Things in New York that break your heart, in a good way, part a million: The lengths people go to in order to "walk" their very old dogs, or to at least get them a little bit of fresh air, entertainment and good (meaning mostly bad) doggie smells. I've met blind dogs and deaf dogs and dogs that can no longer walk on my twice-daily trips to Central Park, but all of them still can smell.
Every morning a tiny old woman glides toward me, slowly and serenely, on a walker that's tricked out with a screened-in dog carrier for her tiny old poodle up top. Sometimes, but not always, the woman smiles at me and my poorly trained mini-labradoodle Sadie, as Sadie drags me up a hill to her favorite tree and my right knee twinges a little. I think to myself, I'm not young, but I'm not old. Yet. Sadie and I can still fly up those hills.
Another woman I see regularly pulls one of her four lhasa-apsos in a grocery cart. Then there's a man, younger than me, who keeps his blind, 14-year-old wire-haired fox terrier in a backpack, which he wears on his chest with the dog facing out a mesh screen. One day he put it down gently on the grass, and unzipped it, to let his big-eyed dog, wizened and faded beige but still alert, smell Sadie. She remained sitting, but she stretched her regal neck out of her carrier, until her black nose found Sadie's stinky ear. Sadie, uncharacteristically, sat patiently and allowed herself to be sniffed. She understood.