Tuesday, July 30, 2013

plant, fish, dog, baby

Plant, fish, dog, baby.

Apparently that's the official order of family additions. At least that's what my doorman Eddie declared as I walked into our apartment building last week with a French Bulldog. A baby is next, he joked as the dog flopped over to let him scratch her belly.

Upstairs, I scanned our apartment. Two plants sunning on the windowsill. One goldfish swimming in a tank on the kitchen counter. One hyperactive French Bulldog rolling around on our living room rug. I hallucinated a crib in the bedroom. Then I hallucinated our goldfish jumping out of his tank to smack me out of it.

Eddie's plant-fish-dog-baby theory may be correct, but we're just dogsitting. Let's not get ahead of ourselves.We're still on step fish. Bruce Springsteen the goldfish to be precise.

Jon and I proudly welcomed the Boss into our lives on July 10th. While walking home from dinner we detoured through an Italian street festival hosted by our neighborhood's Catholic Church. The humid summer air was dense with the scent of fried zeppoles and smothered sausage. Vendors with thick Brooklyn accents advertised crusty stuffed animals at dunk tanks, beanbag tosses and squirt gun races. Jon and I set our sights on the goldfish game where you attempt to throw ping pong balls into rows of empty fish bowls. It took $12 and about 30 tries before I got one in. We celebrated dramatically. The kid behind the counter shoved a plastic bag of fish in my face, and just like that Jon and I become primary caregivers.

On our way home we bumped into the church's priest. We said hello and introduced him to our first pet, hoping for a drive-by baptism. He laughed at the un-named goldfish.

"Just don't name him. It will make it tougher to flush him,"  he advised.

Peace be with you too, Father.

Of course we would name him. A good name would help the poor little guy survive.

"Who's the coolest person we know?" I asked, searching for a proper namesake. I don't remember who suggested Bruce Springsteen, but the name won out instantly. Can you think of a better goldfish name, lyricist, performer or champion of blue-collar America? Didn't think so.

At home we emptied our cabinets searching for a proper bowl. Nothing was good enough. It was 10:30 p.m. and Bruce Springsteen was still in his bag. In a panic, we ran back to the street fair. Of course the goldfish game was selling fish tanks. We splurged on the biggest one with rainbow-colored pebbles. Back home we asked our doorman Eddie to be our goldfish godfather and begged Bruce to at least survive the first night.

A few weeks later, Bruce is alive and better than ever. We added plants to his tank and Eddie (doorman/godfather/life coach) found an awesome new-looking filtered tank in our building's trash room.

It feels good to take care of something that needs me. And watching Jon worry about how clean the water is or how long Bruce's poop strings are makes me excited for the other things we may take care of some day. Like my brother's smushed-face runt of the litter French Bulldog, Alaia.

My stint in dogsitting quickly taught me that living with a dog in New York City is nothing like the doggy days of my childhood in Florida.

New Yorkers don't have back yards or grassy lawns so city dogs aim for sidewalk gutters and sewer grates. Alaia likes to stand her two front paws against a wall before she squats to poop. It's exactly as hilarious as it sounds.

Walking a dog in New York is intensely social. Whether you're ready for them or not, at least one pedestrian per city block will ask to pet your dog. When you nod yes they won't hesitate to rub, scratch and baby talk your dog until it's uncomfortable for you. The creepiest dog petters will totally ignore you as they rub the dog behind her ears and grunt things like, "yeah you like that, don't you."

It's strange, but I allow it because the dog loves it and, honestly, when I'm not being a judgmental dogsitter, I'm totally that girl-- the suppressed can-I-please-pet-your-dog New Yorker who wishes she could have a full-time pup but simply can't. Our apartments are too small. We work too late. It just wouldn't be fair. A 30-second pet on the street or 10-day dog sit is the closest most of us get to to the doggy dream.

To recap, we're at plant, fish, occasional dog sit.

Don't worry Bruce, that's at least 15 dog years from step baby.

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