Bob woke up yesterday knowing a long, hard day awaited him. He’d heard me say the previous evening that I was going to videotape his every move, and he shuns the limelight. Even though it was the first day of spring weather, it only increased his anxiety because he knew I would be geeking behind him, in public, with the damned camera. He was grumpy, all right, but the need for a walk and the call of the returning birds overshadowed his anxiety of being documented.
“Somebody’s gonna get a punch in the nose…” I sang to the tune of Skip To My Lou, a Billy-invented game and a surefire way of inducing excited spasms from Bob's normally reserved self. The videotape rolled and he yelped on cue, and went in that circle of his but it's become slower and slower in the past six months. Where once a leap, now there's a measured paw shuffle and a head raise. But the bark was loud and strong, and soon the cam caught him sniffing at the elevator doors, determining which would come first. His prediction was wrong and he shuffled himself into the right car. With the doors closed, I fired off a series of questions, the echo bouncing nicely through the aluminum and wood chamber, and he ignored each and every query. He had something else on his mind.
We scooted out the front door, my arm held low to gain his 36-inch high perspective, and we made our way across the four lanes of 15th Street to the front of the Tunisian embassy. I knew it was his favorite first target, and I unclipped the leash and let him go to the same spot he visits twice a day. He climbed up the rising to the wrought iron fence and let go of a night’s worth stream of pee. I gave a running monologue through the pee, voyeuristically zooming in on the golden arch.
One last squirt and we were off down the block to the park of homeopathy and vermin, a small spit of grass and bushes surrounding a grandly scaled statue of the father of homeopathic medicine, and the rats scurried at our appearance. Our routine memorized, I ran ahead of him to capture the front view as he went through his usual paces; a lot of pointless sniffing with a half-hearted leg raise every once in a while to let them know he was there. Big Business went without a hitch although it was difficult to videotape picking it up in the baggie while actually doing it.
Once we returned to our building, the weekend doorman, who is stingy with dog treats, was stationed at his desk and as usual, ignoring all that passed him. “Come on, Bob,” I said, tugging his leash, informing him that a Pup-Peroni was not in his immediate future. In the elevator as we traveled back up, I asked how he liked his walk but breakfast was the only thing on his mind, not answering my moronic questions.
We captured the SAM-E ritual, and my daily Lainie Kazan impersonation, coaxing him to clean his plate. After that, his first nap was caught on tape - Bob’s Gone Wild. It was madness. First the snoring began, and then he went on the occasional sleep-induced bird chase, a silent run of arthritic legs remembering a time on the beach when a sandpiper was just seconds away from his elegant gait.
I grew tired of watching him sleep and decided to curl up on the couch with him, turn off the camera, and I settled into Cecil B. DeMille's own early talkie remake of his groundbreaking 1914 silent, The Squaw Man . I watched Lupe Velez play an Indian girl falling in love with an English aristocrat, and I thought of poor Lupe’s ignoble suicide. I played on the computer while the film ran but the spring air was calling and I woke up Bob to go for a walk.
Logan Circle is our closest large park, a wide traffic circle with a dried out fountain in the center that is surrounded by alcoholics, all of whom had something to say to Bob. The video camera whirred while they were engaged in their one-sided dialogue and it wasn’t until one of them yelled out, “Hey, old man,” that we both grew indignant and left the park. I think he was addressing Bob but you can never tell with alcoholics, and I wasn’t taking any chances.
Back home, the sun streamed through the windows in jailhouse bars of light, and Bob took residence among them. I asked him how he liked the walk and if he was enjoying the sunbathing and by his passive reaction, I could tell it was an affirmative. I told him we only had one more meal to capture and then his duties for the day were done. With that came a sigh.
The only other video I have of Bob, really, is when I first got the camera. I taped him walking around his Venice block and doing his business. There was more sprinting that time, a far peppier step, and it was hard to keep up as he walked around the path he knew so well. It was complete Bob-cam as I hunched over the entire tour. I came home, excited at my new toy and what it could do, and I put it on the TV for Billy to watch with me.
When it got to the part of Bob doing Big Business, Billy giggled and covered his mouth while saying, “You’re crazy!”
“I’m crazy? Look at him!” I pointed to Bob who was, by then, sound asleep on the couch, snoring.