Matthew McCauley (1750-1832)


One thing about having a wife you’ve known for seventeen years is that you can bring up people from 1991 – someone neither of you had thought about in decades – and you’ll each have our own independent memories of them. In the very beginning of the decade, Tessa and I happened to live on the same street in Chapel Hill (McCauley St., for those of you playing the home game) and we both noticed the same woman walking her dog every day.

Thing was, this woman didn’t have one of her arms. And the next year, she didn’t have her other arm either. She seemed to be losing limbs at a rapid rate, quickly enough that my housemate Clay thought we should take action (although I’m not sure what his plan was).

What was truly bizarre is that she kept walking her dog even as she lost her arms, so that by 1993 or so, she had the leash tied around her waist. Bud and I used to watch her go by and fall silent, as if out of respect.

So Tessa and I were talking about this woman tonight, and she says, “well, how did she get the leash on the dog, and then tie it around her waist?” I wished she hadn’t said that, because a half-hour later, I was still obsessed with the conundrum. This woman was totally self-sufficient and seemed to have no help at home. So how the hell did she do it?

All the woman had to work with was half of her right arm. Tessa bet me dinner that I couldn’t put Chopin’s leash on him, and then get the leash around my waist. We dragged the sleeping dog into the living room and performed the following:

1. I’m sure the lady had the leash on a peg for easy access, and thus could use her elbow to thread the leash through the small loop at the end (where you’d normally hold it). This is important for later.

2. I told Chopes to sit, which he did, because he truly thought he was getting a late-night walk out of this. Oh, how he was mistaken.

3. I grabbed his collar with one foot, then grabbed the metal “snap” part of the leash with the other.

4. After five minutes of struggle, I managed to snap the leash onto his collar. He despised this part, but maybe the woman’s dog had more patience.

5. With the leash still looped through its own handle, step inside it (while it’s on the floor).

6. Use your feet to push the leash loop up around your waist, and secure it with the part of your arm you have left.

7. Walk dog around neighborhood, and inspire blogs to be written circa 2015.

So Tessa owes me dinner – so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

Or maybe that woman had her husband do it.


0 thoughts on “Matthew McCauley (1750-1832)

  1. kmeelyon

    Maybe the woman taught her dog to do it. I’ll bet if he really wanted to be walked, he could tie that thing on in a jiffy.
    So there.

  2. Lyle

    this blog reminded me of dr. piazza’s exposition class at st. alban’s in washington, dc. (i went to ncs, the girls’ school, but 10th grade and after, students could attend certain classes at our sibling school.) anyway, one essay the legendary piazza assigned every semester without fail was the mousetrap essay. he handed out real mousetraps to each of us and told us to write an essay guiding him through each required step, no matter how minute, to set the trap safely. oh, the precision and clarity he craved from us, even at the price of his own pain — because when he followed an essay’s directions to a T (in front of the whole class) and the thing had been poorly written, he’d nearly lose a finger AND the author would be publicly humiliated. ‘A’s were few and far between for this assignment. i can’t recall my grade — honestly! but ANYWAY, next time i’m around a nice dog and a leash, and have some time to spare, i’ll try following your armless leashing directions, ian. p.s. thank you for slipping in the ‘caddyshack’ quote — also reminiscent of my st. albans buddies. p.p.s. and no, dr. piazza is not related to the baseball player!

  3. CL

    That was disturbing on so many levels, but it made me laugh out loud, and now I’m ashamed of myself on an equal number of levels.

  4. Salem

    That poor woman was being held captive by her dog for years, and like some cruel “Far Side” cartoon you all stood by oblivious to this woman’s plight. I always wondered why I found the words “help me” in the dirt at every crosswalk.

  5. Sean

    Could the dog have been permanently leashed, so that all she had to do was step in/out of a lasso-like loop that tightened/loosened around her waist?
    Or is that a stretch?

  6. Pete

    I always found some sick humor in the fact that our limbless neighbor lived practically next door to the guy who owned the puma in the backyard. Coincidence?

  7. Eric G

    As a resident of 220-B McCauley and a two-time resident of 223 McCauley (I just couldn’t get enough of $165/month living), I, too remember the freakish sight of the armless woman walking her dog. She was the wife of the old guy who drive the brown right-hand drive Rolls Royce and had a mountain lion (which prompted Chapel Hill’s ban on pet mountain lions—he got to keep the mountain lion under a grandfather clause). Chuck Pierce once rang their doorbell during a brief stint with Greenpeace, and the guy welcomed him in, showed Chuck the largest private arsenal in North Carolina, and told him that if anyone from Greenpeace ever darkened his doorstep again, he would unleash said arsenal on that poor soul’s petrified ass. Chuck came to see me directly after this incident, quite shaken up. Luckily, about eight frosty Natty Bos from my mini-fridge calmed him down. I remember hoping in the ensuing years that the wife had not lost her limbs feeding that mountain lion. I expect not.


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