There I was in Morningside Heights. Walking that damn doggie again. Third day in a row and I was already ready to tie that doggie’s leash to a Citi Bike and wear her out. Then she’d shut the hell up. Barking every damn time someone even tiptoed up the stairs. Anyone could’ve squished that doggie, she’s so damn little. But little doggies don’t know that because their owners treat them like princesses. I’ll tell you a real doggie: German Shepherd. Those are real doggies. Sized right and potentially ferocious. A doggie ain’t an accessory. It’s a companion. Sometimes a guardian. Maybe a beast, too.

There I was in Morningside Heights because I was house-sitting for these artist folks. Well…one was an artist. His wife did science or something. Breadwinner scientist, married to a lyricist. I could write lyrics. Would it win me a scientist? No. Some folks get all the luck.

So there I was: perched on one of the trash lids smoking a square and gulping down coffee. Cap backwards. Wifebeater shirt. Hot shit. Hot shit on a Friday noon, slaving away for this anxiety-prone doggie named Jezebel. Had just had to give her her dog-Prozac. I didn’t know that was a thing. World’s pretty messed up if even the doggies have to take Prozac. The city will do that to you. Over eight million people in New York City and over half of them are popping something. Some legal. Some not. Now the doggies are popping pills too. Next thing you know pet shops will have doggies’ credit score taped to their cage. “Can’t get that one, he has way too much debt.”

Finished smoking the square, chugged the coffee, and Jezebel was tugging at her leash; alright, we walked. We walked to the doggie park two blocks east. No one was ever there which meant I could give Jezebel some leeway on her leash. Go ahead, doggie, smell whatever you like. Sniff a dead tree for twenty minutes if that feels right. I’ll be right here…

…snuggling with the sun…

I conked out. I’d knotted the leash around my wrist, but when I woke up, the leash was limp. The nap left me groggy as hell. I stared stupidly at the end of the leash for the about ten seconds. No Jezebel. Jesus Christ. This is a scientist’s doggie. This ain’t no bourgie, Upper-East-Side-trust-fund-baby’s doggie; this is a self-made intellectual’s doggie. She would probably science me to death. Whatever that meant. Something horrible. Shit.

“Jezebel!” I hollered. How long had I been asleep? Didn’t have my phone on me. But I didn’t know what time the nap hit me anyway. Damn it. I smoked a square to think. Big city, New York City. A big ol’ maze. Jezebel could be anywhere. Sniffing every flower plot and munching on a thousand chicken bones. But where?

Nowhere. I mean, the fact was, she was gone. Leave no stone unturned; but when there’s a bajillion stones and you ain’t even dressed for the bodega, you can only get so far. Hot shit? Hot mess. I hustled back to the apartment and wiggled in to my best suit-jacket and shirt and pants. All pretty dapper except for the wrinkles.

Jezebel wasn’t at the pound. They must not collect dogs off the street like they used to. Or like they used to in movies. That dogcatcher archetype was a huge phony and suddenly I was pissed about it. Hollywood-invented bullcrap. Give me a ugly green van and a Jezebel-sized net and I’ll bring the dogcatcher to life, yessir. No time for that though.

Before I bounced, I told my situation to the desk clerk at the pound. He suggested a good idea and if I hadn’t been bugging out I would’ve no doubt thought of it myself. He said to me there’s a small-dog shop in Midtown. Terriers and chihuahuas and mutts. Go get a new Jezebel. She’ll get accustomed to the apartment soon enough and then her folks will come home and not realize anything’s different. I’ve seen it done before, he said to me. This city’s a game of musical chairs with dogs. Trust me.

I told him I didn’t trust him because I didn’t know him and he shrugged. What other choice did I have?

I was skeptical that Jezebel’s doppleganger would, by just some dope miracle, be at the doggie shop. Well, I was right to be skeptical. It wasn’t. But there was a doggie that was similar in shape and breed; if I colored in a few spots here and there, with permanent marker or something, she’d be the spitting image of that princess.

Except $200. A lot of dough to spend on someone else’s doggie. But I’d be in bigger trouble if I didn’t have Jezebel, or at least doppleganger-Jezebel, when the scientist (and that lucky artist bastard) returned.

I went over to the counter and told the cashier, “That one. I want that pup right there.” The woman, had a face like a maraschino cherry, scowled. “You sure, mister? She got fleas.” “Why the hell do you have doggies with fleas for sale here?” I asked. “Alright, whatever. I need that doggie. I’ll take her with the fleas if you give me a discount.” “No discount,” she said. I was going to button my suit jacket, flourish it, you know, like a damn peacock or something, saying basically that enough was enough—that I wasn’t taking any flea-ridden puppy without her chopping off a slice of the price—but I was missing a button. So instead I flapped the lapels of my suit. Like a pissed-off goose.

Puta madre, lady, you just told me this dog has fleas. Ain’t no one else going to buy her. And ain’t no one going to ever buy any doggies in here if I start telling everyone about how they all got fleas.”

“They don’t all have fleas,” she said, annoyed now.

You know that. I know that.”

I flapped my lapels again.

So she sold me that doggie for $190. Whole $10 off and don’t ever let anyone tell you I ain’t a businessperson.

I carried new-Jezebel in a newspaper, her tongue-wagging self licking me the whole way up to Morningside Heights. “Quit licking me, dog,” I said to her. “I mean, Jezebel. Quit licking me, Jezebel. You’re nasty.”

You gotta give credit to dogs. New-Jezebel and I finally got to Morningside Heights, turned on 109th towards the apartment. The clouds overhead were dark and rainy-looking; and there was real-Jezebel on the damn stoop of the apartment. The one place I didn’t think to check was the place I was house-sitting. I set down new-Jezebel but immediately picked her back up because real-Jezebel snapped at her. You’d think dog-Prozac would make a difference; you’d think she’d be nice to other doggies. Nope. Not her. Yeah and imagine what she’d be like without it. Ten-pound lion-princess, not caged nor trained—tourists beware.

Well, I couldn’t take both of them into the apartment. And real-Jezebel had a right to be there, I guess, more so than new-Jezebel anyway. So I put new-Jezebel on the sidewalk in front of the stoop and left her there. Wasn’t going to get a refund and someone would take her, probably. And then ten-pound lion-bitch and I went in to the apartment. All ready for naps and peanut butter and doing a whole lot of nothing.

I sprawled out on the couch, suit still on. Hot mess? Hot shit. Just as my eyes started to close, I heard thunder. Then rain. Splat, splat, splat, big splats coming fast now. It was about to put me to sleep but then I thought about new-Jezebel. Was she still outside?

No, no—chill out now—she had fleas and I only got her to replace the doggie I thought I’d lost. Her rainy dilemma was her rainy dilemma, not mine.

I looked around for the remote and clicked on the TV. Drown out my thoughts about new-Jez. Drown out thinking about her all shivery and drenched. Lonely and little, maybe even hungry. Licking at the sidewalk ‘cause she’s thirsty. Fleas nipping away. Just a puppy. She could die out there.

The TV started wailing. Flash flood warning from the National Weather Service. Locations include Washington Heights, West Harlem, Morningside Heights, the Upper West Side…

The flash flood warning siren droned and droned and droned. And then back to some old sitcom.

I couldn’t do it, leave her there.

Outside, rain slapped the streets something hard. “New-Jez!” I shouted. From the top step of the stoop. And damn, so much thunder and lightning; this was a genuine storm. But new-Jez was nowhere to be seen. Where the hell was she?

Going down the rainy stoop I slipped and busted my butt. Cursed and looked over by the trashcans. And there she was. Cowering against the metal trashcans, shivering, drenched. And the rain just, like I said, slapping her something hard.

I got up and grabbed her. She tried to bite me; scared, you know. And then I took her to the subway. Had to take her somewhere. Guess she was going to my real-apartment, my mom’s house in East New York. She didn’t want no dogs but she would have to get over it.

“Germ, that’s your name,” I said to the doggie. “Because you ain’t a German Shepherd. But you are nasty.” And wouldn’t you know it, nasty tongue-kissing dog: she licked me right on the lips.