There’s something about a dog, especially a mutt, that invites strangers on the street to lose all sense of decorum and say the first sentence — kind or otherwise — that springs to mind.
While I think my Border Collie–Australian Cattle Dog mix, Pelle, is adorable, he doesn’t look like the stereotype of a cuddly, all-American dog and isn’t a well-known breed; I receive far more compliments when I’m dog sitting and walking my friends’ admittedly wonderful Greyhound, Rufus. Pelle, with his orange spots, permanent eyeliner, and every-which-way fur, seems to incite people to much stranger compliments and occasional offense. Here are the five craziest things strangers on the street have said about Pelle:
1. He’s a hipster.
A few summers ago, Pelle suffered a fractured pelvis and had surgery that required the vet to shave his half of his backside.
Shortly afterward, Pelle and I walked past a bar in industrial Bushwick and a bouncer said in disgust: “[Expletive] hipsters, they’re giving their dogs asymmetrical haircuts too. Dumb [expletive] thinks she’s an artiste now.”
2. He’s an international rock star.
One Monday morning, a gorgeous blond model-type coming down from some sort of celestial high floated over to Pelle and me to gush, “Oh, my God, he’s so dreamy! He looks just like a young Rod Stewart!” Her boyfriend gently led her away.
3. His shaved butt means something … political?
Later that week, a weedy, fresh-out-of-college twentysomething guy asked, “So, that dog’s haircut has to be some kind of political statement, right?”
Yep. I’m into super high-concept, politicized art projects that require half a shaved dog’s butt. Vote or die, y’all.
4. Apparently my dog looks like a Republican.
Politics can cause all sorts of tempers to run high. I had an odd encounter with a woman at a Manhattan dog park who looked at Pelle and started shrieking. I wasn’t sure what had bothered her, so I immediately leashed Pelle and headed for the park gate, where the woman, who’d been casually chatting with friends a moment before, blocked me, spitting, “YOUR DOG IS A REPUBLICAN! HE VOTED FOR GEORGE BUSH! HE’S A CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN!” She was so incensed that some dog park friends had to act as a physical buffer to allow me to get through the gate and out of the park.
5. He’s just a sentient furball.
Similarly upset was the proprietor of a local corner grocery I frequented when Pelle was a puppy. This man really struggled with the idea that Pelle is a dog. The first time he saw Pelle waiting outside his shop, he yelped, “WHAT is THAT?!” When I said it was a puppy, he shouted angrily, “That’s not a dog. That’s just hair!” He continued to disparage Pelle each time he saw him. I still like to think of Pelle as just some hair to which I became inexplicably attached and treat as a pet.
6. Actually, he’s my sunshine.
I do have to include my favorite compliment of Pelle, which edges out the Rod Stewart one for its sheer exuberance. A woman in a small, vintage furniture shop in Brooklyn said rapturously when she saw Pelle, “Wow, he’s like a golden sunrise with a herd of running palominos!”
“Exactly,” I said.
So now here’s the part where you dish: What are the craziest, funniest things a stranger’s ever said about your pet? Share your wild stories in the comments section!
About the author: Lauren Zimmer lives in Brooklyn with her boyfriend and dog. She is a children’s and young adult book reviewer and licensed social worker. Her dream is to become an animal-assisted therapist for children, and she hopes to someday own a farm where she can house many more adopted pets.