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Is that a Moose loose in the park??

This here is a Mastiff. Males can weigh up to 230 lbs. Yup. That’s like about an average 6′ 4″ male human. Or a baby Moose.

Right by us is a nice strip of park we take the dogs to on daily walks. You would think that 365 days of traversing the same parts of Manhattan would become uninteresting, but you really get to understand the meaning of seasons this way. I’m not sure how our dogs perceive the changing environments, but they absolutely react to the crispness of fall differently than wetness of spring. Assuredly, all the animals that bob in and out of nature’s garden smell thousands of her varying perfumes and odors.

New York City is a dog’s world. Every year, our guys meet new friends and say unknowing goodbyes to other ones. They have their regular pals to sniff and share a tail wag, baring teeth and growling at those pooches that today are the enemy. Our little guy is a rescue, and he’s particularly moody in this way: friends one day and barking the next at the same darn dog. The boys do love their neighbor Duke, a wiry-grey, short hair fellow, weighing in at around 15 lbs. Duke is now looking at 11 yrs old, a somewhat confirmed bachelor, along with his owner. We get to bump into them sporadically despite the fact they live about three buildings over. No matter how long or short the passage of time, it’s always a grand reunion when they see each other. On lucky days, we’re all going in the same direction, and all three friends happily bounce along peeing on whatever is nailed down.

At the entrance of the park two more dogs and their owners showed up. Whiskey, a tan and biscuit patched rescue, did his usual snobby, snappy bark, immediately sitting down when checked. Sulking, he swung his head this way and that, awaiting his walk command. Sanya’s brown little body waddled around the grass a bit with her daddy, completely uninterested in all the action, her big brown eyes emitting a low watt ho-hum. Dog owner life meant knowing the names of almost all the dogs before hardly ever knowing the names of their owners. I reigned in my guys, pausing to catch-up on human neighborly gossip for a few moments. The boys sighed, rolling their eyes even as I offered to bribe their humor with some treats.

The park has a serious upward slope that is partially held up by a brick wall on one end, gigantic boulders on the other. Second, third and fourth sets of stairs follow the steep rise of elevation. Summertime offers up a particularly wild lushness, with various free-wheeling flowers and young eager trees springing up around the wise, outstretched arms of decades old oaks and maples with thickened trunks.

Mid-conversation, my eyes riveted away, jaw slacking as I catch a blaze of silvery fur slithering and rustling amongst the leaves. Two years earlier, two deer from New Jersey had crossed the river and found their way to the park. My brain focused on “deer” following the brain train with “tick-season” recalling my Shiba’s Lyme disease experience. Instead, us humans gaped as this giant dog face, as big as Duke’s whole body, emerging from the forest bushes. He stood nearing four feet from paw to top of head, coming in close to 200 lbs, watching from the edge of the brick wall. His Mastiff muscle rippling in waves as he breathed, the ease of a giant breed overseeing his domain. A slight, spry woman in athletic gear appeared, commanding him to stay. He slowly lowered, knowing he could easily jump the six feet down to where we stood gawking, stomping on us all.

Once she was within reach, she commanded him to walk, and her loose companion went charging through the plant life like a Moose galloping across the Alaskan grass. No big deal, just another dog prancing around a Manhattan park. Collecting our wits, we could see how our dogs were mere cartoon versions compared to that monster. The total weight of our five pups would equal to one-eighth of that Mastiff. We stood laughing as the gang seem to revert to normal after life went on pause for a few beats. I’m not sure I would choose to have all of that running around off leash. As a dog owner, how would I ensure the Mastiff’s need for acreage to roam and get exercise?

Maybe, not a city dog?

A week later, walking through with they boys on the morning walk I ran into Sanya and Whiskey again. We checked in on Mastiff Moose sightings immediately, unable to shake the visage of its giant head and body. No one had spotted him nor the owner, but we did wonder how someone could handle him if he decided to charge. No matter how domesticated, a dog was still an unpredictable animal when unbeknownst to the owner, it feels threatened. We concluded grabbing whatever dog and running. Often associated as good-natured breed, many males topple 200 lbs easily. I doubt the Mastiff is a good city dog, but what do I know?

Please, just don’t sit on me.

© Isabel Alvear, August 2020

#dogs #Mastiff #NYC #Parks #Doglife #Essays #Manhattan #Writing

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