A Dog’s Life
The vegan man, the ‘Meat is Murder’ guy on the boardwalk, scoffed when I let my dog pee on a lamppost. Under his breath he mumbled, “People used to be able to sit there.” And I wanted to ask, “Really? When? When did dogs not pee in Venice?” At the same time, I understood. I now look at all patches of grass as suspect, not as a place to roll around and allow the blades to tickle the undersides of your legs like I did as a child in blissful naiveté.
But what am I to do? Our condo association recently requested that residents not let their dogs pee in the front yard. As a dog owner I acknowledged that I couldn’t vote fairly on the matter. I like the convenience of strolling out the front door, dog off leash, and allowing him to use the front yard as his own. Yes, I come with baggie in hand and clean up, but I also understand that this doesn’t leave the grounds sanitary enough to allow for a barefoot journey over the small patch of grass.
In compliance with the new mandate of my neighbors, I now escort Speck down to the boardwalk for more than the midday walk. This pleases my neighbor, Mike, who assumed those of us who used the front yard were just lazy. I like Mike, so I concede to ‘occasionally lazy,’ but won’t wear the lazy hat for when I return home after 11:00 p.m. and don’t feel up for a walk in the less than tame parts of my neighborhood. And then there’s the early morning, before-school rush that falls on my son’s shoulders. Maybe a little lazy, but mostly just overextended.
But now the Meat is Murder guy, who puts up animal torture posters that force me to look away, gives me the evil eye, and I want to declare my vegetarian status, but I also want to say something about my questioning of how much he loves the animals. It’s kind of like anti-abortionists who drop the ball once the kid is born. You can’t have it both ways.
At the same time, he does force me to think. I wonder where we should allow our dogs to go, those of us who don’t have private yards to defile. In typical suburban neighborhoods you have that no man’s land patch of grass between sidewalk and curb, a stretch that could easily be renamed ‘public dog toilet.’ But my slice of Venice doesn’t have that. We have cement walkstreets where the dogs mark every wall announcing their daily walk to their peers, leaving little patchy stains on gates and entryways. I try to deter my dog from this practice and move him towards the generic lamppost, but it gets hard. I want him to be able to communicate with his friends.
But I also want to be a good neighbor and responsible pet owner, and I’m left not knowing how. When I lived in London for a spell for an editing job, I frequented Holland Park. There, amidst the loveliness of peacocks and sculptured landscapes, the city offered a patch of dirt officially labeled “Dog Toilet.” Taken by this act of civility, I snapped several photos to share with friends back home, and I would have had I not been mugged weeks before the end of the job resulting in the loss of not only my camera but a healthy chunk of change. So much for civility.
Perhaps I should have boldly asked Meat is Murder what I should do. I suspect he may have an opinion or two.