Dogs Don’t Send Flowers

When my dog was a year and a half old I discovered that he needed sex. Like a good master, I tried to obtain female services for him, but my efforts resulted in failure. My frustration level was probably growing higher than his, but it was hard to tell. After all, Pard didn’t look up suddenly from gnawing a bone and say: ‘Master, master, this deprivation is killing me.’ In general, though, our relationship was satisfactory. Pard followed the basic hygiene rules indoors. He even allowed me to slip newspaper under him outdoors, when he squatted for doggie business. I expressed my appreciation for not having to carry a cumbersome pooper scooper, or messy plastic baggies, by liberally distributing dog yummies whenever he cooperated. It was an excellent arrangement that benefited both of us.

Pard was a medium size, brown and white, haphazard mix of terrier and shepherd, with trace elements of other breeds. He was a clever dog, a valid testimony to the melting pot theory. I often took him to my drama classes at Gotham University’s School of the Arts. Sometimes I would challenge my well fed student actors to display more facial expressions than my dog. Once the initial humiliation of their acting skills being compared to a dog was over, some students showed a keen zest to prove themselves. If one came close to rivaling Pard’s expressiveness, he blew them away with the ‘sad look’ of woeful eyes, sagging mouth and drooping ears. To date, no vanquished young thespian, resentful in defeat, had complained to the university about my unorthodox teaching assistant. When I brought Pard to school I always wore sunglasses. If security tried to prevent our entry, I told them I was blind. The underpaid guards of the sons and daughters of prosperity, weren’t about to be politically incorrect and deny admission to a blind man and his faithful seeing eye dog.

I first met Pard in the 6th floor hallway of my east village walk up, one of the few remaining ungentrified buildings on East 9th Street. The tenants were under constant pressure from the landlord to vacate the premises. His goal was to replace them with yuppies. He knew yuppies would eagerly pay seven or eight times more for the privilege of living in a chic ex-slum. The Olmedos, my neighbors across the hall, were the current target for eviction. We shared a bathroom in the hall. Their courteous apologies for its frequent use by their four children had led to friendship. The Olmedos still believed in the American dream, despite being persecuted by the landlord. Raul and Elena left the Dominican Republic to build a better life for their children. Raul worked long hours as an orderly in the psycho ward at Malvue Hospital. Elena sewed in a sweatshop. I became fond of the oldest son, Armando, a bright youth who I tutored in English. Armando got a puppy from a friend and kept it in a cardboard box in the hallway. His parents wouldn’t allow Perro in their tiny, three room, vastly overcrowded, but spotlessly clean apartment.

The Olmedos finally tired of the landlord’s harassment and purchased a house in the South Bronx. It wouldn’t be ready for a few months, so they temporarily moved in with relatives. Naturally, Perro was unwelcome. Armando begged me to take care of him for a few days, until he could make other arrangements. It seemed simple enough to give him food and water, and to change his newspaper toilet once a day. I agreed and the Olmedos departed, leaving Perro behind. That night the landlord pounded on my door and demanded to know who owned the dog in the hall. I told him it was ‘the Olmedos.’ He got furious and said he would have it removed. I requested a few days’ grace, but was refused. After two lawsuits and one personal confrontation that almost became violent, we were in the midst of a temporary truce, but it was fragile. I saw no other alternative, so I gave Perro sanctuary.

My efforts to reunite Perro and Armando were futile. Raul politely but firmly rejected my request to bring them the dog. “I am sorry, my good friend, but it is impossible for us to take him. My sister-in-law will not allow it. I will call the pound and they will take him.” An image flashed into mind of the tiny cells that held the prisoner dogs and cats, until they went to the gas chamber at the A.S.P.C.A. I was trapped. “There’s no need, Raul. I’ll see if I can find another home for him.” “Thank you, my friend. You have been a good neighbor. As soon as we move into our splendid new house, you must come to dinner.” I promised to come to the housewarming, although the thought of going to the Bronx was intimidating. All I knew about the Bronx was from horror stories in the media: fires, drive by shootings, crack houses. Well, that was in the future. Right now I had to find a good home for abandoned Perro.

I put a notice on the school bulletin board: ‘loving puppy seeks adoption.’ No response. I asked all my friends. They said no. I phoned my ex-girlfriend, Anitra, a flighty painter who knew every artist in Soho and requested her help. Her suggestion that I keep the puppy, since it would teach me to be more caring, wasn’t appreciated. I tried animal adoption centers, but they were overpopulated. Meanwhile, Perro was transferring his affection to me. He followed me around the apartment, tripping over his large paws, wagging his tail vigorously when I set him on his feet. He would flop down when I was working at my desk and send ESP messages, until he attracted my attention. I would look down into those large, soulful brown eyes and they beamed rays of unmitigated adoration. The ruthless manipulator worked his way into my heart.

I never had a dog before. Throughout my childhood, my parents had opposed anything animal, vegetable, or mineral that I brought home. I vaguely knew that dogs had to be trained, so I visited the Tompkins Square library and browsed the dog book section. One unexpected side benefit was that I picked up a great looking girl. She was impressed that I was sheltering a needy puppy and we arranged to get together later that week. I took two books home, read them carefully and concluded that it didn’t seem difficult to train a dog. Then we began the next phase of our relationship. First, a new name. Perro no longer seemed suitable for my best friend to be. In the back of one of the books there was a list of the twenty most popular doggie names. They were even more vapid than the twenty most popular human names. I considered several literary candidates: Patraclos, Horatio, Uncas, but rejected them. I thought of the old western heroes and their loyal sidekicks, and came up with Pard. I told Pard his new name and he wagged enthusiastically, confirming the wisdom of my choice.

Pard’s debut at the Tompkin Square park dog run was less than distinguished. He was attacked by the male dogs and ignored by the females. He tried everything in his meager repertoire to make friends; groveling, whining, following, sniffing, wagging and crying. None of his displays made the other dogs relent. My human debut wasn’t much better. I was scorned by the males and ignored by the females. We obviously hadn’t obtained the right passports for the land of dogwalkers. It was a strange world indeed: pretentious maidens with overbred companions; macho men with vicious killers; weirdos with surrogate children; fascists with obedience school compulsives. All of them, human and canine, primped, preened, posed and role played. This wasn’t anything like the dogdom I imagined. The main dog walking sessions were at three fixed times: before work, at 7:00 AM; after work, at 6:00 PM; late night, at 10:00 PM. Due to the vagaries of my schedule, the only regular session I could attend was at night. This was a coincidental consolation, since the dogs and humans were more relaxed, whether from combat fatigue after a taxing day, or gentler moods fostered by lunar tides.

It was painfully clear that I had no practical alternative to the Tompkins Square Park dog run. The only other nearby park, the East River park, necessitated walking through public housing to get there. It was a hazardous passage past urban pueblos, mostly inhabited by Hispanics, whose endurance of poverty had been shattered by yuppie wealth flaunting. If I survived the obstacle course, I would have to cross a walkway over the East River Drive. My silhouette at night would provide the murderers, perverts, muggers, junkies and mentally ill homeless with early warning identification of a high priority target. I had always been a loner, which partially explained my lack of advancement in my chosen profession, theater, a networker’s orchard. Now I was compelled to become a socializer for my pal Pard.

When Pard was approximately three months old, we started training sessions in the park. They were periodically interrupted by bullying dog attacks, which I had to fend off by myself. The instigating owner of Thor or Fang would accuse puppy Pard of provocation. What was more obnoxious was that everyone urged their dog training methods on me, from nazism to Zen. There were two main types of advice givers: those who sent their dogs to obedience school, and therefore had no idea how to do it yourself; those who championed the natural system, and whose dogs were always out of control. This group was the most amusing, since they invariably had to chase their dogs to take them home. This was always an entertaining spectacle of impatient vocal exercise and inept pursuit. But Pard and I gained a modicum of acceptance from the less socially scrupulous night crowd. I did notice, however, that the dogs of the daytime princesses never had to do doggie business at night.

I used the K-9 obedience training system and Pard quickly learned ‘sit,’ ‘come,’ and ‘heel.’ It took longer for ‘stay,’ since he got nervous when he saw me walk away. We got over his insecurity, added several more commands and by his sixth month he was a reasonably well trained animal. It was during this training period that he began to reveal his true nature, that of a hedonist pig who wanted his pleasures. Whenever I left the apartment he scorned the comfortable doggie mat that I had purchased for him, climbed onto the bed, pulled the covers into a nest and snoozed underneath. I never caught him because he always met me at the door, wagging a loving greeting for my safe return. He countered all my attempts to break this habit, including liberal admonitions of ‘no’, ‘bad dog’ and ‘disgusting swine’, with looks of innocence, confusion, or hurt. I resolved to catch him in the act. After I left one day, I waited, then quietly snuck up the stairs and threw open the door. Pard was sitting there, wagging cheerfully. I went to the bed and it was still warm where he had been nesting. In this struggle between man and beast he was as stubborn as the Viet Cong.

Many dog owners warned me about psychos who went around the city poisoning dogs. I could believe almost anything in this shared habitat. I trained Pard not to take food from others and not to eat anything on the ground. Pard complied willingly, but compensated by helping himself to food in the refrigerator and the cabinets at home. He would gorge on delectables like roast beef, breakfast cereals, cooked vegetables, baked goods, fresh fruit and any leftovers. He developed a fondness for Chinese food, especially tofu and shitake mushrooms, in garlic sauce. Fortunately for both of us, Pard had a cast iron stomach and digested these non-traditional dog foods without the inevitable belching, burping, gaseous emissions, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or unscheduled bowel movements. I figured out how he opened the refrigerator and cabinets. He hadn’t figured out how to clean up the spill from the ravaged containers. This was becoming a growing issue between us, until his heroism earned him full dining room privileges.

We were leaving the park a little later than usual one night. I had indulgently left Pard off the leash until we crossed Avenue B. Two junkies darted out from behind a tree and demanded my wallet. One of them waved a knife in my face. I was terrified. My entire body started shaking, but a portion of my mind still functioned. I said soothingly: “Sure. Sure. Be cool, man. I’ll give it to you.” Before I could even reach for my pocket, Pard came out of the darkness, growling ominously, looking twice his size. He lunged at the surprised muggers and one of them turned and ran. The knife wielder threatened Pard, but then saw large fangs snapping menacingly and fled. The barely out of puppyhood Pard had saved me. I petted and praised him lavishly. When I stopped shaking we went home. I couldn’t find a suitable commendation plaque, so I gave him all the leftover roast pork lo mein. I decided to rethink my bodyguard’s household rights.

Pard made his first friend, Boris Yeltsin, when he was nine months old. Boris was a devilish mix of labrador and coyote. He and his master had been exiled from the day sessions because Boris nipped the little lapdogs. Boris appointed himself Pard’s mentor and began to teach him adult dog values. Pard was a quick study and a bond rapidly formed between them. When they met, they would exchange formal stretch bows, then run and frolic. Pard couldn’t keep up with the nimble Boris at first, and he would trip over his big paws trying to wheel and turn. As Pard grew stronger and more agile, they would play fight. Soon it was all out combat training. They would duel as they ran, slashing and parrying, stop abruptly, reverse direction and continue the running battle, attacking and defending. They would take turns lying down, while the other practiced the coup de grace. They growled, snarled, snapped and foamed ferociously. People would scream for us to stop them. When the demand for intervention reached its peak, the two dogs would get up, shake off and trot off happily together, leaving the agitated spectators completely confused. But dog friendship is even more ephemeral than human friendship. Boris moved, Pard was on his own again and he couldn’t e-mail.

The tutorial months with Boris had built skills and confidence. Though just a yearling, he tolerated no more bullying from other dogs. The masters reluctantly accepted this emancipation and sought easier victims. One vicious obsessive stalked us for a while, egging his dog to attack, but we learned to avoid him. Then Pard started training me. When he wanted dog biscuits, he would suddenly raise his hackles, growl, run to the door and bark. If his reward for defending the castle wasn’t forthcoming, he would come to me, poke me with his paw to get my attention, look me in the eye, then turn and stare at the cabinet with the biscuits. I generally gave in first. He used different expressions to fulfill his needs. My favorite became the forlorn look of dejection when I left him at home. I finally realized the range of his talent and I trained him to show happy, sad, angry, perplexed, loving and other expressions. One day in class, exasperated with a student as emotive as a middle class zombie, I said: “My dog is more expressive than you.” My challenge was accepted, Pard appeared on the field of honor and vanquished his opponent with the poignant ears of ‘sad.’

Pard’s excursions to school entertained both of us and dog/human relations were at an all time high. Then something changed. He reacted strangely to my selections of female companionship. One night I was making love with the current girlfriend in my apartment. He lay down nearby and watched. When he heard the animal sounds of our sexual encounter, he jumped on the bed, mock growling and demanded to play. He scratched the girl with his pawnails and she departed in a huff. A little later, I was standing near the window and Pard stood on his hind legs, wrapped his front paws around my leg and began to push against me. I didn’t feel like playing so I started to push him down. He growled, held on tighter and rhythmically pumped my leg. I noticed that his red, shiny thing had emerged from its sheath and I realized that I was being sexually abused. I don’t know whether it was because of my example, or normal hormonal stirrings, but doggie sex had reared its head.

I went back to the Tompkins Square library, but none of the dog books discussed sex. I went online, assuming I would find the ubiquitous know-it-all, whose moment had finally come on the World Wide Web. The only response was from a disgusting degenerate, who wanted to do vile things to my innocent dog. I browsed newspapers, magazines, periodicals, but there was no helpful information. I tried radio call in shows. One host called me a pervert and disconnected me. Another thought I was cleverly disguising my need by pretending it was for a dog. She requested explicit sexual details and I disconnected her. I phoned my ex-girlfriend, Anitra, the flighty painter who knew everything about anything, without ever studying. Her suggestion that we both practice abstinence, since it would teach us self-control, wasn’t appreciated. I thought wistfully that if Boris had only stayed long enough to lead Pard through this vital coming of age ceremony, things might be less stressful.

I spent hours thinking of schemes to relieve Pard’s tension. I considered adopting a comely female dog at Bide-a-Way, letting her service Pard for a few days, then returning her to her cell. But the cruel deception of her feeling rescued, then being subjected to sexual exploitation, deterred me. But it was a tempting idea. I knew there was a time honored philosophy of love them and leave them. There were ample historical precedents for abduction and rape. Sexual predation has become a recognized, contemporary urban activity, especially near bus terminals. The thought entered my mind that Pard and I could lurk at Port Authority, swoop down on some country bitch right off the bus, abduct her, let Pard have his way, then abandon her on the street. I didn’t feel comfortable with that plan, but it started a new trend. For a few days I got caught up in a fantasy about a doggie cathouse. The girl dogs lounged around in provocative garments, while the doggie madam, a blowsy old Irish setter, negotiated with the customers. I began to think I was losing it.

I learned one critical fact about canine sex from a wolf documentary: the only time bitches respond to sexual overtures is when they’re in heat. The rest of the time it’s tough nuts for the guys. I spent hours comparing bitches to human females, who did not come into heat. Did this explain why human females were always, never, often, seldom, sometimes responsive to sexual overtures? I was getting confused. When wolf bitches put out it was only to mate. They didn’t engage in casual sex. They didn’t require a wedding ceremony. It was man who went rim-ram, thank you ma’am and departed. Did that mean that the only way to provide Pard with sex would be for him to get married? Would that make me a beastial procurer? Would I be up to my ass in puppies, since I didn’t think Pard could use a condom? I kept coming back to the fantasy of the doggie cathouse. I staffed it with working girl dogs from the Tompkins Square Park dog run. There was this beautiful, standard size, black French poodle. I visualized her in red lingerie… I definitely had to get things under control.

It was easier said than done. Pard’s urges were occurring more frequently. I approached the late shift female dog owners with various proposals. I tried simple requests for sexual accommodation, pleas for compassion for a sex-starved pooch, offered to share his talented dog genes and reminded all and sundry that females had obligations to fulfill male needs. My entreaties were rebuffed with scorn. However, I didn’t let my personal discomfort deter my efforts for my best friend. I offered cash for services rendered, but was refused with complete contempt. I wasn’t even allowed to raise the offer. The owners were not simpatico. Out of discretion, I avoided the dog run for the next two weeks. Pard’s attempts to satisfy himself on my leg were becoming more demanding. He had already torn one pair of my pants and scratched my leg twice in his progressively more urgent sexual assaults. I don’t know why he made my leg a love object. Perhaps he was confused about his needs, but it was becoming more difficult to fight off his advances. I was getting desperate.

During my self-imposed exile from Tompkins Square Park, I took Pard to other neighborhood dog runs. We went south to the Mercer Street run in Noho, where I surveyed the new prospects like Kublai Khan, seeking a suitable concubine for the crown prince. But the dog walkers at Mercer Street were more pretentious than the Tompkins Square crowd. They had even better radar for possible threats to their dogs. I didn’t conclude that it was class snobbery, pedigrees looking down on mutts, though I harbored my suspicions. There was just something about the quest for doggie sex that immediately alerted all owners to danger, as if by ESP. We went north to Madison Square Park, where we lurked in the shadows of trees, waiting to spring on the unwary bitch who might wander too far from the protective eye of the master. We never got lucky. I filibustered to approachable dog owners, hoping to distract the custodian, while Pard would snatch the booty. We both failed dismally.

Months passed in fruitless endeavors. My life was unraveling. My students were feeling neglected. My department head, who I nicknamed ‘Ernest the emoter,’ reminded me nastily that ‘Adjunct instructors can’t slack off.’ My latest girlfriend left me because she felt I was more concerned with Pard’s sex needs than hers. Pard was growing increasingly impatient and had nocturnal emissions that I had to clean. He howled during the day when I was out. This annoyed the landlord, who was already yearning for my departure and the subsequent gentrification of my apartment. I had temporarily exhausted all resources while I reassessed the problem. I succumbed to fantasy again. There were hundreds of dog owners out there with horny dogs. Maybe thousands. We were victims of a pernicious system that denied sex to male dogs. This was an issue that should concern others. I imagined filing a class action suit against the A.S.P.C.A., on behalf of the horny dog class. It would compel the A.S.P.C.A. to provide requesting dogs with sex partners, selected from their female prisoners who were confined on death row. Perhaps the females who serviced a certain number of males could win a pardon. The legal procedures were becoming too tedious, so I pictured Pard as the Scarlet Pimpernel, rescuing condemned bitches who would gratefully reward him with their favors…. I was in trouble.

We went back to the after work session at Tompkins Square Park and managed to conceal our crass motives for a few days. Our subterfuge went up in smoke when Pard mounted a pampered fluff ball a fraction of his size, the spoiled pet of an indulgent princess. His extended member rubbed her head and he ejaculated all over her well groomed coat. The shrieks of moral indignation and disgust were deafening. The howls of accusation were daunting. It looked as if a lynch mob was forming. I had a dreadful vision of Pard and me dangling side by side, at the end of a rope, on a shabby sycamore tree. I pleaded innocence, endured the threats and abuse, collected the lugubrious culprit and dejectedly headed out of the park. I petted Pard reassuringly. “Don’t worry. I won’t give up trying.” One righteous defender of the violated fluff, currying favor with the pretentious princess, called after me: “You should keep that mutt away from purebreds. We don’t want his kind here.” If I kept my big mouth shut, we probably could have returned to the after work session in a week or two. Instead, I had to be a smartass. “You wuss. What do you want him to do, say it with flowers?” As we crossed Avenue B, I looked back at the scene of our debacle and rededicated myself to finding a solution to Pard’s sex problem. My only consolation was that at least this time I didn’t have to clean up after him.