“Raising the Rent”
by Florence the Dog
I am a dog like other dogs. I have homes on both coasts: Eagle Rock and Highland Park. My day home is a couch in a store where my bipeds sell their books and frequently go to sleep while gazing at a computer screen. My evening home is a couch in an old house where my bipeds drink from bottles sheathed in brown bags, prior to passing out beside me on my couch. Mine.
In between naps, we walk. I am a dog who walks like other dogs. I meet other dogs in parks, on urban sidewalks, and precipitous staircases. Sometimes we chat vociferously, other times we serenely sniff one another’s butts. I have few complaints.
I am also a dog who is not so different from your average biped. When you bipeds want to interact with your species, but there are none of them around for you to bark at, no enticing butts to sniff, then you procure information by reading, yes? Books, newspapers, computer screens? On days when I walk northeast L.A. and do not encounter my species, I cull information from urine strategically sprinkled by my brothers & sisters. This is The News, and it can be found in the grass, the base of a lamppost, on the cozy stoop where bipeds sit.
“A Beagle’s Tale”
‘Twas a year or two ago when the poop began to change in Highland Park. Where once sat pleasing pellets of asada-infused Chihuahua stool, I encountered shih tzu excrement smelling suspiciously of vegetables. In kind, my encounters with yipping Chihuahuas, pugnacious pit bulls, and various mutts grew infrequent. In their stead I began to notice the vegan shih tzus, oddly coiffured poodles, and comically bearded corgis. Some of them snuffled & barked; others were ostensibly aloof. They were okay enough; still, I missed my old, indigenous neighbors. Where had they gone?
Then I remembered the beagles. They’re a yappy lot, teeming with information that is largely trifling, lowest common denominator stuff. But they inundate the airwaves with sheer volume, thus tractable canines tend to listen to them. Last year I’d encountered myriad beagles proclaiming that Highland Park was the place to be, the hottest neighborhood in Los Angeles, even America. Many of them had yelped the same claptrap about Eagle Rock the previous year. Beagles, I figured, are village idiots with impressive vocal range, thus I ignored them.
Story of my life; the trends I resolve to ignore are the ones every other dog latches onto & humps like a tantalizing human leg. Suddenly there were pallid poodles practicing hot yoga poses in the park; shaggy corgis eating overpriced donuts & pizza crusts from the street, yet still producing sweet smelling stool compliments of their fancy-pants doggy laxatives. Which is cool. I respect yoga, would happily eat bacon on my donuts if I could afford such luxuries, and I wish poop flowed from my tush like peppermint ice cream. Success is relative, yes? But what happened to my old friends that I used to talk to on the street, or bark at from my couches? Or hell, where were my old nemeses that kept me up all night with their incessant howling? I decided to go outside and smell the pee that carried the news.
“The Oracle at Excreta”
My capable nose sniffed out some facts that my eyes already knew—the displacement of my neighbors by a more affluent breed—as well as a few facts with a decidedly acrid bouquet. Wolves. No, it was not their excretion I detected. Such creatures rarely dwell in this neighborhood; they prefer sequestered hills, and such places do not come cheap. This is what my nose, thanks to all that informative urine, told me:
Wolves are investors. They listen to the loud, prognosticating yapping of beagles, and then descend upon the relatively low rent communities that beagles have proclaimed the next hip neighborhood. Wolves tell property owners: “See that couch where that mutt sits? How much you charging that mutt? Well, if you kick all those mutts off all their couches, I will bring you a better breed of dog that will pay more to sit on the same damn couches. My pooches eat $5 donuts; those mutts eat $1 tacos. Do the math, dog.” And the wolves ultimately get their commissions, which they take back to their secluded homes in the hills.
Many of my renter neighbors were priced off their couches. Some of my neighbors that owned their couches saw an economic opportunity and sold them to hipster dogs with relatively deep pockets.
Me? I rent my couch in Eagle Rock. What if one of these wolves proffer my landlord with a sweet smelling financial upgrade? Then where will I lay my head? Where will I put all these books? Innumerable wolves constantly pester me with proposals for the couch that I, thankfully, own in Highland Park. To them I suggest that they sniff my butt, and then I attempt to do just that to theirs. Win win.
Some of the cynical stories that I have sniffed suggest that dogs who lose their couches should simply move on, presumably— if this brand of economics-driven-culture is to prevail—to a less affluent neighborhood where the whole scene can repeat itself. Except this time, if I am compelled to move, it will be I usurping another dog’s couch, another breed’s sidewalk.
Or what if one dog can find a way to move into another dog’s neighborhood and just, I dunno, appreciate the culture that already exists there? With patience, maybe after a few years in which a dog like me commits himself to the neighborhood, perhaps the better parts of my culture can amalgamate with the one that already exists there? Co-existence & mutual respect, sadly, is a difficult task in a world where we are led by the strident whimsy of beagles or pay off wolves for their dubious services. Some of us just want a decent couch on which to lay our heads.
Follow Florence on Instagram @readbookseaglerock, or access her with #readbookseaglerock & #readwithflorence.