My twenty-one-year-old granddaughter Ashley called me from New York last summer. "You know how I've been working in the Village on a dog-sitting job?" And without waiting for an answer, she plunged into her story.
"Well, I've been taking care of a big, hairy Briard named Horace for people who live on Houston Street, and I really loved that dog. I fed him, brushed and walked him, and I swear that dog really understood me. When Cindy and Paul went to the Hamptons for their vacation, they gave me a key to the apartment, and I went over there every day."
She took a breath and went on. "Last week, when I walked into the kitchen, I saw Horace all spread out, foam around his mouth. He wasn't just asleep. He was dead! So I immediately called Cindy at their place in the Hamptons, and asked her what to do. She was pretty calm; said that Horace was an old dog; that she was sorry Horace died on my watch, but that the thing to do was to call the vet. She said not to worry."
"So that's what I did. The vet told me to bring the dog to a special place across town where they took care of dead dogs. But . . .several problems. Horace weighed almost as much as I do. Plus, I don't have a car, and I didn't have enough money for a cab, so, what to do? I decided to take the subway, and that meant that I had to put Horace into something I could carry. So after looking around the apartment, I found an old duffle bag, and after a lot of huffing and puffing, managed to stuff him into it. He wasn't totally stiff yet. Well, it's pretty hot in New York, and by the time I got Horace into the bag and hauled down to the lobby, I was sweating. The doorman wasn't around, so I hoisted the duffle bag onto my shoulder and staggered down to the subway station."
Ashley paused for breath. "Okay; now here's the best part. I get to the top of the stairs leading down to the platform and there's a guy standing there who looks like he could be one of the students in my Drama class at Columbia. He asks if he can help me, so of course I say ‘Yes!' He lifts the bag to his shoulder and we go down to the platform together. He asks me where I'm going, and when I give him the subway stop, he says he can go there too. So we get on the car together. Then he asks me what's in that duffle bag; it's so heavy. Well, how can I tell him it's a dead dog? So I dream up a story about moving across town and this is stuff I didn't want to trust the movers with. . .my laptop and so on."
"Well, at the very next stop, the guy picks up the duffle, jumps out of the car and runs up the steps to the street! I jump up; reach out after him, yelling, ‘Hey! Wait!' but then I realize the guy has solved my problem. . . so I sat down. Then a lady sitting next to me leans over and pats my knee, telling me not to worry, I can get off at the next stop and notify the police."
Ashley laughed. "So I got off at the next stop and crossed over to the opposite platform to take the next car back home. I couldn't help laughing when I thought about that guy's face when he opened the duffle bag. Isn't that a kick?"
"I'll say," I responded. "I guess the moral is, be careful what you steal!"