"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.
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