Monday, July 25, 2005

What are the odds?

We live in a charmingly funky part of Brooklyn, not quite Flatbush, not Crown Heights, definitely not as stuck-up as Park Slope. It's a neighborhood where it's rude not to say 'Hi' to passers-by or 'Good Morning' to your neighbors. Where cute 3-year-olds hang out on the sidewalk while their mothers work in the braiding salons. Where folks compliment your tree pit flower garden; and others drop bottle caps into it. It is a neighborhood rich with cultures. And often rich with noise, from Friday night stoop parties, to booming window-rattling ghettocruisers, to summer firecrackers, to car-alarm-triggering thundercycles, to the dollar-vans hurtling up and down Flatbush Avenue who serenade with sour air horns trumpeting the theme from The Godfather, to Mr. Softee trucks driving you up the wall with their relentless ditty torture.

Anyway, oh yeah, The Odds. . .

So this morning I am trotting up Flatbush, heading for the Subway, late for work as usual, when, approaching from the north I espy not only a minority male Caucasian, but one walking what I would swear is a Tibetan Terrier.

Now, back when I lived in Manhattan for all those years, this kind of encounter had become, in the 1990s, a pleasant, but increasingly frequent experience. Harrigan came into my life in early 1989 and we felt for many years like breed pioneers, while the rest of the cool people caught up. Still, the companionship was more important than the exclusivity.

At this point, I must comment on the strange process that compels one to identify a TT from a distance. There is clearly some primitive part of the brain that assimilates one's perception of the physical characteristics of a crucial species, when primed by the excreted endocrine that determines: "Live or Die, Love or Wither". My brother and I grew up with the uncanny ability to identify, from a mere swoosh or tailfin, any American automobile make, model and year from 1954 to 1980; not to mention many European creations. This must have been crucial to the survival of our forebears, Nascar fans all, I presume.

Moreover, I have extended this ability to breeds one might encounter walking around an Upper West Side Manhattan block, dog run, or possibly even Westminster. The latter ability certainly developed from my ex-gf's and my search back in the 80's for "the perfect dog". To cut a long tale short, we realized that Tibetan Terriers were really cool: laid-back, bred for personality, intelligent, always playful, spiritual, came in many colors, not too big, not too small. . . simply, perfect. The AKC thumbnail description says, "The Tibetan Terrier is a medium-sized dog, profusely coated, of powerful build, and square in proportion. A fall of hair covers the eyes and foreface. The well-feathered tail curls up and falls forward over the back. The feet are large, flat, and round in shape producing a snowshoe effect that provides traction. The Tibetan Terrier is well balanced and capable of both strong and efficient movement." Yet they don't even mention the g-d Tibetan monks responsible for it all.

Having raised Harry from a mere slip of a pup, it was funny and impressive to see him develop into the "powerful build and square proportion". What a truly apt description that is: a TT manages to combine poofiness and powerful squareness into a single package. I was constantly amazed by his sure-footed cavorting over the alpine furniture peaks and valleys of the living room. One of my favorite moments as he matured, limbs growing towards greyhoundness, was the incident, while doing his high-speed puppy cruise into the living room under tables onto to the couch and its backrest altitudes, when he swooped beneath the coffee table and, for the very first time, bumped his head. Ha! Sucks to grow up, doesn't it?

Even now, at sixteen years of age and trimmed of all that annoying matted fur into a strange summer-puppy-saluki-cut, it is amusing to see his defiant stance, front elbows sticking out like an anorectic Popeye the Sailor, as he anticipates the customary "which hand?" game and subsequent cookie reward.

Oh, did I digress? Again? Apologies!

So I approach this guy on Flatbush Avenue and his dog with the old, "Excuse me, but isn't that a Tibetan Terrier?" line. And he looks at me with serious New York City mistrust, "Yes, it is. How do you know?" And I go into the usual, "Well I have one too. He's sixteen years old now. We live on Fenimore Street."

And he says, "Why haven't I seen you walking him here?"

To which I counter, "Well, we walk him in the yard. Sixteen years old, y'know." [What I don't say is, one of the main reasons we decided not to walk him on the street is the incredible amount of chickenbonez. What is it that people can toss their stripped bonez like popsicle sticks? It was bad enough on the Upper West Side with random bagels and foie gras; drove Harry bonkers. But here on Chickenbone Alley (I mean Fenimore Street) he'd be absolutely impossible to deal with.]

So we discuss where our dogs came from -- both Pennsylvania it turns out, though Harry was Rocky Hills Farm and the newcomer was somewhere else -- I don't remember, Somerset county? I mentioned Harry's breeder's name, Harrigan by coincidence, but it rang no bells. This other dog's name was Chip.

So I greeted him, let him sniff my hand briefly then patted his head. He was the usual, "Yah, you're a human and I will acknowledge your attention, even make you feel a little loved, but you really are interrupting my round-the-block with my buddy who thinks he's my master. Be thankful I don't bite you. Just kidding. You're okay." Plus, I was late for work.

So I made motions to plunge ahead into the day. I confirmed I lived on Fenimore, and he, on Rutland. He never really smiled, but this was more like an UWS encounter than a Lefferts Gardens one. I figured, when we needed to establish any further contact, we could stake out the corner around 9:00 AM and take it from there. Plus I prefer to leave all that really human contact stuff to Laurel. She does it so much better.

So anyway. . . what the hell are the odds?