"The Definitive Piece"
I don't know why we called him Murphy." He's a Puli", we boasted, thinking we impressed with reference to such an exotic pedigree. Actually, Muffadog was just a shaggy all-American mutt with gray hair skirting to the ground and bangs that completely obscured his eyes- lovable fluff.
He did, in truth, exhibit one characteristic of Hungarian purebloods. He was fierce. On the leash, he felt duty-bound to protect, and attacked any other dog that crossed our path. This he did in the manner of a berserker, going completely wild and transforming himself from an adorable fur-ball into a snarling dervish. This behavior kept one on his toes. No dog was too big for Murphy; even getting ripped did not deter his fury. It was for these reasons that my parents decided that taking him out was a perfect job for an otherwise useless, but strapping, teenager.
I became a regular member of theeast thirty-third street dog walking society. This block, which lay in the afternoon shadow of the EmpireStateBuilding, was a favorite for dog walkers. Across the street was a block-long commercial building; while adjacent to my building was an armory. Since neither of these was residential, dog owners from around could walk their pets, and leave their "business" on my block, like cheaters hiding guilt.
At the time, you were supposed to "curb your dog"; meaning, drag the darling beast into the gutter as soon as you perceived the magic moment had arrived. Because, then as now, touch-tone parking was the rule, and there wasn't even an inch between parked cars, this act of social obligation was impossible to perform. As a result, my sidewalk became, to a larger degree than most others in midtown, a veritable minefield of little doggy "presents".
The bards, lamenting that contemporary city dwellers were distinguished by a certain "downcast air", erred when they ascribed this "looking down" to the pressures and meaninglessness of modern life. In truth, this quality was a mark of urban sophistication-derived from our curiously attenuated relationship with nature.
Two qualities distinguished a sophisticated native New Yorker in those days. The first was the riveted attention given to sidewalks as one executed an exquisite minuet through the hundreds of plops, piles, mounds and puddles of excrement decorating each and every block. The second was the suave attitude we dog walkers adopted for ourselves. This consisted of the urbane aplomb with which we greeted the bent noses and hairy eyeballs from other pedestrians when they observed our precious charges "in the act". "What", our posture demanded, "are you looking at"? For the life of us, we could not acknowledge what these hostile mugs were trying to bring our attention to.
As on any uncivilized frontier, the ladies of society eventually caught up with this crappy exposition of individual liberty, and sought to bring dog owners to heel. These initial efforts were met with the typical brutish response.
It was the usual drama. In the first act, people simply denied there was a problem. No one, it seemed, could see what all the fuss was about. The initial response was to deny. "Poop? What Poop?" was the incredulous cry.
This was followed by ad hominem attacks on those ladies suggesting that cleanliness should be established. Don't these "do-gooders" have anything else to do? How dare these "dried up old bags", these liberal pansies, these lesbians, deign to interfere with the primordial prerogatives of society! "Outside" had always been the place where our waste had been thrown; if it was good enough for the renaissance, the enlightenment, and our founders, why wasn't it good enough for these fruitcakes?
Next, the plight of the working stiff was invoked. After all, how can we ask over-tasked sanitation workers to cart away all those baggy-filled garbage cans? Arise, workers! (Talk about "bushwa crap")
Finally, canine rights were asserted. Was it not cruelty to animals to follow around behind these savage innocents with little bags and then steal their markings? Was society prepared to be responsible for the psychological damage being contemplated against our four-legged friends?
Murphy had long been snugly ensconced on a comfy cloud in Doggie Heaven when, fifteen years later, the petticoat posse forced this mental rubbish to finally give way to sanity. After the problem so many pretended not to see had grown to over one hundred tons per day, New York City finally passed an ordinance demanding that people pick up after their pets. Today, people being what they are, New Yorkers boast blithely of the new dimensions in animal care that they pioneered.
Don't get the wrong idea. I don't miss those fragrant times, hop-scotching my way around town. In fact, I would never think about it at all if it wasn't for the current constipated discussion over global warming