snapped at everyone else she came near that day, but my roommate and I. The vet said, "Take her, she is yours." She still does not like black men, white men, black or white women, or people in general. She will bark at you, until she has known you for several years. Once she has made her opinion clear, however, she wants some snuggling, and a nap, usually on your chest or neck or stomach, somewhere that makes it impossible for you to move.

1:17 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

My first dog hated Hispanic men, and I live in New Mexico, so there are a lot of them around here! He also hated people on bicycles, so god help a Hispanic man on a bicycle who came anywhere near him. Good thing the dog was in a fenced yard, but he had a ferocious sounding bark. He's been gone for two years and I still miss him.

I had a cat who would vomit after exactly five minutes in the car. The vet's office is seven minutes away, but I could never make it there in time. The cat always barfed at precisely the same place on the trip to the vet. Every single time.

5:59 PM  
Blogger Rhonda said...

If the legs are really as long as you say, maybe the other half is Italian Greyhound or Whippet. Would explain the energy and speed as well.

2:27 PM  

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