Todd Stansfield is an MFA candidate and part-time faculty member at the City College of New York. He is the assistant editor of Fiction, and the managing editor of Shiv'im Panim, an undergraduate journal published by CCNY's Jewish Studies Program.
“Oh, look, it’s a baby!” I have heard this comment, or some variation, a thousand times while walking along the esplanade on New York City’s East Side. I’ve also heard others speak in mock-friendly (but actually sarcastic) tones about my dog and her carriage. But either way, Bella, a small Chihuahua- Boston Terrier mix, doesn’t seem to pay attention. As her tour-guide, I ignore their comments, while Bella licks her paws and enjoys the ride.
We bought a dog carriage (the size and almost exact design of a baby’s) because Bella developed a problem in her back knees. Called luxating patella, it’s common in small dogs; running or jumping (or for Bella, wrestling) will eventually make walking painful. My sister and I first noticed that Bella was having trouble during one of our trips to the park, when Bella held her left back paw off the ground and trotted along on three paws instead of four. Last September, she had corrective surgery, but despite the doctors’ assurances that she would recover within three weeks, it took much longer. So we bought a carriage. Now, even though her leg has healed, Bella still loves riding in it.
“Oh, look, it’s a baby!”
The baby has a white face and pink circles around her eyes where the hair fades away. She has Yodalike ears and a set of sharp teeth, which she only uses to “play bite.” She stands roughly 18 inches high, weighs 14 pounds, and from the base of her neck on down is solid black — “jet black,” my sister says. To passersby, she’s “simply adorable.”
We’ve found that the best thing to do when confronted by criticism from a stranger is to pretend that Bella has a gift that would make walking dangerous — something so valuable that we can’t afford to let Bella’s feet touch the ground: “Yes, isn’t she cute! Bella, do the howl! Bella, bark my name! Sing, Bella!” Or, we could explain why we bought the carriage. I did this for a month before I realized it was a waste of time. People don’t care, and for most, there’s nothing you can say that will justify your dog having her own carriage. So play with it. Give your dog a gift. Bella can whistle. On occasion, when presented with a treat, she can wink. She has a whole carriage-worth of tricks.
Bella enjoys the ride, the wind on her tongue, the view of the East River. Last September, the carriage was a necessity, but now it’s a luxury, one we both appreciate. I want to get outside, and Bella wants to see the world beyond the apartment. So, like the rest of the city’s carriage trade, we hit the streets, take in the sights and are, in turn, taken in.