Usually my clients come one or two at a time (when I have any), but this morning I had three all at once: Mr. Barker, Mr. Wagginer, and Mrs. Pettis, all from the same neighbourhood and with the same problem.
“You see, Mr. Tuff, we love dogs and like many people in our area, we have canine companions, but someone in our neighbourhood hates dogs,” said Mrs. Pettis.
Mentally I coined the word “canophobia,” hoping that Will Shakespeare, the master of creating English words, would be proud of me.
“I was walking with my Pixie when he found several doggie treats on a lawn, and he ate them. A few minutes later, he began to tremble and cough, and he threw up. The treats must have been poisoned.”
“Someone collected all of the dog droppings around the neighbourhood and dumped them on my lawn,” complained Mr. Wagginer.
“And someone complained to the police about my dog barking,” added Mr. Barker. “Cerberus greets the mailman every morning, but only for a moment and he’s inside. Can you help us, Mr. Tuff?”
I like dogs, although I don’t currently have one, so I agreed to try to help. “Perhaps if I walked around your neighbourhood with a dog, I could discover something.”
“You can take my Pixie,” offered Mrs. Pettis. “He loves to go for walks.”
I agreed, reluctantly, because I had a mental image of myself looking foolish as I strolled the area with a tiny canine on a leash. I was embarrassed, but for a different reason: Pixie turned out to be a male St. Bernard of approximately two hundred pounds. If he had been a little bigger or I a little smaller, I could have thrown a saddle on him and ridden him for our “walk.”
No one noticed me, however, because, as I quickly learned, he was a local celebrity. “There’s Pixie,” said adults, while children shouted “Hello Pixie!” and “Hi, Pixie!” No one seemed to notice me.
Pixie seemed to believe the usual dog dogma that a straight line is the most boring distance between two points and we bounced around like an insane pinball, sniffing hydrants and telephone poles and marking lawns in the usual canine way. Occasionally we met other dogs walking their owners, and we had to stop to sniff noses, tails wagging.
Someone had put out his or her garbage and recycling in a neat pile. By the time Pixie had finished investigating it, it looked like the target of a squadron of bombers. I tried to move Pixie on before the owner of the garbage saw the devastation.
Then we met a man of medium height and build, a very ordinary person except for one thing: the look of fear on his face. He’s pretending to be afraid of Pixie’s size, I thought, but his body language suggested pure terror.
“Don’t worry, he’s very friendly,” I assured the man. I wanted to promise to hold Pixie back, but it was a promised I doubted I could keep. “Woof,” said Pixie, tugging to greet his new friend. “Keep him away from me,” shrieked the man. Clearly he did not regard Pixie as a friend.
I managed to tie Pixie’s leash to a tree at least three or four feet in circumference, while the man tried vainly to scale an equally large tree.
“I hate dogs,” the man said.
“Most people like them.”
“Most people weren’t attacked by one as a child. I still remember that monster holding me down and trying to drown me with his tongue. For me, heaven is a world without dogs.”
“So you’ve been trying to eliminate them from this neighbourhood.”
I had found the culprit my clients were looking for, but what should I do about it? Clearly, he needed a good psychologist. I got his name and address and left with Pixie, who was puzzled by the man’s lack of friendliness. My friends could deal with this case of canophobia.
My only idea – and admittedly it probably wouldn’t work – would be for Pixie to carry around his neck the traditional mini-keg of brandy.