Wednesday, December 15, 2010



Poppy the outdoors, wet-weather-lovin' dog.

Our dog Poppy is a Flatcoated Retriever. Her ancestors were bred with Newfoundlands, the only dogs with webbed feet, to create a water-loving hunting dog. Poppy lives up to her ancestry and dives into any bit of water she can find. This includes puddles, slime, canals etc. Her speciality is impressing New Yorkers with her Hudson River stick-catching. On rainy days, she is first out of the door.

Poppy loves a trip to Hot & Crusty with me. I go in for coffee and muffins, she waits outside for her fans. Legions of dog-loving New Yorkers pat and love her as they pass by. This morning, it was raining hard, all the more reason to take her out and give her a few minutes of fun outside H& C. So, I am standing at the counter waiting for my coffee among the usual customers. A few mums and toddlers at the tables, the odd workman getting his breakfast.

The door opens and a woman walks in. The only way to describe her is: loony, 50-plus, mad hair, mac and sou'westerly hat. "HEY!" She yells. "WHOSE IS THAT POOR DOG TIED UP OUTSIDE?" I look around accusingly. The counter assistant who knows me and is obviously in the mood for some fun, helpfully points me out.  "Well you might want to think about getting your dog a RAINCOAT before you leave it outside in the rain!" She cries, almost tearfully. "People like you deserve to be tied up and left outside yourselves, it's just TRAGIC!"

 I've never used the word 'gape' before but I will now because that's what all the other H&C patrons did, at me. I did it too. Then the woman backed out and slammed the door. After a second's horrible silence, the place erupted in laughter. A man beside me said  "Yep and you better get it some boots too!" More laughter and 'Was she for real?' and so on.

Firstly, I don't tie Poppy up. I just put the lead over the little fence to make her feel like she's tethered. She never connects the dots and after I come out of the shop loaded down she simply joins me for the trot home, lead trailing along the pavement. Secondly, what? I mean, excuse me? A raincoat? The woman didn't give me chance to find out where one would purchase such a garment. This woman may well have been a 'pet parent' herself, I have met similar doggy-welfare-obsessed types in the dog run. Whatever, she will have slammed out of Hot & Crusty and gone about her day feeling like she has struck a blow for animal, er, wet-weather protection. Tonight she may well be toasting her toes by her 2-bar electric fire, surrounded by Bambis, puppies and bunnies, with a little halo burning over her head. I will probably be tossing and turning, dreaming that it is me, dressed in a mac and sou' wester tethered in eternal damnation outside Hot & Crusty, sniffing the coffee and muffin fumes but never quite making it inside.

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