Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Yorkshire on Oxford

“Just another strange day in paradise,” I said as we strolled down Oxford Lane.

Our twenty pound black Cocker Spaniel tugged hard at his leash, choking to get to the next tree, nearer yet another lingering delicious scent.

“You think he’ll ever learn to walk like a normal dog?” Jeanne asked.

“Doesn’t seem likely. It’s been years already,” I said.

We had rescued Jett from Orphans of the Storm. He generally behaved like a stuffed animal with a bladder, and needed only to be brought into the back yard for one stop to the count of twenty, emptying himself of a hot yellow stream. Then, back inside to sprawl on the couch, or in a comfy beam of sunshine on the dining room carpet. We rarely walked him.

“Oh great, look at this,” I said, motioning to an unfamiliar dog-walker with a retractable leash fully played out.

A crazed looking Yorkshire Terrier the size of a coffee cup darted left and right like a sweeper seeking mines. Twenty feet behind was his ditsy owner, striding like a hurried penguin on high-heeled slippers, an excited “dog person” eager to make a new friend. The dog was just an excuse to meet us and talk at us. These conversations are seldom much more than monologues that begin with, “Oh they want to be friends!”

Our dog was a runaway. He could never be taken off-leash without at least some risk of having him wind up back at Orphans. He was also fairly unpredictable when mixing with other dogs. We preferred to avoid encounters with strangers, both human and canine, for fear of what might happen.

We were completing our Saturday morning walk, enjoying the quiet and pleasant summer weather when “Gucci” and “Ditsy” approached on a rapid and clearly intentional vector in our direction, like a heat-seeking missive heading for a target. Jett was finishing up his business, and we were in recovery mode from the awkward inside-out bag poop retrieval protocol. It’s the one that results in a trophy swinging like a shrunken head in a plastic grocery sack at your side for the remainder of your walk.

“He doesn’t get along wi…” I tried to blurt as quickly as possible when I saw the crazed looking Yorkie headed for Jett. He decided to go nose-to-nose instead of the more usual nose-to-tail posture that always makes us laugh and go, “Eeewww.”

As the words left my mouth the woman on heels was spewing the usual friendless pick-up line about the kindly nature of her adorable little dog. His messy orange and brown top-knot made him look like he’d recently stuck his cute little tongue into an electric outlet.

Jett apparently thought him ridiculous looking as well. Or tasty and bite sized.

The two stood eye to eye for less time than it takes to say, “Your perception of dogs is about to change forever, and today is going to really suck.” Much, much less time.

The ferocious reflex with which two snarling masses of hair became one is not an image I will ever forget. The law of physics about two objects unable to occupy the same space at the same time ceased to apply, at least in the region of Jett’s fanged mouth, which entirely engulfed Gucci’s head.  Yes, little Gucci’s head was completely hidden, if you were to review National Geographic quality ultra slow-motion footage of the attack. That footage is stuck in my brain and continues to play back at the annoyingly slow speed characterized by horrifying events or periods of extreme pain.

Our adorably mellow stuffed animal proceeded to shake Gucci from the neck the way a panther whips its prey from side to side at break neck speed, and with force enough to, well, break a neck. Gucci’s body was limp and lifeless. I wondered about his last thoughts, peering the length of a long pink tongue down a darkened throat. Lights out.

“DROP IT!” I yelled repeatedly, shattering the Saturday morning silence, accompanied by a choir of screams from Ditsy, whose own head began to revolve and emit demonic accusations about our effing dog and other unintelligible exorcist-like ranting.

“SPIT HIM OUT!” I shouted, lifting Jett up by the leash like a reverse-motion gallows scene, rising from the ground, suspended by the neck at the end of his leash in a most uncomfortable manner.

My ploy worked. Gucci was dropped. I set Jett back down on all fours. He was choking a bit, but not much more than his usual gasping leash-walking vocalizations.

Gucci was in fact not dead. He scampered off-balance a few feet sideways, looking even more confused and crazed than normal, with a bit of blood and saliva complementing the natural earth tones of his complexion and Sassoon coiffure.

We were stunned into silence. Not so with Gucci’s mom, who was as talkative while cursing us to hell as she was when trying to make new friends.

“YOUR MOTHER F&$@er GOD DAMN s*#t dog OOOHHHH” she wailed. She scrambled through the grass, dropping to her knees and falling out of her slippers as she tried to comfort her ravaged puppy.

Neighbors quickly began to open front doors and emerge into the hellscape theater streetside, the way neighbors always do when fire trucks and ambulances stop down the street. But this was a much more intimate setting, on the parkway maintained by their landscaping crews, just off the asphalt where the Rockwell-esque Fourth of July parade passes with never a worry or a care.

“GOD F$#KING SUCKER – YOUR DOG…” she continued, quite un-lady-like and now barefoot as she proceeded to unfasten Gucci’s leash from his collar for some unknown reason.

Gucci saw a chance to escape from his nightmare and took it, full speed away from the lawn-based vivisection his morning had become.

“OOOOHHH, GU, HU HU CHI…” sobbed his liberator, bounding to her feet and giving chase straight across the street, two lawns and into…

“He’s going into our back yard!” said Jeanne.

“Oh crap, where are the kids?” I asked, and then I saw them staring out the patio sliders at the commotion, wide-eyed and clearly scarred for life.

We were left holding a dog, a bag of poop and what was left of our dignity on our neighbor’s lawn in an area of strangely matted grass, a bit of blood and two eastward facing high-heeled slippers. I remember choking back a laugh, immensely relieved that Gucci was alive, but struck by the absurdity of the scene, the inappropriate outburst from our new “friend” and the realization that it was indeed going to be a strange day in paradise.