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Washington, D.C., Where a Mutt Can Be Anything He Aspires to Be

By Scene And Heard
Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A 60-pound Chihuahua and a cat named "Bastard": What more could you want to read about over this morning's coffee?

When I lived in Baltimore, I was forcibly given a stray puppy by my friends. This sort of thing might happen in Baltimore ,but it would never happen in D.C.

Baltimore still has that small-town feel to it. Small enough that people are frequently deciding what's best for you. People in D.C., on the other hand, may be irritatingly swollen with self-importance, but at least they don't tell you how to live your life.

My Baltimore friends didn't ask me as much as tell me.

"Debbie found a dog and we're bringing him over."

And when I tried to put my foot down . . .

"It's only temporary, until we find him a better home."

After anchoring me to a five-pound animal, my friends stopped taking my phone calls.

After a few friendless weeks, I gave up and took the puppy to the vet, where I was surprised to learn that the mangy, worm-filled animal was a Chihuahua mix. I might not have wanted a dog, but at least this one would fit in my efficiency apartment.

A year later, I moved to D.C. with my alarming 60-pound Chihuahua. I thought my father was overprotective, but he was nothing compared with Howie, who strutted beside me like a gangster.

In Baltimore, people had been quick to label Howie a vicious pit bull and clear the sidewalk.

But people in D.C. were much more accepting and quick to improve Howie's pedigree. They'd wait for me on the sidewalk. "I love your dog. Is he a German shorthair pointer?"

People are friendly here and assume you are just like them. In D.C., Howie is always a mix of whatever dog they happened to have on the end of their leash. "You can definitely see the Hungarian Vizslas in him."

Not only has Howie's pedigree improved, but so has his social stature.

Yesterday, I was walking Howie and ran into a neighbor who didn't know me -- but somehow knew Howie. Maybe from the office? "Hello, Howard," she said as we walked by. Howie gave her a quick, businesslike glance and continued down the sidewalk in his no-nonsense D.C. way.

-- Adele Levine, Wheaton

Quite a Cat Handle

Recently, my friend Vena and I attended an art exhibit featuring the works of one of our tennis buddies in a private home in Olney.

As we strolled through the art exhibits, we noticed two very large black cats roaming about as if they owned the place. Since they were cats, we figured they did.

Vena and I are cat lovers, so we spent some time talking to the homeowner about her cats. Vena chatted with the woman for a while longer while I walked away for a look at more of the artwork.

Vena caught up with me, looking a bit perplexed. At this point, I should mention that Vena is a little hard of hearing. He said, incredulously, "That lady named her cat Bastard." I replied, "No, Vena, his name is Baxter."

Then he said, "She seemed like such a nice lady, I was wondering why she would name him that."

After I stopped laughing, I went to tell the woman the story. After she stopped laughing, she said, "I was wondering why he said, 'You must have been mad at him when you named him.' "

-- Bobbie Liegus, Alexandria

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