September 25 – October 3rd
How much more do I need to wash my hands? The answer, I learn, doesn’t matter anymore. I’ve probably hand-fed Bentley his good boy treats countless times after popping some candy corn in my mouth or removing a stray lash from my eye.
Puppy smell–and especially the breath– is real. The first night someone asked to smell him was a Friday night at the Skippolini’s in downtown Clayton when we were staying over to visit my parents. The woman took in a big whiff, right up on his soft, dirty fur– the face of my mom was priceless.
Being in India for a week I was prepared for the jet lag, the odd hours at feeling fatigue or waking up. 4 am is like clockwork now– and it’s not because of that. I was prepared for the jet lag but I wasn’t prepared for how hard it would be to potty train a puppy in a small San Francisco apartment.
That brings me to budget. When the bills are taken into account, there’s usually a rough amount left for whatever the hell fancies me. Let’s take about a 25% chunk out of that. Let’s just call it a day most days and stay in to watch the dog– and save money.
He’s not much of a walker.
We took him walking before he finished his Porvo shots.
We took him walking after the shots. He still hates walking.
One of my fondest memories of these first walks was over to Lafayette Square, on a Friday afternoon. I think I was hungover, coming from the HAIM concert the night before in Oakland and I was in bed the whole day while thankfully he slept. He slept until 11 and finding things for him to chew other than his actual toys was the name of the game. Then my boyfriend came by to keep us company. Our first walk together was the three of us two blocks away to Lafayette Square beneath small billowy trees still green before the fall hit and fresh-cut grass with those scattered little blossoms he tried chewing on. We sat on a bench as other owners walked by and forgot for a second about their dogs as they looked at us. “Aww!” “So cute!” “Welcome to the world, little guy!” They told us we had such an adorable dog. My boyfriend and I looked over at each other. Someday, we’re thinking to ourselves. Someday we’ll have our own Bentley.
He’s into big dogs. Namely big girl dogs.
He’s small right now to pick him up if he gets unruly. Same with baths in the kitchen sink. So much water. It won’t be this way for long.
I think about this a lot, especially during the puppy training class we attend at Puppy Prep down on 6th Street Sundays at noon. There’s a special part of the session where the dogs are let off their leashes and they must socialize, not long before owners have to dive in to pick up their dogs as they say “GOTCHA!” in their little ears. How the hell are we going to pull that off when Bentley– whose father was 140lbs–is full grown?
The alleyway called Clementina where we park my sister’s car smells heavily of piss.
You look at the other owners of dogs– not just in the puppy class, but all around the city– and you got Doodles and Frenchies and Corgis and perhaps other little toy dogs that stops Marina blondes in their tracks en route to hot yoga. Not my sister. She gets stares, stares for being a blonde-streaked bombshell in heels and always wearing pink paired with this whopper of a dog, considerably one of the smartest and yet most difficult and intimidating breeds out there. A Rottweiler. Did we make the right choice? Will he get too aggressive? He is now, biting us in class or growling as we try to get him off the ground to keep up his walk down the street. Maybe I should have gotten a smaller dog, my sister says to me, like other girls. She isn’t like other girls though. She loves the big dogs, especially the one she read about as a little girl who, despite his big and scary appearance, made for the perfect family pet and babysitter. We’re talking about Good Boy Carl– the dog that was only meant to be for my sister.
Having a dog means having a new car. My sister’s jeep is mid-sized and perfect for day excursions and getting around this small city with a dog. It’s forced us to get good at scoping for overnight parking and becoming familiar with street cleaning days. And my sister has improved on her ability to parallel park.
I may be tired, but I’m starting to live for those early 6 AM wake-ups when we all pile into the car and get coffee over the hill and into the foggy streets of Chestnut or Union. Then it’s off to take our boy to Fog City Dogs– from 7 to 5PM. We’re always sad to leave him there for the day but he’s always so excited to be there, especially when he can smell his friends beyond the gate. We can even watch him on the company site’s webcams where he’s tiring himself out with Piper, a Golden Retriever puppy, and Little Mike Tyson– a tiny pitbull pup.
The attention is so crazy. The best way to make it big in the Bay Area is to work in tech or to own a dog.
This won’t be the same for long. When Bentley is bigger, people will be too scared to come by and say hey.
When he does sleep, it’s against walls or in the corners of a room or underneath tables. In his crate he once fell asleep with his head cocked back like some Exorcist fuckery. Weirdo.
Another day comes when I have to dogsit him and my nerves start failing me. He eats anything off the ground. It’s not his fault, it’s the city’s for being so dirty, I realize. But all the same I worry about the people who pass by and stare and admire him but also worry about how badly they must be judging me right now. The last thing I want to get consumed in is the fact that I don’t look like a good dog owner– and sometimes, when you have to be firm with him or tug a little bit harder at his leash, it might seem this way. I wonder now if all dog owners had to deal with this, still deal with this. A small panic attack starts, and you decide to pick him up to avoid further yelling at him but not without a fight. He snarls at you and lashes near your face, biting up your hair instead. I take another look around. No one, right now.
I know this is not the life my sister envisioned. She would have it still with the man of her dreams. If that were the case, there would be no Bentley. Bentley is here now, a reminder of moving forward with new adventures and responsibilities and a promise to herself that this is better than the nightmare before. It’s difficult now, with the training and the teething and wasting endless paper towels and money on pig ears but with the whole world so happy she’s found something that makes her smile so much, the struggle now is only temporary, and we’re all here to see this exciting new adventure through with her.
We had McDonald’s tonight for dinner. He looks up at up and tiptoes over by my sister perfectly sitting down while looking up at us, never breaking eye-contact with our McNuggets. We’v discovered he’s finally learn the ways of the dog– food is everything, it is magic to help us through these first few months.
The diarrhea is out of control.