He’s six months and 75 lbs. and even I am afraid of Zen. At this rate he will be the size of a small polar bear. The vet, who is in the Moriches (yes, I picked someone further west), says he needs to be socialized more. And that it’s getting too warm to keep those funky sweaters over his head. “Tell that to his father,” my wife groans. “He’s ready to take Zen to Villalobos with the other parolees.” The vet doesn’t get the reference. He just says, “Let him loose. He needs to have some fun.” My wife drives the car straight from the animal hospital to the Quogue Beach. It is early May on an unusually warm Saturday morning. There are six or seven cars in the parking lot. She grabs Zen’s leash, and with me in tow as well, hits the beach full throttle. There is an older couple on upright folding chairs reading their kindles. Zen pulls hard, breaks the leash loop and bolts toward the wife. She has an instant to let out a muffled scream and bring her hands to her throat as this elephant jumps three feet into the air and onto her lap and collapses the chair, the woman and her husband. They are dazed, like the victims of a tornado after the roof has been torn away. Next, Zen makes three quick circles in the sand and dashes toward a young family with their newborn stretched out on a blanket, in the middle of a diaper change. I’m not sure if Zen wants to eat the baby or the soiled diaper, but the mother is hysterical and the father is taking useless whacks at Zen with the clean diaper, which Zen begins a tug-of-war with. “My God! My God! The Baby!” the mother screams. She appears to feint. The older couple is still down, the husband on his cell phone, the wife searching the sand for the kindles. We, as far as I can recall, are stunned observers. We don’t move, or speak, but watch the whole thing unfold as if it were a movie starring our dog and the village elders. By now Zen has spit out the diaper and is jogging menacingly toward a couple and their two children who are lumbering along the shoreline. They stop dead when they see him, turn, and begin to run in the opposite direction, every man for himself, screaming, howling, turning now and then to see how close to the end they are. Zen is playing right along, giving chase. He can do this all day. He’s been training six months for this race. He knows the turf. They don’t have a chance. In a minute they are on the ground fighting off his licks and jumps and hugs, but I know they will swear to the police officer, who has appeared from nowhere, that they were mauled by a pit bull on the Quogue Village Beach. I turn to my wife. “See what you’ve done?” I say.
Zen is a year and a half now, and weighs in at a strong eighty-five. We are in love with him. Most people know him now, and aren’t afraid. The banker gives him treats; the store clerks play fetch. Neighbors greet him by name and he nods back approvingly. I am sane again. And we’ve only been fined that one time.
There are still the few who give him an extra-wide berth, or ask if he’s friendly from fifty yards out, or lift their little Bichons off the ground and turn up their noses. I understand. He’s a pit bull, for God’s sake.
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