A snow-white Pit Bull with a metal chain leash that gleams in the hot southern California sun is just across the street. I watch as the dog sits down on the curb the way well behaved dogs are supposed to. His master is all in white too. He’s a pumped up youngish guy with really nice arms. Something is gleaming around his neck.
Henry and I are standing outside the house. We’d been out just a half an hour before this, but moments ago, I found him at the front door, as if to say, “I can’t hold it in another second!” Sometimes he doesn’t, so I am, to say the least, rather well trained to meet his demands. Now that we’re out again, he doesn’t want to walk or relieve himself. He just wants to sit and watch the people go by. He wants to bark at the skateboarders. He wants to ingratiate himself with the random someone or other who pleases him. And there’s absolutely no way of predicting who that will be, though usually the someone will be pretty and young. Henry is a real chick magnet. And if he’s at the beach he goes right for the cleavage.
I see the guy in white is moving the arm that’s holding the leash and the pit promptly getting to his feet. By now Henry is barking his little head off.
Jumping up and down and biting the leash. And I’m embarrassed, especially in front of this well-trained Pit Bull.
They are heading toward us now, the guy in white and the snow-white pit.
Henry is pulling and yowling. And jumping so high he’s practically at my chin.
“I’m sorry,” I say abjectly to the guy in white.” It’s a good thing he’s little –I’d never be able to control him if he weren’t.”
“Not to worry,” says the guy, “my dog is perfectly trained. No matter what your dog does, he’ll never attack him.” The guy in white with his gleaming metal leash and his pure white dog smiles pityingly at me.
“Sit!” he tells the pit. The pit sits. “Lay down!” he tells the pit and the pit complies. “Roll over!” and the pit rolls over. His legs are in the air and Henry thinks this is the funniest thing he’s ever seen, he isn’t yowling anymore; he’s grinning from ear to ear. You can’t imagine how big his grin is. “Would you look at the schmuck?” He seems to be saying.
The pit, I notice, now is sporting the most elaborate metal collar I’ve ever seen. In fact the closet thing I can think of to compare it to is behind glass in one of the Medieval rooms at the Met, where they house armor, chastity belts, and other form of torture used on men, women, and animals. It has prongs and it’s made of metal; probably every time the pit moves it does something shocking to his beautiful thick neck.
The thing that’s gleaming around the master’s neck is a big silver crucifix. I think of something my father-in-law said once: that he thought crosses were alarming like wearing a little replica of an electric chair around the neck. I’ve just now googled the Star of David; it’s much more mellow, and certainly a Buddha is even more so, though truthfully, I’ve met quite a few hostile Buddhists. Never mind hostile Jews.
I wasn’t saying anything like that to the guy, however.
He’s telling me, “You have to run them until they are dead tired. I mean dead tired.”
“I do that,” I say. “We run every day.”
“Then you have to put them through twenty-minute intervals of rigorous training. At least five times a day. And you must withhold all affection unless they totally obey you. And only feed them once a day.”
“He’ll never obey you.”
“No, I guess he won’t.
Henry calms down a little after they move on, the well-behaved dog and his master. And we go inside again.
Mary Marcus is the author of The New Me and her next novel, Lavina, will be published later this year.