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Like most loyal Americans, I own a dog.

Actually, the dog is a byproduct of my wife and son’s desire to have a dog. I remained ambivalent about the creatures after our Chihuahua passed away two summers ago. This was a mathematical function, rather than an emotional one. At the risk of sounding coarse, my evaluation rested on the probability of my son walking the dog in January in Seattle when the Sun Doesn’t Also Rises and it’s super grey and 38 degrees and raining and I wish people who want to live here would come to check it out only in January because it’s largely unappealing and then they won’t be all complainy when The Rains Come. 

Then again, sometimes it rains through June, which is markedly worse, so maybe they should come in January. 

Back to the math; I determined my son’s dog-walking-probability to be -0.0000009%. Thus, I didn’t want the dog. 

But the dog, he dideth arriveth, last June. I will not tell you histh name, for that will give you power over him, like with a witch in the days of old. Okay, his name is Benji. Like the hero-ish dog from the 70’s. I still have the book.

In all fairness, my wife is great at contributing to the dog walking. I’ll evaluate my son with a soft “ok.” 

So the dog worships my wife, likes my son, and views me with what can only be described as a “oh-there’s-the-guy-who-occassionally-feeds-me-and-does-the-morning-walk-in-the-cold” ambivalence. I can see it in his eyes. 


Here’s the thing. When I walk him, all he does is sniff, and pee. Like, that’s it, he doesn’t move. We could be gone for 30 minutes and I’ll only have walked one block, as calculated by the nine times we treaded back and forth across the northwest corner of the sidewalk in front of our house. I’ve never encountered this before, I’m worried he has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. 

What’s worse is, if we happen to make it a smidge down the block, I’m left loitering in front of my neighbors’ houses as Benji just kind of exists on the end of the leash in their grass, ostensibly sniffing. When it’s 7:15 a.m. I can’t help but think I look like a criminal pervert of some sort. This doesn’t happen in front of my house, I don’t see some guy standing on my front lawn for 22 minutes, EVER. Three minutes, sure, thus I’m not concerned. 

I make a very concerted effort to NOT look at the structure, and definitely not the windows, while this is happening. I just look down at the ground, or up at the drizzling sky, or at a leaf, whatever, anything but in/at someone’s house for fear of having to explain myself to the police. “It’s my dog officer, all he does is sniff.” 

The rub is, if I walk him with my wife or especially my son, he goes ballistic, like he’s trying out for the Iditarod. He’s the most athletic dog in the city when they’re around, and I’m sure someone out there is putting two and two together, testing the heft of their favorite bat and setting it by their front door for the next time I’m standing on their lawn like a potential pervert with this unmoving fuzzball. 

Here’s the other thing, he doesn’t just pee, he pees 72 times in the course of our 30-minute ordeal. He’ll pee on anything. He pees on any grass blade that exceeds the uniform height of neighboring grass blades. He pees on those “Slow Down, Children At Play” signs, which our neighborhood is covered in to the point that it must look completely neon yellow from an airplane. He pees on innocent children’s toys, typically dump trucks and tricycles. What kind of animal does that? 

Worst of all, you know those people who invest tens of thousands of dollars to make their (city owned) parking strips elaborate gardens with water features, rockery, sculptures, metalwork and very expensive and sensitive-looking plants (pansies, rosemary, lavender, roses are a few, the rest look exotic and I certainly have forgotten my botany but you get the idea)? Well, consider it all soaked in my dog’s urine. My life is literally in his paws as I sit there sweating and guiltily swiveling my neck while he does his dirty business, anticipating an enraged, indebted garden hobbyist to come screaming out of their house brandishing a hoe or a scythe or a spray can of Miracle Gro aimed at my face.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Just pull him away. He’s not big, but definitely obstinate. I’ll admit sometimes I’ve spaced out due to extreme boredom, only to finally realize in horror that his leg is up and things are flowing on somebody’s Rainbow Vegetable Street Garden. He’s not big, but it’s still like dragging a sack of flour with real grippy claws across concrete with a string. 

Which reminds me, is it bad that, overall, he decides where we go? I let him pull me around? Oh my God, is this a metaphor for my life? Don’t answer that. Just forget I said anything. 

The last straw came the other day when I was in front of My Very Successful Neighbor’s house. This neighbor is a handsome, fit, strapping, new-car-driving, newly-house-built-living PUBLISHED CHILDREN’S AUTHOR (I’m not jealous). My son read his books and is better for it. He’s nice. (I’m not jealous). His wife is nice. I’m sure they dial “9” then “1” every time I’m in front of their house with my slow dog, ready to hit the other “1” unless I leave, breathing a sigh of relief when I do. 

This house has a patch of fake grass in front of it. Very expensive looking, well-installed fake grass. It’s like a beacon for my dog, and must be a virtual diuretic because no matter how many times he’s gone it’s like the dam breaks and oh boy does he have some pee to soak this fake grass with yessir. I’ve remained vigilant for DAYS, countless DAYS, and there I was, lulled into a state of relaxed bliss because the sun came out (last sighted, September 9th, 2019) and I was literally turning my face up to embrace it’s warmth when I heard a child scream, then sob and cry.

There was the cute, perfect son of this cute perfect author, crying because his (likely favorite) play-place was being doused with an unusually robust dose of Benji urine. 

We made eye contact, and I felt so bad, then the kid skiddaddled back inside, hopefully not saying anything to his parents. 

I, myself, wanted to run away. But I had to wait for Benji to pull me in the right direction.

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