Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Canines and Coins: A Shaggy-Dog Essay on Busking with Bowwow

Yesterday. The sky was bright and the tunes were cheery, and on my morning ramble about the outdoor plaza, I tossed a coin into the fiddle case of a winter busker. The passers by were very scattered and the temperature was just above the freezing mark. Though he was bundled for the cold with his toque, parka, and snow pants, I couldn’t help but notice his red and white mittens beside him on the stones, and his mutt, a Chocolate Labrador, asleep at his feet.

Just what is with this age-old covenant between humans and dogs? Could it be that the bond between master and dog is stronger than any that exists between humans? Could it be for protection or emotional security? Personally, I have never owned a dog, but some of my best friends have had best friends who were dogs. No, I am not referring to the imaginary hound havens of Rin Tin Tin and Lassie and the Littlest Hobo; I am referring to the real Fidos and Towsers of my past, at least as real as my romantically nostalgic memory allows.

I remember Patches, who belonged to my friend, Brian Smith. Or it could be that Brian belonged to Patches. Brian’s dad owned the Massey Ferguson dealership in our town, and Patches spent endless hours snoozing by the front entrance of the shop. Sometimes when it rained, Patches would move inside to snooze. Patches was a patched black and white terrier. Patches never barked, just yipped a bit when rudely awakened. Everyone in our town knew Patches.

I remember Mac, the golden brown slobbery St. Bernard that walked my buddy Ricky Percival to school each and every one of the 200 school days of the year. Mac, the giant, would waddle alongside Ricky, and then lay in slumber on the sidewalk at the edge of the school yard waiting for Ricky’s return at recess and lunchtime and end of the school day. Like Patches, everyone in our town knew Mac.

And I remember Sandy, the sandy-colored Cocker Spaniel, who belonged to my best friend, Brent Hopfner. Unlike Patches and Mac, Sandy endlessly scrambled about following his master, Brent, on hikes, bottle hunts, and just generally hanging out.

Reminiscing, Patches behaved more like a cat than a dog. I suppose a stranger walking into the Massey Ferguson shop and seeing Patches would have cause to be wary, but strangers were very few and far between in our village.

Certainly not then, but curiously now, as I remember Mac, mountains and brandy barrels come to mind. And with little effort I can even hear yodeling songs across the cliffs.

And I remember Sandy, jumping up and down, chasing sticks, his ham-like tongue lolling out his panting and wide open mouth, his bright-eyed nary-a-care manner, loving every minute of anytime his master would venture him attention.

Over the years I have seen many a dog and busker together, and the partnership they project is dependent upon whether the master is a tony or a troglodyte. (Buskers regarded by the masses as troglodyte transfer that same condition to their dogs -- the people passing assuming these canine mates to be curs, mongrels, and fleabags.) Whether they be high-brow or low-brow, such busker-bowwow pairings always present a sylvan lifestyle, representing a rustic and idyllic presence amidst the urban hustle and bustle. Buskers with their canines are always closer to ragtag than riches, and this hardly goes unnoticed amongst their shopping middle class consumers.

By busker design, this performing partnership between human and dog can be a kind of stratagem, a mercenary maneuver to attract that hound-loving segment of the consumer population and, as well, for personal reasons:

-to draw the focus away from the ineptitude of the busker over to Bowser

-to attract children who always want to pet the dog

-to attract phatic chats from parents of these children, and then coin, of course

-to act as a heater for a chilled busker

-to act as audience on a sparse consumer day

-to attract the sympathy coin for the pouting pooch

-to offer protection and companionship and unconditional love

I guess in the big scheme of things we are indeed, featherless creatures who love furry companions. It is certainly well documented that our best friends can be dogs. And for those who have as best friends, dogs, it must be psychologically comforting to have four feet trotting in front or alongside or meandering and sniffing behind them.

To close, I guess it is rather sad that an arrogant blogging buskologist can only imagine the true gladdens of a wagging tail and a wet nose ... ruff ruff.

1 comment:

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