In Which Suburban Dog Meets New York City

Ok. You all know we have Baxter. When he came to us, he was a year and a half old and had spent most of his life in Virginia, first in a pound there and then on what I imagine to be a very large farm, where he had many trees and lots of space to run. He met us here:

And he got out of the car in which he was transported from idyllic countryside to urban jungle and, trembling like a leaf, crawled right into Eric's lap, only to stay there. Forever. I mean, we had to keep him. Aside from being adorable, he was also terrified. And we are not bad people. We are the kind of people who want the creatures of the Earth to be happy.

Never fear--six years later, Baxter is a bona fide (fido?) city dog. He understands intersections, he cares not a whit about horn honking, he's polite on the street with other dogs, he knows to curb himself (ie, do his business in the street, not on the sidewalk) and he has most of our neighborhood in the pad of his paw, including, but not limited to: the dry cleaner, the wine store (excellent choice!), the owner of the local coffee shop, a handsome stranger who lives on our block and likes to feed him banana on the fly (I don't know if he's available, but I'm working on it, single ladies), and Sky Deli.

Well, it's not exactly called Sky Deli. I'm not really sure what it's called. But it's the corner deli on our block, where I stop in the mornings to get my coffee for the morning dog walk. It's your typical NYC deli, fresh coffee, fresh bagels, soda, sandwiches and kitchen staples on the fly. It's owned by a fabulous, wonderful guy named Jeff who is--it would be an understatement to say--a dog lover. Jeff lords over his lunchmeat-fiefdom from behind the counter and is quick to welcome you with a "Hello, young lady!" or a "How's it going, big guy?" And I would be lying if I said I didn't love him just a little.

Especially because when he discovered that I was tying Baxter up outside the deli to wait for me every morning while I get my coffee. Now, when I do that, Jeff opens the window behind the counter, leans out, and has a conversation with Baxter. It goes something like this:

Jeff - "Hey good lookin'" Baxter - Ears up. Looks at Jeff. Jeff - "Yeah. You! I love ya! I love your face!" Baxter - Sits. Like a good dog. Jeff - "Just say the word and I'll close up the shop and we'll run away together." Baxter - Tongue lolls. Sarah - "Hi, Jeff." Jeff - (to Sarah) "I'll be right with you, honey." (to Baxter) "Turkey or cheese today?" Baxter - Stands up. Sits again. Sarah - "Jeff, do you--?" Jeff - "Hang on a minute, honey." Turns to meat slicer. Slices fresh deli meat. Returns to window. "Turkey!" Throws turkey out the window, across a NYC sidewalk, to Baxter, with absolutely no interest in the fact that people might be walking by. If they get hit by turkey, that's their problem. Turns back to Sarah. "What can I do for your, sweetheart?" Baxter - Nomnomnom.

Now, looking at this from Baxter's perspective, there's only one logical explanation for meat flying out a window and onto, sometimes, his head. A magical corner deli run by a kind wizard, where food falls from the sky. Hence, Sky Deli.

This is all to say, strange things happen in city dogs' lives.

Now, we currently have a houseguest--my parents' dog, a longhaired miniature dachshund. And this dog...well, he's not exactly city dog. He's Suburban Dog. Suburban Dog has a yard, and rarely (if ever) walks on a leash. He does not care for the outdoors and, being 12, he also hates stairs. I remind you, we live in a third-floor walk-up, so this is a particular problem as one arm must be free at all times to carry Suburban Dog. Additionally, because it's 100 degrees in New York today, I'm terrified he's going to get heat stroke from all that fur and too much exercise so, yes. I carry him.

It bears mentioning that Suburban Dog is an empty nest dog, also, so when not eating dog food, he expects baby carrots, goldfish crackers and raw fennel as a snack. (Yes. You read that right.) Suburban dog does not understand city life. He never learned to walk on a leash, so he either runs as fast as his little (very little) legs can carry him, or he lags along behind in a state of complete confusion. I imagine him to be thinking: "Why am I on this thing? Where are we going? Why are we walking for fun? I'd rather not do this, honestly."

He also is adorable, and so he's used to getting much attention everywhere he goes in suburbia, because he's a novelty. In New York City, on the sidewalk, during morning commute, Suburban Dog is not a novelty. He's a dog going about his day. But he doesn't know this. So he approaches people and flips over onto his back as if to say, "Hello, Human! Wouldn't you like to pet my glossy, just groomed fur?" In New York City, people just step around him. This is confusing to Suburban Dog because his cuteness powers seem to be diminished here.

Suburban Dog is also afraid of lots of outdoor city things. He's afraid of exterior stairs, of darkness, of trash cans, and of people who surprise him by, say, coming around the corner.

This morning, we went to Sky Deli as usual, and Suburban Dog was tied up outside of somewhere for the very first time in his life. Baxter sat, staring at the closed window of the deli as though he could make turkey appear with his mind.

I went into the deli and Jeff popped up from behind the counter.

Jeff- "Where'd you get the other one?" Sarah - "My parents, we're--" Jeff (through now-open window) - "Hiya new one! You're so little!" Suburban Dog- Stares at Baxter Baxter- Sit. Stand. Sit. Stand. Jeff- "Cheese today!" Baxter- Ears up. Good dog. Suburban Dog- Roams ground, foraging, with no interest in the human in the strange house. Jeff - Throws cheese. Baxter - Catches cheese in massive jaws. Jeff - "Little one!" Throws more cheese. Hits Suburban Dog in the head. Suburban Dog - Looks up, does not register food. (To be fair, it's not every day this happens.) Baxter - Eats Suburban Dog's cheese. Jeff - "Hey! Little one!" Throws more cheese. Hits Suburban Dog in the nose. Suburban Dog - Light dawns. Eats cheese. Jeff- "Come back tomorrow. He'll understand better then."

I'm beginning to think Sky Deli is a canine cult. Certainly, Baxter would follow Jeff blindly. But that's beside the point, really. The real finding here is that Suburban Dog just might decide he likes being Urban Dog. And then my parents will have to find their own Sky Deli.

Oh, who am I kidding? The dog eats fennel. He already *has* Sky Deli.