Monday, December 03, 2007

Pleasures of the Season

It snowed in NYC yesterday, actually accumulating a bit, unusual for this time of year. It was almost completely gone by the afternoon, but it still delighted me. I love this season. Crass commercialism, Christmas decorations going up the day after Halloween, insipid holiday songs playing in every public venue, none of it bugs me, even if I don't exactly rejoice in all of it either. Okay, I LOVE the decorations, especially the lights that go up on everything here. I'm attracted to bright shiny things. But then you knew that.

A recent addition to my list of Winter pleasures though is the sight of Coltrane in his booties. Coltrane, for those who haven't yet met him, is my roommate's miniature long-haired, brindled dachshund. When I worked as a dog-walker I learned to expand my affections to small dogs, but Coltrane is the first one I've actually come to love. As a side note, I recommend having a roommate who has a pet. It gives you all the fun and none of the responsibility or expense of living with an animal. This is the third time I've had it happen.

Coltrane and I do have our problems. He's pretty barky, like all his tribe of course, and I find the sound particularly ear-splitting. Soon after he moved in, I was painting a mask, deep in the flow, having forgotten there was a dog in the apartment, let alone nestled at my feet, when Coltrane suddenly felt the need to comment on something. My blue sweat shirt now has a white smear on one shoulder as a record of this event, one that was to be repeated on many occasions, in a variety of ways.

Frequent causes for commentary are our buzzer and doorbell. When we are actually expecting someone, it's not so bad; he gets to run out the door to the top of the stairs with his tail going like a propeller, where he will wait quietly to greet the arrival. More of a problem is when the buzzer is clearly not for us. I'm sure this is familiar to most city apartment dwellers; frequently strangers will buzz all the apartments at once hoping someone will let them in without requiring them to identify themselves. It's pretty easy to tell when this is happening, so Tommy and I will ignore it. Coltrane, however, does understand this distinction, and without his race to the door and expectant wait on the landing, never gets closure. So he'll bark ecstatically, stop briefly when we ask him to, start up again, eventually subsiding into single barks for a while, like a smoke alarm with a dying battery.

Anytime he's been away from this apartment for a few days, Coltrane has to reacquaint himself with all the regular sounds of our building. This means that for at least a day he'll find it necessary to keep me informed of ALL buzzers in the building, other dogs barking in the vicinity, people whistling on the street, random molecules colliding in the downstairs neighbor's kitchen, people inhaling deeply on the first floor, everything. If anyone in the building has a visitor, a package, or food delivery, I hear about it.

"I don't care if they're having visitors!" I explain. "I don't need to know they got Chinese food!" He looks sorrowfully at me, emitting a few more barks until he winds down. He knows I hate the barking; sometimes I'll watch him bark, then get an expression like he's thinking "dammit, dammit, dammit," but he's battling god only knows how many generations of breeding. I try to keep that in mind too, once I've recovered from the infarct. He usually calms down after a day or two.

Except for the wall and floor licking. Did I mention the licking? No? Well, when Coltrane is anxious or excited, he licks the walls and floors. And he gets anxious or excited a lot. It all started when he was a puppy, and Tommy would use a laser pointer to create a spot of light that Coltrane would chase frantically, yipping and squealing, and the way he 'caught' it would be to lick where it had been. Now it's become something more. If Tommy does anything that could be mistaken for packing, Coltrane freaks out, wondering if Tommy is about to leave, and if he's going to get along, and 'if so, will there be other dogs there, or maybe some cats, I like cats, dogs are cool too, and will they like to play or am I going to have to tip-toe around them because they're cranky and territorial.'.. so he licks. Another occasion that can prompt the licking is TV sports. He and Tommy are big sports fans, the Colts and Mets in particular; they both have sweatshirts in their honor. They show their passion differently though. When Tommy cheers, Coltrane yips and runs to the hallway, his location of choice for the licking, and starts the waterworks. We regularly have to wash the hallway walls at dachshund height, to get rid of a thick line of grunge plastered there. Then there are the puddles on the floor; you'd think that since we both let him lick our faces, encountering some saliva on the floor wouldn't be so bad, and if it were just a bit, I suppose it wouldn't be. Coltrane really applies himself when he gets going though, so it's more like hitting an oil slick.

Don't let me give you the wrong impression, however. I do love Coltrane, he's really great company, especially when it comes to taking naps or watching TV. More than once I've allowed my legs to go numb because moving them would have disturbed him sleeping like a button in my lap. It's a problem when he hears Tommy coming home though, because then Coltrane launches himself off my crotch to race to the door. Most of the time I'm willing to pay that price, though, since he makes the same fuss over me when I come home. Whether I've been gone for a month, or ten minutes, he makes me feel like a rock star. I gotta say, that's nice to come home to. Sure he greets almost everyone who walks in the door this way, but that doesn't make it any less sincere.

He's also got some of the greatest ears, and they're surprisingly versatile. He is fond of tossing one of them insouciantly over his head, turned inside out, in what I've come to think of as his Cyndi Lauper look, circa Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. This led me to explore some other ear-styles as well; two of my favorites are the Bunny Rabbit (or the Really Surprised Dachshund) and Gary Oldman as Dracula. I'll get photos one of these days. I'm not sure Coltrane cares all that much for the ear-styling, but since he's the roughly the size and weight of a loaf of wonder bread, he's long since come to terms with the fact that he doesn't have a lot of say in the matter. He may not respond to it with much enthusiasm, but he accepts the primping with resignation.

But I still haven't gotten to the booties. When it snows, all the supers on this block salt the hell out of the sidewalks, and that stuff burns dogs' paws. Tommy has tried a number of protective methods, but the most effective has proven to be these bright red rubber booties that slip over Trane's paws.

The dog loves them just as much as you would expect. When he first gets them on, he'll stand with one paw off the ground, clearly wishing he could figure out a way to do the same with all four. Yesterday Tommy got him suited up, then called him to the front door. Trane looked mournful and refused to move from his pose, right front paw lifted, like a tiny little pointer. Calling and coaxing got us nowhere, so naturally Tommy turned to the usual motivator, a treat. This had the desired effect; Coltrane did move.

I thought Tommy was going to have to sedate me. Coltrane looked like a Lipizzaner Stallion. A stumpy-legged, short-necked Lipizzaner Stallion. With long ears, which naturally were held at the "why yes, I'd LOVE a treat" angle. Prance prance prance, only two paws touching the floor at any one moment, the ones in the air pulled as high as he could get them, and since the booties are bright red, the whole situation had a jaunty, festive air. I felt like I was watching one of the weirdest circus acts ever. Just about killed me.

Yes, I know Coltrane hates the damn things. It's not nice to laugh at the suffering of others. I'm a terrible, horrible person. But dear god, the prancing. I didn't know anything with legs that short could prance. I'm tempted to get video of it, but something tells me it has to be seen live to be truly appreciated. Maybe no one besides sick fucks like me and Tommy would find it funny, but it's given me a whole new reason to love snow in the city.


john said...

The sights and sounds of Christmas decorations always put me in a festive mood.

Coltrane sounds like an awesome pet. I'm not one for pets, but as you said, if the pet belongs to someone else, I don't mind having the animal around.

I think it would be interesting to get a video of this prance.

somewhere joe said...

ROFL! I think I want a Coltrane. Or at least a roommate with a Coltrane.

My neighbor had a dachshund - personality personified! They are irresistible. I've seen that "booty prance" too and know exactly what you're talking about. Cats do it too. It must have to do with the booties giving the same sensation as having stepped in something. Absolutely hilarious.

"He is fond of tossing one of them insouciantly over his head, turned inside out, in what I've come to think of as his Cyndi Lauper look..." Stop already! ,oD

Sooo-this-is-me said...

I think with little dogs, that high pitched constant barking is their way of getting back at mankind for taking something as beautiful as the wolf and breeding it down to the point of wearing little red booties!


tornwordo said...

What a lovely ode to Coltrane. I can't let spouse read this, as I want a mini dasch for my next dog. If he hears about the barking, he'll nix it for sure.

Cooper said...

Patrick, I am in a fit of giggles here! LOVE this post. Booty dance ... Cyndi Lauper look! It's so true ... I, too, feel like a star when Molly launches into an ecstacy of greeting the moment I get home. I am going to keep the image of Coltrane and his little red riding paws in my mind as I bake Christmas cookies today. Irresistible.

Cooper said...

Oh, and I just started singing an impromptu version of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (which we watched last night)... "Coltrane the Red Pawed Daschund" ... Yeah I know ... I'm a bit goofy sometimes ...

Patrick said...

John, I'll have to see if I can get a video camera at some point. I wonder if everyone will have a "guess ya had to be there" reaction.

Joe, I've had several friends comment on the fact that while they don't care for little dogs, Coltrane has so much personality that he seems to be an exception. I had the same reaction, obviously. I wonder if it is an aspect of their breed? My sister thinks so (and she's mostly a big dog person too). She mentioned specifically the twinkling little walk they have when they're glad to see you.

Steven, if you think the booties are bad, you'd HATE his sweatshirt. I kind of do too, actually. Well, I feel bad for him when he's wearing one of his (yes he has more than one) coats or sweaters. The raincoat I get a bit more, because it goes all around his body, the streets outside our place are filthy, and he's a low rider.

Tornwordo, I won't say a peep. I really am glad he lives here now. The whole atmosphere of the place changes when he's home. I think the licking is his own neurosis (and he is VERY neurotic), but the barking probably can only be mitigated.

First of all, glad you're back, Cooper. I'm not sure which I liked better, little red riding paws, or Coltrane the red-pawed dachshund. They both have me giggling.

Paws is actually a funny word, isn't it. Not so much by itself, I guess, but when something is added to it, it's funny. Paddy Paws. Prancy Paws. It's the P, I guess.

I'm a big fan of silliness. There's not enough of it. Care to share the rest of the lyrics to your song, or did it not go further than the first line?

Patrick said...
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