Madame was a very small dog, although not the smallest I’ve ever met. While she was extremely cute, I didn’t immediately realize she was the traffic-stopping kind of adorable.
The job hadn’t originally involved a dog. The job had started out as a favor, or, more accurately, a mutually beneficial situation. My friend and her family were going away for the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and I was welcome to stay at their house while they were gone. I was welcome to luxuriate in their heat and their running water and their WiFi and their multitude of television options. In exchange, I’d make sure their cat had food and water and a tolerable litter pan. I wouldn’t have to leave the house for days at a time if I didn’t want to.
I was sitting on my friend’s couch when she got the email that brought Madame into my life. I was working on my blog and my friend was doing her paying job even though it was supposed to be her day off.
What does this woman want? she asked aloud in exasperation.
The woman in question was a former co-worker. My friend said the woman only contacts her when she wants something. This time she wanted my friend to care for her dog while she was out of the country for the holidays.
My friend said her family had kept the dog once years before. She was an old dog, my friend said, and not much trouble.
I’ll be here anyway, I told my friend. If you don’t mind the dog being at your house, I can take care of her. But tell your friend I want $10 a day.
Caring for a dog meant taking it for walks, which meant I couldn’t stay in the house for days at a time. I wanted a little monetary compensation for my trouble.
My friend said the dog had no teeth and ate wet food. I definitely want $10 a day if I have to feed her wet food, I told my friend. Picking up dog feces is bad enough, but a combination of feces and wet food is a lot of grossness to deal with. Yes, if wet food was involved, I definitely wanted monetary compensation.
The dog’s person was a little desperate. No one else she asked had been able to care for the dog, so she contacted my friend. I don’t know what she would have done if I hadn’t been available. I suspect she would have paid a kennel more than $10 a day. I suspect Madame would have been miserable all alone in a tiny cage.
I said I would care for Madame.
I met her on the morning of Christmas Eve. I arrived at my friend’s house early, while she and her family were still packing and preparing for their trip. Finally, they headed off to the airport, and Madame and I were alone.
Madame was a tiny chihuahua, black, although I’d imagined her as tan and looking more like a pug. I don’t know how old she was, but her muzzle was quite grey. She had big chihuahua eyes and big chihuahua ears, and her mouth was a little twisted due to her lack of teeth. She had stick-thin legs and a large pink bow on her collar.
When it came time for our walk, I found her comically thin leash and hooked it to the metal ring on her collar. She walked well on the leash, didn’t pull, altough I’m not sure if I would have noticed if she did. Like most dogs, Madame liked to stop and sniff. Sometimes if I was ready to move on and she wasn’t, she’d plant her feet and give me an ugly look. I could have easily picked her up and whisked her away, but instead I tugged gently on the leash and talked sweetly to her until she came along.
We were almost back to my friend’s house, walking on the sidewalk, when the car stopped in the middle of the street. It wasn’t a busy street, which is probably why the driver felt it was safe to stop, but still. Most people don’t stop their cars in the middle of the street.
That’s the smallest dog I’ve ever seen! the driver called out to me.
She’s pretty small, I agreed.
The driver and the passenger, both women with grey hair, both women who looked quite a bit older than I am, were gushing over Madame’s cuteness.
Is she full grown? the driver asked me.
Oh yes, I said. She’s actually quite elderly.
There were more declarations of cuteness, and I was polite, but I was ready to move on and get back to my limited-time house life.
She’s just so small, the driver said again. And she’s full grown? The driver was having a difficult time believing Madame wasn’t a puppy.
Oh yes, I said. She’s an old lady dog!
I’ve walked cute dogs before, but none of my other charges have ever brought traffic to a halt.