Thursday, January 15, 2009

We spend our second night at Elaine's sister's place in Thetford, Vt and my second early morning walk took place in three degrees with the wind blowing, bracing. About a mile out a dog in a decidedly proprietary frame of mind came out to his road to let me know where my boundaries were. We had a little chat and although I think we both knew I was presenting the more reasonable argument, he managed to carry the day and sent me on my way without doing any damage although his saliva was frozen on both pant cuffs when I got back.

Later that day we headed for New York City. Our first clue that red suspenders were not the unifrom of the day came when the nice Jamaican lady at the Henry Hudson toll booth glanced in at me and queried rhetorically, "You ain't from around here are ya?", in a pretty convincing Maine accent, better than Brother John's.

Mia, hosting us in her lovely 18th floor apartment on Riverside Drive, assured me that red suspenders were all the range among Manhattan professionals and that I shouldn't concern myself with the ticket taker's assessment and so off we went to a nice Trukish restaurant with no change in attire. The Maitre'd did observe that I had two women in tow and politely asked if it was the suspenders that made that possible but aside from being offered a bib I could not see that I was treated any differently from the other diners.

My third morning walk resulted again in encounters with dogs but the similarity between these and the Vermont or Vinalhaven canines with which I was familiar did not extend beyond four legs and a tail. Every species of dog known to man, I'm quite sure, has a relative on West End Avenue between 85th Street and the area around Columbia University and they all have the most becoming outfits. Nearly all had sweaters, many with matching hats, some had booties and at least one had Yak Trax. It was around twenty degrees and snowing lightly, very slippery walking. Nonetheless, dogs have to go in the morning and there is a big distinction between what happens on an island in Penobscot Bay when someone like Gigi asks, "Reuben, do you have to go out?", and when the same query is delivered on this island in the East River. The more fortunate of these NY dogs were being led about by a comfortably attired professional dog walker, usually in the company of others of its species so it got a little social interaction, and taken for a meaningful jaunt, several blocks. The only stops were for the walker to pick up droppings and for the dogs to pee, one after another, on the wheels of selected parked vehicles or, with particular interest, on the discarded Christmas trees waiting to be picked up later that day and which would, we discovered, return as urine infused mulch in the spring. A fully engaged professional dog walker is a remarkable thing to behold. With as many as six dogs of all sizes, each on a separate leash, all held in one hand, and a big plastic bag full of poop in the other, she, most were women, manages to keep them all companionable and out of the way of pedestrians and other dogs while stopping as required to pick up droppings of every size and consistency, this while her other dogs and the dogs of other walkers are easily as interested in the deposits as she is.

The less fortunate are in the company of inadequately dressed owners, who can't afford a walker, who have lost interest in their pets, who only want to get back inside, who are dragged about by their dogs, dogs which, while not in nice outfits, still have better traction than their humans who are often still in slippers and even pajamas in spite of the slippery conditions
and who only grow more impatient as their charges take too long to do what needs to be done.

In nearly every case though, the dogs seemed to take a fancy to my own outfit; my red suspenders met with universal approval.

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