By Klara Woldenga, Entertainment Editor
Joan loved dogs. The big ones, the small ones, the high ones, even the weird ones. They were all good dogs, and the only way you could express this was by petting them. Every dog Joan had seen she pet by any means necessary. She was crafty and was always able to get her way either by asking, demanding, or sneaking.
She was lucky petting a dog without permission was a small offence, but also lucky that she was unthreatening. Who wouldn’t let a nice, short, blonde girl pet their dog? Maybe owners said no because the dog was shy or troublesome—no matter. Joan was a dog behaviour specialist by trade and would often walk away from the conflict with another client. Maybe she couldn’t pet the dog because the person was in a hurry. Again, it was no matter. Joan would simply run up beside the person and ask, almost too politely, and then sneak in a pet or two.
It wasn’t until she met Ralph, an elderly hot dog vender and wiener dog owner, that she ran into the worst problem ever: He wouldn’t let her pet his dog. Ever. No matter how nicely, softly, or firmly she asked, he was always ready with a “No,” or a swift blocking of her hand with his hot dog tongs.
Joan accepted this problem as a temporary thing. He’s new to the area, she thought. Maybe he just needs time for him—and his dog—to settle. For weeks she went during her lunch breaks, buying a hot dog and chatting him up while getting closer to his adorable dog sitting beside the cart. His responses were always short. To the point. He only responded with questions like “Do you want onions with that?” or “Do you mind moving left? There’s people behind you, you know.” But Joan was undeterred because she knew that if she kept at it, she would pet that dog.
It was six weeks in when she finally had her breakthrough. On her way to the hot dog stand for her daily attempt she saw it: Another person petting the dog! The lucky person was an older lady, almost as short as Joan was, who had a hot dog in one hand and was petting the living dog with the other. Joan bounced up the hot dog stand with glee, excited that the old man had finally let his guard down. She paid for her meal with extra onions, like always, before starting up.
“Can I pet your dog?” she asked.
The old man didn’t look up from his dead dogs.
“No,” he said.
Joan choked on her food.
“What?” she managed to get out. “But that old lady is petting your dog.”
The old man said nothing, allowing the cart’s sizzling to fill the silence.
Joan walked to the side of the cart and wormed her way up to the old woman. She held out her hand, but it was promptly slapped by the old man’s. Joan furiously looked up at him.
“But she’s petting the dog!” she said. The silent old woman continued petting, seemingly unaware of her surroundings.
The old man tended to his dead, grilling dogs.
“He’s had enough,” he said.
The older woman stood up and nodded to the old man before walking away. Joan watched her go, wondering if the old lady could hear her or feel anything that wasn’t two inches from her. She turned her attention back to the old man, leaning over the cart towards him and the grill.
“Let me pet the dog!” Joan said.
The old man was silent as he flipped his dogs. Joan watched his tongs move the meat slowly and accurately.
She pet every dog, she thought. Always. If she didn’t, who would she be? No way was this man, this old hot dog man, was going to get in her way. Suddenly, she had an idea.
Joan grabbed one of the cart’s plastic forks and stabbed the old man’s left eye with it. He screamed in pain, dropping his tongs and himself to the ground. She dropped down and pet the wiener dog, who was now fraught with fear as his master yelled in pain. The dog’s fur was smooth, just as she had guessed it would be. Joan then picked herself up and walked back to her work. See, she knew that if she kept at it she would pet that dog.