Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...with Leo Tolstoy Frank

Lev Nikolayevich “Leo” Tolstoy Frank is practically squirming when I arrive at his door. He lives in Harlem with his dads, Steven and Lane, and his Aunt Gillian. He previously lived in Los Angeles, where he was rescued by an organization called Social Tees, a no-kill New York-based animal rescue. Leo was adopted by Steven and Lane last October. His original name was Rodeo, so Steven and Lane named him something similar in sound that still related to them, and the naming themes became Russian literature (Steven) and theatre (Lane--Leo Frank is the name of the lead character in the musical Parade). Leo is a mix of breeds, including Pomeranian, Chihuahua, and perhaps many different terriers. His demeanor is not unlike that of a frazzled yet mild-mannered physics professor nervously shuffling about campus wide-eyed with a giant stack of papers.

Since living in New York, Leo has become acquainted with the intricacies of city life. For example, we often have to put our coats on over our other coats before we go outside, we ride in a loud hole in the ground to get to places we cannot walk to, and we have to cross big, loud streets or sidewalks with grates on them (Leo does not like grates) to get where we are going. Some of these are harder to learn than others, but this is the transition most transplants go through when they get here. It just takes time, I want to tell him. Soon you won’t care about the loudness of the hole in the ground at all.

Today Leo is going for a walk with Steven and I have been invited along. First, because it’s cold outside, Leo is zipped into his winter vest. Once dressed, he waits patiently by the door for Steven, then makes his way quickly, quicker than one might expect for a little dog, down the stairs. We’ll cross the courtyard where Leo will chase after squirrels (Leo is very interested in squirrels), leave the courtyard where he will refuse to cross a particular street and Steven will carry him, and head to the park. Leo sniffs the trees and treks across the fallen leaves, into which he also blends. Leo is still learning how to interact with other dogs on the street (he will soon begin taking a class called “Sidewalk Psychos” to learn how to do this better), so when a teeny Chihuahua approaches Steven distracts Leo by turning him away from the dog with bits of cooked chicken thigh. Leo does a good job of being distracted and is given more chicken.

Soon it is time to return home, and Leo sniffs all across the courtyard as we make our way back. Inside, Leo is unzipped from his vest and patted down with dog wipes. In praise of his patience, Leo is given a bacon treat from Barklyn Bagels. Relaxing post-walk, he sits on his favorite rug and nibbles on his favorite chew toy, a stick made of deer.

Leo regularly makes appearances on the Instagrams of his dads, Steven and Lane.

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