Little Dogs, Big City
Imagine two little dogs living in a fairytale land or, rather, Northern California, where pets get respect, organic kibble, and aromatherapy treatments. "Good morning, Sticky and Larry, what big ears you have," the lady who owns the card store says, offering them biscuits as they walk by. "And where are you off to today?"
Sometimes the answer is to the park. Other days, they're taking a hike. The two little papillons (the name is French for "butterfly") have huge ears that flutter like wings as they chase bunnies and ladybugs.
Rumor has it that Marie Antoinette carried her beloved papillon as she walked to the guillotine, and certainly Sticky is regal enough to be comfortable living at court. She lifts her back legs off the ground to balance, teetering on her front paws, whenever she relieves herself. This looks like a circus trick, but it keeps her feet dry. Larry, a puppy with a tough-guy swagger and a five-pound body, growls at dogs 10 times his weight and dangles a mini-rawhide like a cigarette from his clenched black lips.
Life is idyllic, except for a couple of teeny, tiny behavior issues. If we leave them home alone, the two dogs sit on the back of the sofa and look out the window, barking loudly at passersby. When the neighborhood dog hater, Tina (aka my best friend), can't take the noise anymore, she comes into the house to try to calm them.
Other than that, everything is perfect. But there comes a page in every storybook when life takes a dark turn. Poor Sticky and Larry: One day, a witch casts an evil spell. The witch (their owner, otherwise known as me) plans to imprison the two little white dogs inside scary plastic crates and send them into the bowels of an airplane. Several hours later the plane will land in a far-off land of gray concrete and leaden humidity -- New York City in summer. This will be their new home.
How can pets who are as high maintenance as Sticky and Larry survive the shock without dog doses of Valium?
"It won't be that bad," insists my friend Dave, who lives in New York City with his dog, a scrappy terrier named Nigel. The two of us are sitting on my front stoop a few nights before the move. I am telling Dave how I have rented an apartment with the thickest, most siren-muffling walls I can find. It is near a park, on the ninth floor of an old, prewar building, but a "pet clause" in the lease specifies no barking, whining, or other unsociable behavior.
"I'll probably get evicted," I predict.
Dave thinks about this. Then he says, in a comforting tone, "One time I was at a sidewalk café when a woman with a little Pomeranian walks by." I feel a glimmer of hope because having a Pomeranian in the city is, after all, not that different from having a papillon.
"And then," Dave continues, "this other guy comes down the sidewalk with a pit bull. Big dog, studded collar. And as the pit bull walks by, the woman screams -- her Pomeranian is gone! The pit bull snapped it up, like an appetizer." Dave claps his hands and makes a chomping sound, just as Larry comes trotting toward us. He has a teddy bear in his mouth: He looks like a stuffed animal carrying a stuffed animal.