This is an excerpt from Bruce Goldstein’s book, Puppy Chow is Better than Prozac: The true story of a man and the dog who saved his life.
It was one of those hazy, hot, and humid mornings. The air was thick and muggy. It smelled like curry. It was 6:23 A.M.on the island of Manhattan. Lexington Avenue was just waking up. The streets were deserted except for a few blue suit–wearing early birds trying to catch the corporate worm. Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, they squirmed. I stood around waiting for the perfect moment when nobody was around so the puppy could poop, I could scoop, and we could both scoot the hell back upstairs. The puppy had different plans. As soon as I put him on the ground, he went smack on the red brick under my awning. “Oh shit.” I panicked. My heart was ticking. Rivulets of sweat the size of jelly beans formed on my brow. My temperature was rising. My armpits were dripping. Balls of moisture slithered down my body like nervous serpents. I was hoping the few early risers who were out and about were too caught up in their own Monday morning mayhem to notice mine. I had to act fast. Fire in the hole. I dove down deep into my pocket to dig out my plastic bag
glove. Then I dove down to the ground. I started the procedure.
As I was squishing the puppy poop in my left hand, I kept sticking my neck up like a puppy periscope to make sure the coast was still clear. There weren’t any people nearby, so I grabbed my pup by his scruff in my right hand. I tucked him under my arm like a sack of potatoes, and I got up in slow motion. As I was coming up for air, there was an intruder alert. I froze halfway at the height of a fire hydrant. My jaw dropped. She came out of nowhere. She was running across Lexington Avenue like a guided missile. Brunette. There was nowhere to run. I was frozen. I was under attack. She was dodging yellow traffic. She was waving her arms, jumping up and down, screaming something at me. “Ohmagah–Ohmagah–Ookatdapupeeeeeeee!” I couldn’t make out what she was saying. “Ohmagah–Ohmagah–Ookatdapupeeeeeeee!”
What did I do? Did my dog shit in a no crap zone? Did I leave a stain on the sidewalk? My dog took a dump, and now I had to take the blame for a crime that I did not commit.
Whoever she was, she was coming right at me. This is going to be the most humiliating moment of my life. God help me.I just sat there crouched in midair, holding a puppy in one hand—a bag of crap in the other. Despite the stink emitting from my doggy baggy, there was no stopping this woman. She proceeded to close in on me. As she was hovering over me, she made it perfectly clear she wasn’t interested in me.
Right before my very eyes her eyes blew up to the size of matzoh balls. Her voice went all giddy yap, yap, squeaky. She regressed back to early childhood. She acted like she was three. She acted as if I wasn’t even there. Like the puppy in my arms was floating in the air. “Hi, pup-peeeeeeeeeee. Hi, puppeeeee-upppee-uppeeeeeeeee,” she said. She squeezed his cheeks like he was her grandchild. “Oh, you are just too cuuuuuuuuute,” she said. Then this grown working woman in a beige business suit got down on her hands and knees to rub my puppy’s tummy. I had never felt more invisible.
When my eyes looked down, I almost fell down. I couldn’t believe she let her guard down. Her nice white buttoned-down shirt wasn’t completely buttoned. She was showing. I was blushing. She just didn’t care. She didn’t seem to care about the smell emitting from my puppy’s rear end either or the bag of crap in my right hand. All she cared about was my puppy. And my submissive pampered puppy didn’t care what she did. As long as she kept doing it. He was lying on his back, like a furry turtle loving life. She was just getting to know him better. “Are you a widdle boy or a widdle girl?” she asked.
After thorough investigation, she found out for herself. “Uh-ohh, I see a liddle pee-pee. Look at your little puppy pee-pee. You’re a liddle boy, all right. And what’s your liddle widdle name?”
That was a tricky question. She wasn’t talking to me. I felt like a broken-down goateed parking meter with a brown paper bag over my head that the dog’s leash just happened to be tied to. Dead silence. I was scared to open my mouth, frightened of what words might come out. It felt like she had called me up in front of the class to make a speech in a foreign language, English. I was scared to make a mistake. Afraid I’d slur. Thanks to my lithium I had the worst case of cotton mouth. But she was waiting for an answer.
“Bruce, c’mon say it. Say it. Speak. Come on, you could do it,” my subconscious kept nudging me. “Just speak to the nice woman. She won’t bite. Just say something.”
Considering that I didn’t teach my puppy how to speak yet, considering I wasn’t the greatest puppy ventriloquist yet either, I had no choice but to answer for him. The one who got me into this mess. Finally, after a verydramatic pause, I responded.
“Uh, he doesn’th have a nameth yeth.”
Unfortunately, she had no idea what I said. “Excuse me.” She asked the same question over again. I was anxious and jittery just looking at her. She was so pretty. When she asked me what his name was again, I answered the best that I could.
“Uh, he doesn’th have a nameth yeth.”
“Ahhh, isn’t that cuuuuuuute, the widdle puppy doesn’t have a name yet. What are you gonna call him?”
“Uh, uh I don’t knoweth yeth.”
“Wha-da-yah-mean, you don’t know yet? You godda give him a name. All puppies need a name. He looks like a little bear. You should call him Bear.”
“I dunno, maybe. I haveth to think about eth.”
“Don’t take too long,” she said. “How old is the little guy anyway?”
“Aww, he’s just a babeeeeey. I miss my dog when he was a puppy. He was so tiny too. You guys are going to have such a great life together. Just wait. You’ll see. This is only the beginning.”
The beginning of what? There was no chemistry between us. The puppy didn’t even like me. I was just the guy that kidnapped him and yelled at him. I was his foster parent. He might have been cute and I might have been taking care of him, but at this point in time I had a better connection with my dead plant collection. I didn’t understand what long-term puppy effect this lady was talking about. The only thing I knew for certain was that I couldn’t believe this was really happening. Puppy pinch me. I was in shock that a woman this
As I crouched down by a dirty curb, I looked into this woman’s eyes. I felt her breath. I felt something I hadn’t felt in a long time. I missed looking deep into somebody’s eyes. I realized how much I missed a woman’s company. How much I missed affection. Female attention. I missed goose bumps and tingles. I missed being attracted to somebody. I missed communicating. Talking to this woman in the street made me realize that Paige wasn’t the only one out there for me. Thanks to my puppy publicist for introducing me, I was able to see there would be other women in the four seasons of my future dreams. He lured her to me. She brought hope and understanding that there was somebody else out there for me. Someone who would correct my grammar and table manners. Who was the right one for me. Who would appear at the right time for me. When I was ready—I was far from ready. It was going to take a long time before I let my guard down and let another woman take my breath away.
At least fifteen minutes had gone by, and this woman wouldn’t put my puppy down. But she had no idea how much her talking meant to me. I valued every word she said to me. She made my day. She made the puppy’s day when she was rubbing his belly and hit his jackpot by accident. He started frantically shaking his little chubby leg, purring like a baby wookie.
“Warr-rr-uuu,” said Chewie.
“I got the spot. I got the spot,” she said. “My dog used to do that. I used to have an American Lab. He was tall and his nose was pointy. Is yours all Lab? He looks like he has a little Rottie in him.”
“No. He’s all Labth. He’s an Englishth Labth.”
“What a friendly face. He’s a happy guy. He’s so beautiful. He has so many expressions. Just look at the size of the head on that
munchkin. He’s gorgeous. Just look at those paws. He’s gonna be huuuuuge, ya know. He’s gonna be huuuuuge. I hope you have a big enough apartment.”
“I hope I haveth a big enough apartmenth, too,” I cringed, half smiling.
“You hear that pup-peeeeeeeeeee, you’re gonna be a big boy someday.”
Then if this woman wasn’t excited enough, she raised her voice up an octave to the key of parakeet. “I love you puppeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” she tweeted.
I could have lived with the bird calls all day. It was the embarrassment of holding that same bag of puppy crap that was getting to me. I had to get out of this stinky situation. Fast. But I had a little problem. The woman wouldn’t stop playing with him. She looked like she was in some kind of a trance. Her blue eyes were hypnotized by my baby’s blue eyes. I didn’t know how to break the spell. Then I thought if I get up from my crouching position and started walking away the woman would get the hint and go to work. I thought wrong. When I started walking toward the trash can on the corner of Twenty-seventh Street to dispose of the damaged goods, the woman was still attached to my puppy like crazy glue. She was hot on my trail. As I kept walking and walking, she kept talking and stalking. Every time she got too close to my puppy, the farther I had to extend my right arm attached to the two brave fingers that dangled the swinging puppy poop pendulum pouch away from her face. It was hard to keep the bag still. God forbid some doody fell out on her. I had never seen anything like this in my life. Until thirty seconds later when history repeated itself.
Another obsessive com-puppy-pulsive person in a yellow sun dress screeching like a parakeet appeared on the scene.
“Look at the pup-peeeeeeeeeeeeee! Look at the pup-peeeeeeeeeeeeee!”she screamed. Now I had two overly friendly ladies of the morning ganging up on me. They were goo-gooing and gah-gahhing and they were gawking. They played Brucie in the middle, poking and pulling, violating my puppy’s privacy. They took turns tickling him like they were part of some puppy petting tag-team confederation. Just as I was getting the hang of juggling two women, a puppy, and a bag of puppy poop, a pretty lady in a navy blue business suit came running from across the street almost getting hit by a cabby to join in with the festivities. Now I had six arms in my face. Six exposed unguarded breasts bobbing up against me. I had lived in New York all my life and I’d seen some pretty strange activities take place, but this took the Twinkie.
“Aww, the liddle baby gave me kisses,” one of them said.
I felt like I was the ring leader of a puppy kissing booth. I should have charged a dollar every time my puppy slobbered on one of them. And I mean them. Every time one of these woman said, “good-bye puppy” and stepped away, within seconds there was another woman to take her place. Suddenly, a black-haired woman with big green eyes, wearing a swanky swimsuit and flippity flop, flip-flops, came running out of my building screaming in a French accent, “Look at lé pup-pééééééééééééééé! Look at lé pup-pééééééééééééééé!”
Before I knew it they were everywhere. Before I could make it to the trash can they pinned me up against the tan brick wall of my
building where they had their way with my puppy. There was tickling and tugging. Grabbing and rubbing. Poking and shoving. Elbows and boobs and hair in my face. There was squealing and squirming and squeaking and there was foul play. This one woman kept rubbing his furry purple puppy penis by accident. “Oops, sorry,” she said. I felt so embarrassed for my barking little buddy.
It was invasion of the puppy petters. They flew in like a flock of seagulls on a sunny sidewalk. Every time one of them landed, they alerted another woman with their wild bird “pup-peee-up-peeeeeeee” call. Every time one of them landed, they asked him the same basic questions. “What’s your name? How old are you? Are you a Lab?” Except for this one woman who paid special attention to details. She asked me, “If he’s a boy, than why does he have nipples?” Oh, the puppy pirates of Lexington Avenue were a rare breed indeed. They had their own secret code. Their own hand signals. No matter what color or creed, black, Asian, Indian, or Caucasian, they communicated with one another like they knew each other from some distant puppy planet named Pluto.
“Give him to me. I’ll take him. Just look at him. Puppeeeeeeee. Did you ever see a face like dat? He’s adorable. Scrumptiously, delumptious. Um, ummm good. And he has that fresh puppy scent. He smells better than my husband.”
“I know. I know. I love him. I want to eat him too. Delicious. Deeeeee-licious. I’m not kidding. He’s too cuuuuute.”
They didn’t want to eat him. They weren’t all from outer space either. This one woman told me she commuted in from the Bronx. I could’ve sworn she was a reincarnated female version of Horshack from Welcome Back, Kotter when Horshackina raised her arm and said, “Ooooh! Ooooh! Would-chu-jus-look-at-dat-face! Ooooh, I just want to squeeeeeeze him!”
I used to think there was something psychologically wrong with Paige every time she saw a dog and turned into a five-year-old girl.
But after this episode of Wild Kingdom,I was convinced that Paige was perfectly “normal.” Talking about normal, I didn’t want to jinx
myself, but I felt Tony the Tiger greeaattt!I couldn’t wait to call Dr. C and all of my friends and family to tell them good news for a
change. That this puppy medicine was actually working in some wacky-assed way. I felt amazing. I felt high. But not too high. Not
manic, I-can-fly high. Happy-go-lucky high. Just right. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt so alive. And I couldn’t believe I was
still holding that same bag of crap. It was time to make another run for the trash can. This time nobody was stopping me. Not even my
puppy harem that was following me. Yes, following me.
As I dribbled my puppy all the way down center court sidewalk, weaving in and out, they stuck to me like the New York Knicks defense. By the time I got to the corner of Twenty-seventh Street to throw this dirty diaper out, there were so many women around me, I didn’t know who I was talking to anymore. It didn’t matter. The fact that I was walking and talking and smiling was all I could ask for. And now the moment I had been waiting for. In between all of the oohing and ahhing, the waving, the screeching, the tickling of my
pup-pee-uppy’s feeties, the “Rrrr, rrrrr, rrrr,” I took my foul smelling shot. I pulled a Michael Jordan on them. As I tossed the psychedelic smelling relic into the rusty waste receptacle in slow motion, as the crowd cheered, I had an epiphany of sociological and biological proportions. I had finally solved the puzzle man had been trying to figure out since the beginning of time: all of these years the key to meeting beautiful women was picking up a bag of fresh puppy poop.
I spun around in circles taking it all in. Thanks to my cute little crapper I was the luckiest man on Lexington Avenue. The hell with Wheaties. My puppy was the breakfast of champions. Talking about breakfast, I would have stayed out there all day chitchatting away but the little fella had to eat so I took the puppy’s little paw in my hand and I waved bye-bye to the ladies.
“We’ll be right back,” I told them. “I just have to feed him.”
“Awww, you have to feed him. That’s too cute. Too cuuuuute,” they said. “Bye puppy. Go with your nice daddy. We’ll miss you.”
Daddy, I kinda liked the sound of that.
They chased us back to my building.
Bruce Goldstein’s book, Puppy Chow Is Better Than Prozac, is also available for download on iPhones and iPads with iBooks.
Image of girl and her puppy courtesy of Shutterstock