Yesterday, J.F. informed me that while he enjoyed the skateboarding dog video and the snow excursions very much, he suggested that since so many readers of the book have expressed such delight in my canine observations that I should share some of them here with the wider world. This material, he said, should be taken from what publishing wonks like to call the “sacred innards” of a book even if my publisher, or my publisher’s lawyer, tells me not to (J.F. has instructed me to take the phone off the hook and run away from process servers). So please accept the following free excerpt from A Dog About Town. In this scene, I visit a Manhattan dog run with Harry, my owner. In keeping with my philosophical temperament, I reflect upon dogs, their owners and a dog’s nose before my ranging meditations are once again interrupted by the plot of this book that is both a mystery and a comedy (here’s two recent blog reviews http://www.gather.com/viewArticle.jsp?articleId=281474977243423 and http://fiftybooksproject.blogspot.com/2008/02/dog-about-town-by-j-f-englert.html; and Luvmutt is running a contest: http://www.luvmutt.com/blog/2008/02/contest-let-sle.html). Enjoy:
The purpose for most canine outings in New York City is bodily necessity. You can tell a lot about a dog by the way he or she approaches a Number 1 and a Number 2. There are, for example, the Zigzag Dumpers for whom a Number 2 is impossible if not preceded by a pell-mell dash through the undergrowth with their owners either leashed in tow or shouting from a quarter of a mile away. Then there are the Squat-and-Drops. Squat-and-Drops never stand on ceremony. They couldn’t care less who was in the immediate vicinity. When they need to do their business, there is no stopping them. A New York dog run has all kinds. Plenty of Zigzag Dumpers and Squat-and-Drops, of course, but also the more demure Foliage-Finders, who refuse to be seen in process; the picky Asphalt-Onlys (real city dogs), who never go on grass or dirt; and their opposites, the Earth-Onlys, who never go on the asphalt. It is tempting to be breedist, assume a bulldog will be a Squat-and-Drop and a poodle a Foliage-Finder, but this would be a mistake.
The Squat-and-Drops were out in full force when Harry and I arrived at the dog run. A hyperactive greyhound raced between legs in an attempt to harass an Alsatian; an anorexic toy poodle fresh from the dog show circuit shivered in the chill night air beneath a custom-made cashmere sweater.
Owners fall into categories just as easily as their pets. There seem to be two major pet-owning characters: the Apologizers and the Apologists. The Apologizers take the blame for everything their dog does or does not do. They do so vocally and with body language, usually sweeping gestures of surprise and shrinking postures of shame. The Apologizer seems shocked that his or her dog would push through the legs of a crowd at the intersection or do a Number 2 right in the middle of the street. The Apologist is the exact opposite. He –it’s usually a he— seems to take pride when his hundred-pound junkyard dog mounts someone’s long-haired Chihuahua or gobbles down a child’s ice cream. The Apologist’s animal is like a surrogate free spirit that keeps the owner safely removed from the bad behavior while permitting him to strut the streets of Manhattan with caveman bravado.
Harry let me off my leash and I snuffled around an oak tree, drawing the layers of smell deep in my olfactories. Ah, a dog’s nose in the dirt. If I begin to wax about this wonder, I might not stop and there is a story to tell. I was about to push my snout beneath another root in search of a smell trail richer and more beguiling than the bouquet of a fine burgundy wine when Harry began to shout.
“Randolph, we’ve got trouble.”