*Introductory Remarks: Once you become single in LA, a citywide alarm goes off alerting all weird people to come pouring out of the cracks with offers to fulfill any cuddling whims you demand. This is my three-part (so far) evolution from fear, to flattery, to acceptance of this strange phenomenon.*
On Sundays, I volunteer at the Westside German Shepherd Rescue on Hill Street and 30th (shameless plug: go volunteer! It’s fun, great for the dogs, and people automatically assume you are at least a slightly moral person for doing it). Of course, there are always selfish motives to volunteering. For me, it’s a good way to force myself to exercise by walking these dogs. But mostly I love to scare people.
A normal walk goes like this: I’m a 5’2” white girl jogging in the not-so-great part of Los Angeles called ‘south central.’ I’ll turn a corner and encounter a group of men who leer and catcall. I smile back, which perplexes them. And then they understand what I’m smiling at: a second later, my 120-pound German Shepherd comes bounding around the corner behind me, teeth bared and restrained by the tiniest leash in the world. Now, I know this dog is friendly with people, but these guys. Oh boy, these guys think it’s the end for them. I saw a man cross himself once. One guy commented, “It’s like a lycan,” which I thought was oddly educated for someone who spends his time commenting on the various sizes of female butts.
As you can see, with a German Shepherd attached to me, I feel safe running anywhere. Until I met that one guy who’s not afraid of lion-sized dogs. It was a jog like any other (I enjoy listening to grown men scream), until a guy approached me and asked to pet my dog. We’ll call this guy “Gary” because Gary sounds like a creeper name to me (sorry, Garys of the world).
Gary asks to pet my dog, and I’m taken aback. I look at the German Shepherd I’m walking today: 130 pounds of half wolf/half German Shepherd, affectionately named “Dude.” I look back at Gary, who by this point I’ve determined is crazy. “I don’t think he’s friend-”, but before I can finish, Gary is patting Dude on the head. Oh, crap.
This wouldn’t have been so bad, except that Gary just had to steer the conversation to a place I dread. “So, what’s your name?” “Carly.” Yes, I gave my real name, and yes I’m horrible at lying under pressure. “You have kids?” “Uh, no.” “You married?” “Er, no.” “Can I give you my number? I’d really like to get to know you.” Because that’s the natural order of flirting in south central: first ask about kids, then ask if you’re married, then ask about current dating availability. Luckily, my phone is tucked safely away in my sports bra, so I can offer up the excuse, “I don’t have my phone. Bye!” And then I yank Dude off his paws and take off. If there’s anything that can deter a courter, it’s exercise. And yet…
“Carly! Caaaarrrrlllyyyy!!!” I turn around. Gary, panting harder than Dude, is stumbling after us, trying to keep with our pace. “Carly!” I stop jogging. (See post: I’m so nice I’m going to be a victim one day.) Gary approaches us, bent at the knees. “Do you have a pen? I can write down my number on a paper for you.” “Oh, sorry, I forgot my pen today. I’ve got to bring Dude back to the shelter. It was nice meeting you!” Once again, poor Dude is pulled away. I can see the shelter in the distance like the pearly gates of Heaven. I pump my legs faster, harder (nothing encourages exercise like being pursued by a crazy person). Finally, like a Christmas miracle, we reach the shelter and I close the door behind me.
I drop Dude off and hang around the shelter for a bit, waiting until the chance of Gary still hanging around would be slim to absolutely mental. Eventually, I step out into the harsh sunlight…and Gary steps in front of me. Waving a pen and paper like the American flag on the moon. I force a smile. “I’ve gotta use the bathroom.” I lock myself in the bathroom and call my ex. “Pick me up at the rescue, there’s a crazy guy after me.” Because when forced to choose between crazy Gary and my crazy ex, I pick the one I can most successfully blackmail.