I am housesitting for my sister and brother-in-law in Laguna Beach. And by “housesitting” I mean “pet sitting.” The house would be fine on its own if I weren’t here spilling salsa and breaking wine glasses twenty-four hours a day. The pets, however, would be marginally worse off without me.
Walking around a busy tourist town with two huge, unusual-looking dogs is a strange experience. At home in San Francisco, I’m used to being largely inconspicuous. In fact, sometimes I think that I am literally invisible. No one ever gets out of my way on the sidewalk. You would think that at some point in my long history of wandering around aimlessly, at least one person I encountered would have thought “Hey, maybe this crabby looking girl could use a few inches of this public sidewalk as well. After all, the sidewalk is for everyone, not just me and my friends who happen to enjoy walking five abreast while pushing double-wide baby strollers. I’ll move over a little instead of making her step aside into the gutter and/or moving traffic.”
No. This has never happened. It’s like I’m Patrick Swayze in Ghost, but without even the responsibility of avenging my own death to distract me from the fact that everyone else is an asshole.
This is not the case with Ragazzo and Vincenzo at my sides. Everyone notices us. Or, I should say, everyone notices them. Most interaction is actually directed toward the dogs while I stand around politely waiting for them to finish their conversation.
OVERWEIGHT MIDWESTERN TOURIST: “Well aren’t you two beautiful!”
RAGAZZO AND VINCENZO: [panting]
OMT: “Look honey, aren’t they just beautiful?”
R&V: [panting and looking at a rock]
OMT: “I’ve never seen such beautiful dogs!”
R&V: [panting and staring at the sun]
OMT: “Well you beauties enjoy the rest of your walk!”
ME: “Have a good night!”
This nets me a puzzled look, like I just sat down uninvited at a cafeteria table with the Heathers.
Occasionally someone will engage me to ask what kind of dogs they are.
“Spinones,” I say.
“Spumonis? Like the ice cream?”
“Spinones. They’re Italian hunting dogs. SPEE-NO-NAYS.”
“Ha ha. They’re Italian and they’re called spumonis? That’s hilarious. Honey, come look at these spumonis!”
Etc. Eventually I give up and admit they’re labradoodles, at which point I’m inevitably asked, “And are they all yours?” Translation: “You’re the dog-walker, right, poor?” Fair enough, I guess. I am, after all, wearing shorts I bought on sale at Nordstrom instead of the traditional local garb of shorts bought not–on sale at Nordstrom. You can imagine how I stick out like a sore, unmanicured thumb.
I just hope it’s cool with my sister if I train her dogs to bite people.