Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Hill Street Blues

As I have discussed here before, my friend Jill and I are going to climb Mount Whitney. I haven’t been mentioning it in the blog, not because I have given it up but because even someone as massively self-involved as me understands that “Walk up the hill…aaaaaaannnnnndddd…walk back down again” isn’t exactly compelling reading. In case you care, I have no fewer than three pairs of hiking shoes, nearly all of my day wear was bought on the basis of its ability to wick away sweat, and my feet are beginning to resemble hooves. But if I hadn’t terrified a stranger, I wouldn’t be mentioning any of this at all.

Having grown bored to tears of my nearby hikes, I took a little field trip to a hilly side of town. I had been promised a neighborhood described as “Heart Attack Hill”, and was excited to note that it appeared fully capable of felling the less-than-fit. Within four blocks, there were three breathtaking peaks at which point the street dead-ended at the longest uninterrupted flight of stairs in Los Angeles. I’m not going to use the word “Fun” in any traditional sense of the word to describe this walk, but our needs were going to be met.

I say “Our needs” because I had decided the dog would enjoy this exercise with me. She stumbled out of the car and, having determined we were neither at the vet or the groomer, perked up considerably. We headed up the hill at a brisk clip.

Hill #1 was daunting yet manageable and we headed down the other side.

[What did I tell you? Hiking Stories = We Went Up. We Went Down. Or, if you’re an iconoclast, Hiking Stories = We Went Down. We Went Up.]

The dog, being of a certain age and deeply lazy, was already starting to revert to a statelier pace. I exhorted her onwards; whether we like it or not, neither of us has the waistline we once did. We hit the bottom of Hill #2, where she promptly went #2. I used the bag I brought for just such a situation. We headed upwards.

Halfway up Hill #2, I noticed a woman weeding her front yard. I had plenty of chances to watch the quality of her weeding, as the dog promptly had another bowel movement there; there is something about someone showing pride in their home that gives my dog the runs. The home owner and I watched her in silence, while I waved my plastic bag in a subtle yet unmistakable “I’m a conscientious dog owner! See, I travel everywhere with plastic satchels filled with feces!” I know my dog; a long walk will need two bags. I cleaned up.

She took the poop-cleaning time to ask, “So, walking your dog?”

Not the most original statement, but I understood she was trying to reward me for de-fouling her succulents. I could explain the Mt. Whitney thing, but it was a long saga, and I had a limited time to climb steep hills and breathe smog-laden air. I smiled in what I hoped was a winning way.

“She loves to walk.”

The woman leaned over her fence and petted the dog, who fairly swooned.

“Isn’t she pretty? And so clever, too.” The woman crooned to the dog.

“Actually, she’s an idiot, but she’s very sweet.” I countered. I take a certain puckish joy in mentioning this to people; her breed has an unearned reputation for intelligence. The woman’s face darkened a touch. She addressed the dog.

“You’re a lovely, clever girl.”

Dog and woman both stared at me sadly.

We murmured good-byes. She went back to weeding. I went back to getting my heart rate up.

Dog and I took Hill #2, enjoyed a brief respite of flat land, and then started in on Hill #3. A woman was at her driveway, getting mail out of her mailbox. Dog, sensing a home owner, stopped to have yet another bowel movement. I panicked. I had forgotten about the one bowel movement the dog keeps in reserve, just to humiliate me. I smiled weakly and cringed, all the while frantically scanning nearby houses for the plastic bags with which they cover newspapers.


“You wouldn’t happen to have any plastic bags in your house, would you?”



She looked at me icily.

“I recycle.”

“I am so sorry; I know I have plastic bags back in my car. Let me go get one and I’ll be right back.”

She practically sneered at me. I had let my dog defile her border plants, and now was going to get into my (probably uninsured) car and drive to a nearby grade school, where I would let my dog eat someone’s child.

The dog and I trotted back towards Hill #2, as I kept yelping “I’ll be right back! RIGHT BACK” to the frowning home owner. The dog, having thoroughly evacuated her bowels and having walked two hills, was tired. She decided at the top of Hill #2 to find a new place to live. She chose a hedge, slithered under it, and sighed in relief. I stomped, I screamed, and I tugged on her leash.
With great effort, I dragged her out.

A few feet later, I spied a newspaper, crammed under the wheel of a car in a driveway. I got closer; it was a week old, dew-spotted and yellow with age. Either these people were out of town, or they hadn’t bothered to get the paper. Either way, it saved me a trip all the way down to the car. All I had to do was slither half-way under the car, tug the paper out from under the wheel, scream at the dog (who had taken this opportunity to lie back down under the shrub), get up and trot back down to the house with the poop memento.

The first lady I had met, the weeder, was standing about three feet from me, in her yard, looking puzzled.

“Can I help you?”

“Oh. I just…needed a plastic bag, because…see, my dog pooped down the street and I carried two bags, which is odd because I usually carry three, and…“

“But what are you doing with my paper?”

My brain decided now would be a perfect time to start a nervous involuntary giggle. I attempted to stop it, but my brain just amped up the volume.

(Giggle) “Oh, it’s yours?

I glanced around and realized, yes, she was in the yard I had seen her in before, which was right in front of a house and this was clearly the driveway attached to the house, so the odds were fairly good that this was her paper.

“I’m so sorry, I thought no one wanted it, but I needed the plastic bag, and I figured that DROP IT NOW!”

What was nice about that moment was how I had seen the dog eating something weird out of the corner of my eye, but never stopped looking the woman in the face, so she assumed I suddenly screamed at her. The dog dropped whatever she had in her mouth. The woman took about three steps back and held her rake in a protective manner.

“Sorry, not you!…(giggle, giggle). My dog eats things. Like money. I don’t think she was just eating money, though. It might have been cat poop. That’s not weird for dogs, though. Just gross (giggle, giggle)…”

What’s so sad about this is that some part of me truly believed I was once well-chosen sentence away from her forgetting about finding me rummaging under her car, giggling maniacally and then screaming at her. I decided to cut to the chase.

“May I have the plastic bag from the paper?”

Silently, she nodded. I looked down for a second to take the wrapper off the paper. When I looked up, she had moved about three feet further away from me. Also, the dog was attempting to nap again. Because it had become important that a complete stranger see that I had one redeeming quality, I sang musically at the dog “Walkies!”

The dog sighed deeply.

I tugged on the leash, moved smartly up the hill and said in a slightly less welcoming tone, “WALKIES…COME!...”

The dog got into a half-risen position, held up her front paw as if it was hurt and, crying piteously, slumped back down again. Rotten, lazy, faker.

I didn’t even have to see the woman’s face to know whom she was pulling for in this little battle.

I had two options. Option #1 was to pull the dog to her feet and drag her forward on my hike as she wailed miserably, leaving a skid mark of tail fur, while hoping it took the woman a few minutes to locate the emergency number for the ASPCA.

I went with Option #2. I leaned over the dog and, while appearing to pet her lovingly, hissed “I’m shipping you to a country where you’re food!” then sang out sweetly, “Let’s go home. Car trip!”

The dog, without a whimper, a limp, or a moment’s hesitation, sprinted back to the car. I ended up driving the one block back to the place where she pooped, to take care of it; environmentally irresponsible, sure, but more energy efficient than getting the dog to move when she didn’t want to.

I maintain what I said earlier; the dog has no more than seven brain cells doing all the work. She is an idiot.

But I’m the one driving her around town with several bags of her poop.


Blogger Jan said...

So now you're a bag burglar. I'm glad you didn't get clobbered with the rake!

6:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My dog only responded to 'go big poopies?' said in a high pitched whiney voice (lllooonnnggg story). Really. It wsa THE ONLY phrases for which she would move. She is deaf now. Imagine, if you will, the sign language involved in this.


I feel guility getting so much enjoyment from your pain.

Well...not really.

5:59 PM  

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