Bins comes in from his morning walk looking glum. “What’s the matter?” I ask. “Dogs,” he says. “Every time I go out, I see dogs taking their people for a walk. Everyone looks happy, even when the dog is running after a squirrel or making a poop that must be cleaned up. Everyone has a dog. Except us.” He sighs and tugs the ends of his scraggly moustache looking like a bedraggled terrier.

I tell him he’s forgotten why we can’t have a dog. “Pets aren’t allowed in this building. But even if they were, the reason we can’t have pets is that we’d make terrible parents.” Bins goes off like a rocket. “Speak for yourself! I will be a GREAT puppy-papa! I will take him on walks to the moon and back! I will teach him to enjoy Kurosawa movies!” But I know better. “We’d have to take him to the vet and we don’t have a car. We’d have to leave him with someone when we visit my sister in Hartford. We’d have to take him out on toilet walks even in the rain. Even in the middle of the night. And how will we choose what breed to get?”

Bins raises his shoulders to his ears as if the answer is the most obvious thing in the world. “Why — a shelter dog! Only mafia-types and schoolgirls get BREEDS.” I make a frownie-face. “Huh. When I was small, we had Dachshunds, a Spaniel and even a Dalmatian —” Then I stop. Bins is nodding and pointing at me, while grinning like The Joker. “So... that’s what I SAID. Schoolgirl!” he says. “I am right. I am always right.”

“Okay, okay — ” I say “— but just for fun, IF we could keep a dog and IF we wanted a breed, which breed would you like?” Bins purses his mouth. “It’s easier to say what dog I DON’T want. For instance, not those little fat ones that look like cocktail sausages on legs — champagne-coloured with squashy faces—” “PUGS!” I cry, “—but I LOVE Pugs!” Bins bares his teeth and shudders. “Not the hairy ones with blue eyes —” “HUSKIES!” I say. “I love Huskies.” The fact is I love every known breed of dog — Pinschers, Poodles, Silky Sydneys, Beagles, the lot — so long as I don’t have to take care of them.

“I like BIG dogs,” says Bins, in a dreamy voice. “We can have an Old English Sheepdog. She can sleep here at my feet and once a year, she can have 12 puppies and we can sell them and become very rich.” I tell him he’s crazy. “Have you ever seen how much poop a big dog produces?!” Bins clutches his head. “Is that all you can think about? All poop, no pup! Makes Bins throw up!” I fold my arms. “Okay then, what about a virtual dog? You can take it for walks and never have to clean up afterwards.” Bins sighs. “— no furry head, no warm tongue, no sweet expressions!” I nod sympathetically but cannot help adding, “No visits to the vet! No rabies shots! No tragic pet funeral!” And that was the end of the dog.

Manjula Padmanabhan, artist and author, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, in this weekly column

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