Alpha dog.

I’m real macho, but Billy was a dog for a real man. I’m the rock-star dog walker, but I met a dog I could not take on.

I was excited to get the call from Billy’s owner, and even more so when he told me Billy was a big dog: they rarely require accessories like faux-leather jackets that match their doggie totes. I don’t need to worry that a hungry squirrel or pigeon will try to take off with a big dog.

“The ladies at the animal shelter said, yup, that’s a dog for a man,” he chuckled.

“Well, sounds like Billy’s the dog for me!” I answered.

It seemed like a perfect match: Billy was about three years old, and filled with energy for running and playing. His mix was a little intimidating – Rottweiler, Doberman, and Lab – but every dog is a fan of the rock-star dog walker. Billy had just been adopted and brought home in the previous 36 hours, but his new owner assured me Billy was trained and receptive.

I visited their home to meet the owner and Billy before our first appointed walk. There was no barking when I knocked and Steve, Billy’s owner, opened the door. I noticed three things immediately: 1. Steve is a big guy. Over six feet tall big. 2. It was an effort for this big guy to restrain Billy by the collar. 3. I have a rock star ego, but a 5’ 2” body.

“Hi,” Steve said, slightly out of breath as Billy pulled toward me.

“Wow,” I said, “he really is a big boy.”

I could see that Billy was playful and happy, and I had faith in the power of my lean muscle and voice-of-God tone I use with dogs. I suggested Steve release him so I could greet Billy.

Billy leapt, placed his heavy paws on my shoulders and towered above me.

“Whoah!” I gasped as I was pinned to the wall.

“Geesh, I’m so sorry,” Steve said as he grabbed Billy’s collar. “Billy down, down, boy.”

“Yeah, okay, he didn’t mean it, he’s just big, he… oh, uh, is he trained?” I asked as Billy released a stream of pee onto the carpet in the entry way.

“Aww, Billy!” Steve exclaimed.

I managed to hold Billy while Steve got paper towels and explained that he’d been assured at the shelter that Billy was trained.

Trained in what? I wondered. I looked at Billy, who was finally sitting, and he looked at me with those grateful shelter-dog eyes I can never resist. I sighed and assured Steve that Billy and I would do just fine on our first walk.

I arrived early for my first appointment with Billy, time that was consumed quickly as I tried to keep him still to clip on his leash. Holding a huge dog when he squirms felt like wrestling and I sweat from the effort.

“Okay buddy, ready to walk? Let’s… oh no, Billy!” I exclaimed as Billy peed onto the carpet. It was not a stream. It was a gush. And it was endless. Billy’s whimper voiced his helplessness to his bladder’s urgent need.

I thought it best to place paper towels on the carpet before we left, but trees and hydrants were first on Billy’s mind. He jumped to block me from the kitchen, his big dog head clocked me in the chin, and I fell right onto the pool of piss. I had a fat lip, a wet ass, and serious second thoughts.

I wondered why I was sitting in dog urine in a stranger’s home, holding the leash of a large dog of unknown temperament and training. At best, Billy would just sniff me, recognize his scent, then lift his leg to mark me as his own. At worst, my picture would be on the front page of The Jersey Journal under the headline: “Big Dog Takes Big Bite of Boricua.”

I doubted Billy understood, but I instructed him to stay and wait as I backed out of the door. I ran home to change into dry pants, and back to Billy’s home to finally take him out. Running was the one smart thing I did: It served as a warm-up for the full-speed sprint Billy took me on around the neighborhood.

I called Steve, Billy’s owner, after returning Billy, cleaning up the entry way, and loading my sweaty and dampened clothes into the washer.

“How did it go?” he asked.

“Well…” I began, not knowing where to start and wanting to be diplomatic.

“We didn’t get off to a smooth start,” I said. “Billy’s too much for me to handle and I’m not the right dog walker for him right now.”

Rock stars know what they do best and that some things are beyond even their super abilities.


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