I have two dogs. One’s made of metal and the other’s made of stone. The dog made of stone, which we’ve had for years, sits in our garden, beside a turtle, which is also made of stone, but it’s painted green. The stone dog is just stone-colored. I think he’s shaped to look like a basset hound. I have never given him a name.
The dog made of metal, which I’ve owned only a few months, is an indoor dog.
Indoor dogs, you give names to. I named mine Mickey. Mickey stands by my chair. I pet him as I watch TV.
Mickey’s a skinny dog of uncertain lineage, white with brown spots, an alert stance and a tail curling permanently in the air. Mickey’s very smooth, now even more so, because of the petting.
That is my entire history with dogs.
Last weekend, we were eating at our favorite restaurant, called Pizzicotto. I have never had a bad meal there. Everything is fresh and delicious.
Pizzicotto is owned by two Italian sisters. When they run out of ideas for new soups and “specials”, they call relatives in Italy for suggestions. You can’t get those amazing dishes anywhere else. I guess other restaurants don’t know those relatives. And the relatives they know don’t cook as well. It's also possible they don't know anybody in Italy.
My seat that day gives me a view of the street. There are a few tables set up outside. It’s a nice day, and people are eating at them.
Suddenly, something unusual happens. Police arrive, and they handcuff a man who was eating outside. They then walk him away from the restaurant window, so we can’t see them anymore.
What we can see is the man’s dog. A skinny, young-looking, white dog, tied by his leash to a parking meter pole directly in front of me.
The dog is going nuts.
His master has just been carted away, and he’s really upset. Maybe he’s concerned for the master – I don’t know how dogs think – but I do know he’s alone. An abandoned, frightened puppy.
The dog tugs furiously at his leash. His eyes look terrified. His tail’s whipping around a mile a minute. His mouth opens plaintively. But he doesn’t bark.
A waiter from the restaurant, who apparently knows the arrested man, goes out to try and calm the dog down. He carries out some water, sloshing in a metal take-out container. The dog refuses to calm down. And he doesn’t drink the water.
The waiter re-enters the restaurant, saying he’s going to call someone he thinks will take care of the dog while the police situation is worked out. Meanwhile, the dog continues yanking at his leash and behaving upset.
To my surprise, I’m getting upset too.
Passersby are stopping to try and comfort the dog, but the dog pays no attention to them. They then continue on their way.
I decide that I want to go out there. Dr. M, a regular viewer of The Dog Whisperer, dispenses some tips. Ease into it. Establish contact in stages. Then sit down beside the dog, and gradually take control.
I give it a shot. Following instructions, I feign disinterest. Then I slowly back up towards the dog. The dog comes over. I wait. No eye contact. Finally, I say hello. Slowly, we begin to connect. I sit down on the sidewalk. I start petting the dog.
The dog calms down.
A woman passes by, inquires what’s going on. I tell her the story. Police took the dog’s owner away, and left the dog behind. “That’s a terrible story,” she says angrily. “It’s ruined my entire day.” And then she goes off.
A young policewoman returns to find out what plans have been made for the dog.
Her gun is holstered not on her side, but in front, the way Bat Masterson wore his gun on television. I ask her what will happen if nobody comes from the dog.
“He’ll be taken to the pound,” she replies courteously. “If there’s no problem, he can be picked up from there in three or four days.”
What if there is a problem? I don’t ask that, but I think it. When I’m concerned by what the answer might be, I rarely ask the question out loud. The possibilities are too painful.
Finally, it’s time for me to go. I say good-bye to the dog, and get up from the pavement. There’s a reassurance from the waiter that the dog won’t have to go to the pound. A friend of the owner’s has agreed to pick him up after work. I let the matter go. As the Lone Ranger used to say, “My job here is done.”
I go home. But remain worried.
You never have to worry about dogs made of metal or dogs made of stone.