I can't even dog sit without something happening.
Last week, I dog sat for Fyodor (the pilot who doesn't give me lessons) and his wife, Elle. They have a small little pooch of some sort of terrier breed that looks like someone shrunk a doberman pincher. Although completely adorable, this pup has two very unfortunate features. The first is his name, which doubles as a slang term for a joint. The second unfortunate feature is his Napoleon complex.
The first feature is only unfortunate in that, when children pet him and want to know his name, the parents often aren't to happy with the answer. Other people might have problems with the name, too, as this story will bear out.
The second feature, however, can end up landing the pooch and his walker in some very tricky situations. Like all dogs, this one defends his territory with gusto. If anyone walked by on the sidewalk outside of Fyodor and Elle's townhouse -- if anyone walked on the sidewalk across the street from Fyodor and Elle's townhouse -- he would go into conniptions of barking. No squirrel within three blocks was safe from his protestations, either, and he about threw himself into a seizure of barks at the scent of another dog on the street.
Unlike other dogs, however, this one wanted to expand his territory. Hence, the Napoleon complex. When we went on walks -- better described as "drags" -- he no longer concerned himself with mere humans. Instead, he focused on any pole, tree, bush, or tire previously claimed by another dog. In some instances, a dog had clearly claimed a corner of a building only seconds earlier. This did not deter our four-legged hero. He peed right on top of that other dog's mark.
He would also challenge dogs much larger than himself. On one walk, he tried to take on a standard sized poodle -- a dog that, if he stood on his hind legs, would have been taller than me. My little charge -- who would barely reached my waist on his own hind legs -- wasn't the least bit frightened. In fact, he saw the poodle as a challenge.
When I pulled my little Bonaparte away from his nemesis, he promptly darted to the nearest tree. Keeping a firm eye on the poodle, he made four very deliberate passes against the trunk, squarely faced the poodle, lifted his leg, and pissed. Then, he turned his tail, kicked dirt in the poodle's general direction, and trotted to the next tree. If that wasn't a doggie "fuck you," then I don't know what is.
In general, all went well until Sunday morning. With Fyodor and Elle expected back that evening, I decided to start loading my own gear into my car, parked just around the corner. The dog and I had already taken our morning walk, but he is such a slut for the leash, that I decided to let him trot along with me.
To repeat: the car was just around the corner, so I left the windows to the townhouse open when we left. When we returned, a cop car sat out front. The officer stood in the driveway.
"Oh, shit!" I thought. "A burglar broke in. Fyodor and Elle will hate me."
"Is this your house?" the officer asked.
"No," I said, tightening my hold on the leash against the low pitched growl coming from somewhere near my ankles. "I'm just the dog sitter."
"Well, you shouldn't leave the windows open when you are away," he said.
"I was just going around the block for a minute," I said. "Did something happen?" The growl grew louder. I tugged the tightening leash behind me.
"Someone could break in," the officer said, and launched into a lecture on home safety and crime tips and so forth. "See up there?" The officer indicated the front window. "A thief could come out here with a painter's cap and a ladder and climb in."
Then, the dog bit the officer.
He used what little slack I had left in the leash, jumped forward, and chomped.
"Shit!" cried the cop.
"Shit!" said I.
"That little sonuvabitch bit me!" the cop said.
"Bad boy!" I said.
The cop lifted up the hem of his pants. No blood. Blood would have meant a fine.
"That's gonna bruise," I said. I lifted the hem of my own pants to show the bite-shaped bruises about a foot up my calf. "See, he got me too." I hoped my sympathy would defuse the situation.
It did not.
"Damn!" said the cop. "They need to get that dog a muzzle!"
"A muzzle?" I echoed, thinking, "Shit! Fyodor and Elle are not going to like this one bit."
"Yeah," said the cop. "A muzzle. He's too ferocious."
The cop's partner showed up at that point, and the two of them began to lecture me on home safety, crime precautions, and the dangers of a dog who might bite a kid and create a lawsuit.
"What's that dog's name?" asked the partner.
"Doobie," I said.
"Like the Doobie Brothers?" asked the partner.
"Um, yeah," I said. "Like the Doobie Brothers."
"They must be big fans of the Doobie Brothers," said the cop.
"Big fans," I said.
"Well the owners need to take that Doobie brother to the pound," the partner said. "He should be put down."
"Put down?" I echoed.
"Yeah," said the cop. "You can't have a ferocious beast like that running around."
"Shit!" I thought, "I've consigned their dog to death row. Fyodor and Elle are going to hate me. "
Eventually, after more lectures on home safety, crime precautions, and the dangers of a dog whom might bite a kid and create a lawsuit, I felt I had been dismissed. "We'll be back tonight to talk to the owners," both cops said.
Doobie and I went into the house.
The cops stuck around outside. Meanwhile, I remembered the drying leaf on the liquor cabinet. And the enormous hookah in the backyard. And the horticultural experiments that I knew were probably growing in the garden, but that I didn't want to investigate in the hopes of having some level of plausible deniability.
"Shit," I thought. "Not only have I consigned the dog to death row, but now I'm going to get them busted for possession. Fyodor and Elle will never speak to me again."
So, Doobie and I sat chastened and quiet for the rest of the day, hoping not to attract any more attention from the law, who continued to site outside for the next two hours.
Eventually, nature called. Doobie and I went out for a walk. I tried to give him some obedience lessons. He flunked. then, I practiced what I would tell Fyodor and Elle when they got home.
But, of course, given the clues about their lifestyle that slip out in this narrative, you can imagine that they were not the least bit upset (although I left out the officers' suggestion of putting down Doobie -- that was just too harsh). They found the whole story hilarious. I was still a bit worried about the kid issue, but they assured me that he only get toothy with intruders and people in uniform. The post man is his mortal enemy.
"Doooobie!" they chastised. Then they apologized profusely to me for the behavior of their pet. I apologized profusely for catching the attention of the cops by leaving open the window. "Like no one ever does that around here!" said Elle. "We do that all of the time!"
Summing it all up, I told them, "at least you will might have extra police protection for a while."
"By the way," I said, "if they ask, you are huge Doobie Brothers fans."
I'm a bit dubious about the safety of others while Doobie walks the streets -- and of Doobie, should he get toothy around another officer or someone who doesn't find charm in his chompers. He might need some intensive dog therapy about his uniform issues; but that's not my problem unless I watch him again.
The cops, incidentally, never returned.