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March 18, 2008

Pushkin's Prime Promenades

Roy Meachum

Farmers once took as an article of their agricultural faith that dogs and cats should not be permitted in the house but left to hassle the outdoors cats and other varmints.


Some urban souls would relegate critters like Pushkin to mere adjunct to themselves, fit for rolling over and extending a paw – when ordered in stern, authoritarian voices.


The English pointer who shares my home they relegate to a dumb species in both ways: Too stupid to do anything approaching human levels. And totally incapable of communicating thoughts.


The only thing Pushkin and I must plead guilty to: he has lousy articulation. When vexed or anxious he manages to get attention by twisting and contorting his face, at the same time baring fearsome teeth.


The sole way I've found to handle that display is by plying questions. His answers do not always result in satisfying his wants.


An hour after eating supper sometimes the boy dog lets me know forcefully and clearly he wants another meal. That's one of the several points upon which we consistently disagree. His failure to express himself in words can delay my opening the back door promptly; we get around to it but only after several false guesses.


Since this relationship started when Pushki was still a puppy, a few weeks after he was weaned from his mother's milk, we know each other very well. We are both now seniors.


Come July 9 my very beloved companion turns 10. He remains frisky and alert, I am convinced, chiefly because of the daily tour through Frederick's business district and the people who greet him.


Pushkin dislikes rain and cold stuff; mornings in the library, dozing on the love seat, are routine. He gives no peace, however, when the early afternoon hours rise. Every noise on the sidewalk is greeted by politely raising his voice, in short spurts. He wants outside.


Some days over the recent winter loaded North Market Street with dangerous ice and freezing winds; the English pointer didn't care. Of course they reduced him to pausing short distances to shake the persnickety precipitation out of his black-and-white fur.


Many a time while strolling toward Square Corner I have tried to convince the bird dog how lucky he was to wind up in my hands, instead of a dedicated hunter's.


His response never looks in my eyes. He shrugs off the observation by inspecting a tree or bush, pole or sign. He instinctively knows I'm talking blather.


The way we both are now derives at its base from the years spent hanging around with each other.


These pre-spring days of ideal spring weather have affected Pushkin and me like a tonic; we enjoy each other fully and life itself. Winter time turned us both into grouches. On our strolls, he obviously shared my relief when our front stoop came into sight.


Since the English pointer enjoys four legs and I am stuck with only two, he gets up to the yellow door quicker. I'm sure I would hear "yallah, yallah" (hurry, hurry) if he could speak.


The Arabic words he certainly knows from my urging him to scurry across streets; neither one of us trust drivers who are frequently impatient with downtown traffic. It helps that he can transform our daily walks into promenades.


Simply put: A walk becomes a promenade when it lacks all urgency. Sniffing the grass outside Brewer's Alley or flowers across the street in front of En Masse can be a daily routine, when the weather allows.


Spotting Cinemascope store and rushing to play catch with Eric can be expected. They started out, by the way, on the proposition the friendly shopkeeper wanted to prepare Pushkin ready to play outfield for the new Washington Nationals' baseball club.


In March's surprisingly balmy weather, tinged by a chilly edge, he speeds up very little; it scarcely matters whether he slows down to match my stride or because he thoroughly luxuriates in days like these. I do.


My canine buddy adores the manner that small children show how much they adore him. Of course many think he's a character directly from Walt Disney's film.


But Pushkin, as readers know, is no Dalmatian; he's much too laid back and deferential. However, if his admirers are under 10, he submits to all their fantasies to the point they can call him that other breed, whom he so much resembles.


In recent weekends the dog-in-my-life has been richly rewarded; Girl Scouts and their parents and other adults have set up their cookies' tables at several North Market spots. Something very close to an agape (love feast) ensues.


On Saturday last a little sister, barely two, toddled after Pushkin when we decided to move on; after all, every one on that corner had stroked his fur, or not, as they chose.


Little sister's flight was cut short when big sister swept her off the sidewalk. His ardent admirer returned kisses, obviously delighted in her adventure. Boy dog didn't look back, focusing on his usual stop at Portobello Road and owner Kat, who inevitably makes a fuss over him, and me too.


Sunday's gloom and wind bursts could be endured with the instinctive knowledge they would be transformed shortly into sun and breezes that scarcely rustle the flowers on the patio.


In any event, Pushkin finished off the weekend by napping on the library's love seat. I would like to think he was dreaming of future excursions blessed by small girls' hugs and kisses and the more than several "bones" downtown merchants donate to their "mayor's" hungry gut.


With the prospect of spring's return over the next few days, the English pointer's promenades, which he allows me to share, are special gifts from the "real" world. We love them all.

Yellow Cab
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