I've had a few people ask me how Oliver the Shepherd scored so many beads down in New Orleans.
Well the night in question, it was St. Patricks Day and he and I had just walked in the French Quarter's parade. Beads were everywhere that night so he did well. But truth be told, that dog was always getting beads from some hot gal or another. Several times a night, it seemed that some pretty young thing would come up and want to put some beads around his neck, or else beads would rain down from some balcony with feminine instruction to me to "give those to the cute dog!"
That dog got all the loving, let me tell you. Girls always wanted to pet him, talk to him, or feed him something. Strippers and sidewalk bartenders were forever giving him water or ice cubes, and many of them called him by name, although few if any of them ever bothered to learn my name.
One day, even Sandra Bullock walked off from a film set and came over to me. For a minute, I thought that she was accepting my psychic marriage proposal, but all she said to me was: "Excuse me, can I pet your dog?"
Of course I said yes, whereupon she crouched down and began tousling him and baby-talking him. "Oooh, you're such a sweet puppy, aren't you? Yes, you're so sweet, I could just eat you up, I could."
Then she gave him a big kiss, stood up, thanked me, and walked back to her filming before I could tell her that I was with the dog.
Jealousy is an ugly thing, but I hated him like I've never hated a dog that day as he pranced along, occasionally throwing me smug looks.
Of course not everyone loved Oliver. On another film set, he barked at Melanie Griffith--just one "woof" after she gave him a look that he apparently didn't like--and about thirty seconds later, two NOPD officers who were working the set came up and told me that Oliver and I had to leave.
I asked why, and one of the officers told me that "Miss Griffith wants that dog gone, right now."
I protested and stated that this was a public street and I lived here and she did not, but all that got me was an apologetic look coupled with the promise of an arrest if I didn't take off.
"For what it's worth," the other officer said, "we don't like her either. She's a bitch."
No argument from me. I used to think that she was pretty hot, but that assessment changed right then and there. And yes, we left. It's never wise to argue with NOPD, even when you're right.
And Oliver had his detractors on other nights, too. One evening, some gals were up on a balcony baring their assets for the world to enjoy. A guy not too far from Oliver and I tossed one gal a pretty nice bead necklace--it wasn't one of the cheap ones. She caught it, then said "Give this to the dog!" and tossed them to me. I took them and put them around Oliver's neck, and just as I stood back up, the guy who through them shoved his way through the crowd and drunkenly confronted me.
"I didn't throw those beads up there for no dog to have them," he stated.
I looked down to see Oliver starting intently up at him, the hair on the back of his neck starting to bristle.
"Well that's between you and the dog," I said, stepping back a step and pointing to Oliver. I figured that the guy would see that Oliver wasn't amused and just go away, but he stupidly reached out for Oliver's neck as if to take the beads. With a loud bark, Oliver lunged at the guy, snapping his jaws shut just a fraction of an inch from his hand as I quickly hauled him back. The crowd parted as Oliver barked at the guy again.
"I think he likes his beads," I told the guy. "You should probably move along."
The guy disappeared into the crowd, and I dragged Oliver the other way very quickly, before the police could make an appearance. But we left with his honor and his beads intact.
Oliver was a French Quarter dog off and on for a number of years. Whether it was patrolling on Bourbon Street at night, lying in the shade while sharing my lunch in Jackson Square, joining in any number of second-line parades or shadowing me off-leash and watching my back as I roamed both St. Louis #1 and #2 cemeteries taking photographs (back when both were considered dangerous places), he's part of most of the memories that I have of that disgusting yet magical place. We had good times.