Sun, 09 Oct 2011 06:05:21 +0000

If you're walking a dog in New York, people feel like they can approach you and ask about your dog. And if your dog happens to be cute and white, they think you will be friendly and sociable.

I'm usually pretty good at those things. I can say smile. I can say hi. I can even ask what kind of breed your dog is, because that's the universal way of expressing interest in your dog. But when it's 6:30 a.m. and my dog won't poop, I don't care what breed your dog is, unless it can fart doggy Metamucil.

So I'm cranky in the morning when I walk Rainbow, which is why I was a complete jerk to the elderly man I met a year ago. He had two skinny dogs of his own. They had rhyming names. I don't remember them.

But I was also a jerk to him because, when he saw Rainbow, he would say, "Hi little girl, I'd treat you so well if you came home with me." This was creepy.

In addition, he had long white hair; he wore a fisherman's vest and a hunting cap. Every time he walked by, he asked about Rainbow, and then he carried on a conversation for several minutes about his dogs, as if we were two parents talking about our kids.

At first, he was nice and I feigned interest. But he was taking up 10 minutes of my mornings — every morning — so I tried to get up earlier and earlier so I could avoid him. However, he was always there. I saw him every freaking morning.

So I started to make excuses to end our conversations, and when those excuses became repetitive, I think he got the hint that I wasn't interested in talking. After a few months, we just exchanged polite head nods. Nothing more.

That was perfectly fine with me. His dogs were smelly. So was he.

But then this summer I moved to a new place a few blocks away, so I stopped running into him entirely. I thought that was that. But today I saw him again.

He was standing in line at Tompkins Square Park, where they hand out hot meals. His dogs were with him, of course. And when he got his serving, he quietly walked to a bench and fed the first several bites of rice and beans to the dogs. And when they were done, he threw away the trash and laid down on a bench. His dogs snuggled underneath.

The more I walk my dog, the more I'm convinced that people aren't talking to me because of my dog. They are talking to me because, sometimes, they just really want to talk to someone, and a cute, white, fluffy animal is a perfect excuse.