THE DOG DAZE OF SUMMER by Donny Levit
A newly-minted dog dad adjusts to canine life
I’ve become the most popular guy in the neighborhood. Kids stop me when I walk down the block. Drivers pull their cars over to ask me questions. The local delivery guy shows up at the front door even though I don’t have a package. And let me just clarify that none of this has anything to do with me.
I suppose this is what happens when you live with a celebrity who spends most of the day wagging his tail.
In late February of this year, we adopted a two-month old rescue pup who only weeks before had been wandering the streets of Luquillo, Puerto Rico. We dubbed him Akashi after our Japanese whiskey of choice. His middle name is Yomo, in honor of Víctor Guillermo “Yomo” Toro, the legendary cuatro player and musical icon of Puerto Rico. His sobriquet is as motley as his supermutt genetics.
Nicole and I give full credit to our kids for spotting him in the lap of a young woman sitting at the table next to us at Sunday brunch. Little did we know our kids were asking to pet our future family member. After being smitten, we feverishly filled out the adoption application. And just like that, Akashi became the newest canine denizen of Maplewood.
We weren’t quite sure what to do when we got him home that first night. We fed him. We introduced him to his crate. We watched him pee on the floor multiple times. And while it was a bit perplexing at the beginning, I could almost feel my blood pressure drop whenever I looked at this little guy.
On one of my earlier walks with Akashi, a woman stopped her car in front of us, rolled down her window, and had quite a few questions. We jawed about his age and breed. She speculated about how big he’d get. “And what the heck’s going on with the Yanks this year? Everyone’s injured,” she said, noticing my baseball cap. “It’s early,” I assured her. “The season is 162 games long.”
I soon realized I had been inducted into a dog owner community without a ceremony. All of a sudden, I had a built-in excuse to start conversations with strangers. And in training class, I befriended people that I never would have met without my pup. One of my newest acquaintances is a woman who is a bus driver for NJ Transit. Akashi gets on smashingly with her pocket pit bull. And while I’m not much of follower of the local online communities, I’ve become strangely addicted to the “Dogs of SOMA” Facebook page. I’ve never clicked the love icon on so many photos.
OK, so I do have one complaint. I lament not being able to stop into a local coffee shop for a quick caffeine fix when I’m walking Akashi. I know the laws aren’t going to change any time soon, but I’d love to create a signal to coax someone outside to take my order. I promise a generous tip and some Scooby snacks.
As of now, Akashi has more than doubled in size since he came home with us. He’s a fixture in our bed and has become the third child who steals my pillow in the middle of the night. And when our friends want to stop by, they’re really looking for an excuse to have a play date with my dog. I’m OK with that. I’ll make a deal with you: Bring Akashi treats, and I’ll pour you an excellent Japanese whiskey.
Donny Levit is a writer, journalist, and now carries plastic bags in his pockets everywhere. He is the author of Rock n’ Roll Lies, 10 Stories. Follow him on @donnyreports.