Satire | Dispatches from a South Oakland dog


Photo Courtesy of Anne-Marie Yurik

Columnist Anne-Marie Yurik poses with her dog, Texas Ted.

By Anne Marie Yurik, Staff Columnist

Texas Ted like Kourtney and Khloe Kardashian circa 2009 is here to take on Pittsburgh. He is a 12-pound dachshund terrier mix from, you guessed it, Texas. He likes Tito’s, jean shorts and other Texas things. But most of all, like your favorite dating app profile, he enjoys long walks.

During our walks through the understated, chic and scenic streets of South Oakland, he fills his time by brake checking me, chasing squirrels and running away from people on the sidewalk. Ted likes people from a distance — he gets that from me.

People, however, like Ted up close. There’s something about a tiny dog who almost looks like a New York City rat that triggers people’s parenting instincts. People want to squeeze Ted, give him pats and talk about what a distinguished gentleman he is. As we pass by groups of people, “Oh my gosh, so cute” and “so tiny” gets shared between them. Whether those statements are about me or Ted, I’ll leave up to your best guess.

Unlike Ted, who appears to enjoy getting catcalled for being a cute dog, I like blending in. I enjoy brisk walks where I go undetected and unnoticed. Ted’s cuteness not only tore apart my anonymity, it also has brought a slew of interactions that months of quarantine and self-isolation did not prepare me for.

The only strangers I interacted with back home were the worms I picked off the sidewalk to keep them from burning in the sun. Human words with new, never-been-seen-before strangers have not been on the menu until this past week with Ted.

As we rounded the corner, moving from the part of South Oakland that smelled like beer to the part of South Oakland that smelled like wine, we ran into a group of home dwellers. I could hear them talking — yes, I eavesdrop, too, I’m multifaceted like that. They were talking about something “cute” and “small,” again, I will not disclose if that was me or Ted.

The closer we got, the more I realized that neither Ted nor I were getting out of this situation quickly. One of the boys descended the three steps to the sidewalk. Ted yeeted his body into the street, because obviously the busy street was safer than a stranger who wanted to give him some lovins.

Surprised, the boys began to laugh at Ted’s aversion to their friend. Amid the chaos and bruised egos, Milk-Bones entered the conversation. Surprisingly, they had Milk-Bones and were willing to share with a dog who was terrified of them. Even more surprisingly, those Milk-Bones were given to a hamster. Ted, approximately the size of 1 3/4 of a hamster, would gladly snag some snacks from this person’s unsuspecting pet. That’s how they do it in Texas.

As we awaited the Milk-Bones, the conversation turned into what is most comparable to a first Tinder date. We didn’t know each other’s names. We all knew we were just waiting for the action, but we exchanged niceties to pretend we were there for more than just a quick snack.

Since Ted unfortunately cannot speak for himself, I was his designated translator. I introduced Ted. It was awkward, there were a lot of breaks in my speech, but I mustered the single syllable name from my mouth. “Uh, yeah. This is Ted.” But that didn’t seem like enough information. So like a boomer about to get scammed over the phone, I gave them more information for free. “Texas Ted,” I said. “Because, he’s, uh, from Texas.” This clarification was clearly necessary.

The boys laughed. Ted was really hitting it off. We almost forgot we were waiting on food. While I held Ted like a baby to keep him from running into the street again, a Ted sympathizer noted, “You’re a long way from home, cowboy.”

Ted’s meager size meant that even after being called “cowboy,” people would try to pat him with one finger. A full hand would surely be too much — it would engulf his head. As the fingers drew closer, they asked, “You like fingers, little guy?” Unsure of how to respond to that, I laughed, and then secretly hoped that Ted did like fingers.

Saved by the bell, the box full of Milk-Bones made its way to the porch. Ted was clearly interested — he got his sweet tooth from me. He sniffed the box, taking in the aroma of this Milk-Bone heaven. The problem, though, was that Ted was a shy eater, something he absolutely does not get from me.

Holding the Milk-Bone and hoping to finally get some love from the dog who publicly rejected him earlier proved difficult for the boy from the porch. Ted was set on being the dumper and not the dumpee. He wouldn’t take the cookie, a Tinder date surprise, if you will.

I grabbed the Milk-Bone, hoping to show Ted he could have a mid-walk snack. Yet again, Ted decided to hit the ultimate flex — he rejected me. He was ready to go, and so it was time for our grand departure.

Like any person who has lacked social contact for an extended period of time, I left this group of strangers by saying, “Nice to see you all.” It was a closing line that left them with very little wiggle room. Maybe they would see Ted again, maybe they wouldn’t. Was it even nice to see a judgmental dog the size of a Chipotle burrito?

Feeling like adding a bit of self-sabotage to top off this interaction, I turned and waved to the boys. You would have thought I was Miss America the way I waved at this group of strangers who did not even ask to see me, they asked to see my dog.

High on adrenaline, and absolutely maxed out socially, I walked home holding the tiny Milk-Bone in my hand. Ted lucky to have gotten free food — strutted down the sidewalk. He did no talking, no moving and no effort, and he not only got pats from five college boys, he also got a free cookie that was stolen from an innocent hamster. Ted is taking Pittsburgh, and also like the Kardashians, he’s ready to have crap handed to him.

Write to Anne Marie at [email protected].