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I live in a crack house.

Well, not literally, but it has all the accoutrements of one.  Let me put it this way:

If your last name is Windsor, then there is a slight possibility that you are British royalty.  But if your apartment complex is named Windsor, there is a 100% chance that your stairwell will smell different every day, a strong possibility of interrupting a drug deal, and a slight chance of stepping on somebody's cat.

Correction: one of the four cats that runs out the door every time that you open it.  

But I will say one thing about the Windsor apartments: they have character.  And they house characters. Above me there is a guy who looks and sounds exactly like Danny DeVito—who is always singing Tony Bennett at the top of his lungs and making pasta fagioli. Across the hall from me is a young woman who I believe is a librarian. She looks like a librarian at least—like Emily Dickinson in a frumpy cardigan. The pulled-back hair and eye glasses. She also has the timid nature of a person who works in silence all the time.  Below me there is a 30-something-year old man who is just beginning his political career after spending years as a used car salesman. He always wears a suit that is about two sizes two small, showing three inches of sock at all times. He loves to talk more than any man I know.
All three of these tenants have about as much in common as an Irish Catholic, a Jew, and a Muslim.  But they each have one thing that unifies them: a dog. Danny DeVito owns a pug that he calls Canoli. It is one of the most ugly dogs I have ever seen, but he loves the thing. Emily Dickinson rescued a mongrel that she named Dewey after, I assume, the Dewey Decimal System. And Willy Stark—as I refer to him—owns an old, fat yellow Labrador that he calls Bill (after President Clinton, his hero).  

One of the most intriguing things about not owning a dog, but being surrounded by people who do, is realizing just how much dog owners begin to resemble their pets—and vice versa. I have on many occasions bore witness to Danny DeVito making a certain facial expression.  It happens when he is confused. He wrinkles his brow and extends his lower lip. In recent weeks, I have noted Canoli making this exact same face—IN THE EXACT SAME SITUATION! It freaks me out every time that I see it. Then there is Dewey who, just like his master, is frightened of everything, especially loud noises. A firework, a car backfiring, or even a sneeze will send him running for the hills.  It is sad to watch, really. And Bill is as cantankerous as his master.  He barks at everything.  Every man, squirrel, cat, and dog. Every piece of tail that walks by.

And that is only the start of it.

As a pre-med student, you find many people come to you for medical advice, thinking that you are already a doctor. Sometimes you tell them that you can’t help, but most of the time you try to give some advice.  

Last week, I bumped into Danny DeVito in the stairwell after he had just taken Canoli for a walk. He looked skinnier and I told him of my observation. He told me that he had been suffering from the flu and that he hadn’t been able to eat his normal diet of pasta, marinara sauce, and meatballs. The virus had been pretty severe. And now he was worried that Canoli might get sick from being in the same room as him. I told him that this was impossible.  Dogs cannot contract human strains of the virus. But they do have to worry about the dog flu epidemic that has been spreading through the country lately.  Danny DeVito freaked out at this. I reassured him, though, that dog flu isn’t too dangerous. Canoli would have a 20-25% of not even showing symptoms.  And, most importantly, he could receive a vaccine, which does not cure him from the virus, but reduces the incidence of symptoms such as coughing and viral fur shedding. It only costs $40, too. With this he was relieved and told me that he’d get right on it. He didn’t want his little “wise guy” getting sick.  I felt great for helping.

About two days later, I met Emily Dickinson outside her door, trying to get Dewey to go outside. But he wouldn’t budge. He was afraid. She turned to me, frustrated, and said she didn’t know what to do. He had started going to the bathroom in the house because he was too frightened to go outside. I told her it sounded like Dewey was suffering from anxiety, which is common amongst rescued animals.  here were two routes she could take to help treat it. The first was to hire a trainer, who would help Dewey become accustomed to loud noises, ultimately relieving his fear. The second option was to treat him with medication. She was surprised by this; she didn’t know they had anti-anxiety meds for dogs. I told her that there were two FDA-approved medicines but a lot of people choose to go the holistic route. Some of the homeopathic remedies include Sergeant Sentry’s Good Behavior Pheromone Collar (which mimics the pheromones mother dogs release to calm their pups, $9),  Rescue remedy (a flower essence-based stress tamer for humans, $14), and Relieve De Stress (another stress tamer that uses flower essences, St. John’s wort, and Valerian, $20). She looked relieved upon hearing all of this and even said, “Boy, I could use some of that stuff, too.”  

Then, yesterday, I bumped into Willy Stark and Bill. Unfortunately. I say unfortunately because Mr. Stark is at the same time a long and close talker. The man also has the worst case of halitosis I think I have ever experienced.Most of the time when I see him I try to run in the other direction in order to avoid an olfactory nightmare.  But just in case I can’t, I always carry gum with me.  The first time I bumped into him with Bill, though, I realized I had an out. After shaking his hand, I could just squat down and start petting the dog. Upon doing this, however, I realized that the dog was overwrought with gum disease and his breath wreaked of New Jersey. I couldn’t take it anymore, so I asked Willy if he knew that dogs needed dental care just as much as humans did?  He let out a big, fake, politician laugh and said, “Good one!! You should write my speeches!” But I told him I was serious. You can buy a tooth brush and paste specifically for dogs ($3-$10 for the brush and $3-$5 for the paste).  And you can even have your veterinarian give him a teeth cleaning ($70-350 depending on the extent of the procedure).  He still thought I was joking and then added, “Next you’re going to tell me I need dental work!” I desperately wanted to say, “Well, at least some mouthwash,” but, instead, offered him a piece of gum. When he declined, I pretended to have to urinate so as to get myself out of the situation, but he proceeded to say how he could hold water like a camel and rambled into a long story about how he inherited it from his granddaddy who had been FDR’s advisor during the Great Depression. It is safe to say I listened to him for three hours.  

I know old Bill won’t get the dental work he needs, nor Willy, but I do think I saw Danny DeVito taking Canoli to receive the flu shot. I also saw Emily Dickinson returning from the Whole Foods health store with the herbal remedies I recommended, yesterday. Now if I could just find the drugs to cure my apartment complex, I’d be fine. Wait, it’s a crack house. How do I send it to rehab?
www.Dishmag.com / Issue 163 - September 2018
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