I’m sure there are many of his breed who call San Francisco home, but to the many humans who live there in a particular neighborhood, there is no mistaking them for Whitmore, the ‘Frisco Whippet.
I’d met him before, and even watched him for a week in March, but spending nearly a month around the distinctive personality of Whitmore the Whippet, dog companion to my friend Cyril, was different.
In fact, it was supposed to just be about a ten-day dogsitting favor for my friend, but I enjoyed the experience so much I stayed for three more weeks – and the favor was to my benefit, in the process.
With his agile, rapid and utterly confident nature, he served as my daily ambassador to every passerby we encountered. And though polite towards his many admirers, encountered on morning jaunts for coffee (for me, not him) along Fillmore Avenue, those who yelled out towards him, “Is that a greyhound?” for the noontime loop around the block, and the tourists clustered in Alamo Square Park, he’d just as soon get on with the walking and leave the friendly interactions to me.
Whenever someone approached to pet him, he initially looked straight ahead, as if his acting like he didn’t see them might dissuade them from further delaying him in pursuit of nothing but everything. But, politely, he would stand still awhile and indulge them.
I’ve never met a dog quite so nimble.
Every leaf the wind blew had him flying like a bullet and even with a tug of his leash, he would try walking on his hind legs, as if to impress me enough so that I’d let him find out for himself it was a leaf, and not a bird.
The morning walk up Fillmore to Peet’s Coffee was, ostensibly for me, but Whitmore was the one everyone stopped to watch or speak with.
And, of course, I answered his questions, acknowledged his admirers and – in the process, felt more connected with the strangers on the streets of San Francisco in one morning than a whole month of sitting and maneuvering in my metal box in Lost Angeles, alongside others in their metal boxes.
Lunchtime was walk number two, but relatively short, just around the block.
Walk number three, at four in the afternoon, was a big one.
I might be tired and listless but Whitmore gave a whimper, or licked my face or pressed up against my leg to remind me – it was four o’clock.
And never once did I regret him interrupting my work or stirring me from a thought or a nap. Never.
For walk number three was perhaps the most life-affirming walk of all, one literally in a bright sun cooled by the intermittent fog clouds rolling in and out.
A refreshing and exhilarating big one, with a steep hike up four blocks to one of the most beautiful places, I imagine, in the entire city.
It’s a spacious, healthy park atop a hill with views of the city and ancient California oaks and pines. It’s called Alamo Square, and it’s most famous and popular with tourists from around the world because it faces a perfect row of Victorian houses called the painted ladies. And, with its large, sloping greensward, doggie water fountain and open off-leash area, its a hot spot for hipsters and their dogs from around the city.
There was always an evening walk, sometimes two. The most special Whitmore walk of all, however, was not walking at all – but running.
No, rather; whipping.
It was always at the beach where Cyril takes him, along with other dogs running free, along the brisk, cold northern Pacific shoreline, little rocky islands dotting framing the scene. This one in particular is just beside a famous old restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean called Cliff House. I never learned the name of the beach. For a day or so, I thought of it as Cliff House Beach but really, it was always Whitmore’s Beach. Here he is, whipping about….
And when one drives him about, slowing down to a pace where it, at least to him, suggests parking – he went berserk, howling, even screaming with excitement. And the second the car stops, he’s sitting on the driver in the driver’s seat and one is left lap half-laughing, half-scolding for him to hang on. I mean, who’s going to open the door, dude? But dogs don’t find wasting time practical.
The day before I left, Cyril and his friend Daniel took Whitmore and I to wine country. I found myself more curious about Whitmore than wine, however, watching his reaction to the open grape fields, the smells, the wine lady.
He had fun. So I did too.
When one might tend to be turning inward, giving too much thought to what may be lost for good, what one had tried to improve but could not, when one forecasts with fear into the future and create problems that don’t exist, there is nothing restorative of balance than assuming responsibility for the well-being of a beautiful being, like a dog. They’re ambassadors of Nature, leading one outdoors for a walk for a change of thought, a re-connection with people, other dogs, trees, the air, the sun and the soil. One need not “own” a dog; even to “borrow” one is a blessing.
And it is a blessing to have a friend willing to share his love of his dog companion so generously.
In fact, everything I felt for Yeager remains as strong as it did when he was with me, only it’s now dispersed among the hundreds of his cousins I meet all the time. Every dog is “my” dog. I love them all. Whitmore helped me recognize that in his subtle but forward-marching way. There always a feeling of kettlecorn air there, half salty from the sea and sweat, half sweet from the scented pines and cool wind.
And there, Whitmore proved he was a Whippet. He bolted, circling faster and faster in larger and larger loops.], whipping his way around each bend. Those were the most memorable times with Whitmore. He became so animated. So, I did too.
One might naturally associate the Golden Gate Bridge as the symbol of San Francisco, but for me it will always be recalled as a month of renewal in which I was yanked on a leash by Whitmore, the Whippet of ‘Frisco.
- Goggie ob teh Week FACE OFF: Whippet (dogs.icanhascheezburger.com)
- Whippet Good (streetphantom.com)
- Olympia whippet good at leaping (thenewstribune.com)
- Buses in Alamo Square clog traffic, rile residents (sfgate.com)