Invisible dogs

By Ingrid Fetell Lee

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If you were out and about in Carroll Gardens yesterday, you could have been forgiven for thinking there was something mysterious afflicting the canine population of the neighborhood. But it wasn’t exactly clear who were the ones affected: the dogs or their owners.

Everywhere you went on Smith and Court Sts. you could find dozens of people carrying invisible dog leashes, pretending with great self-conviction to be walking their dogs. Dog walkers would stop and chat with each other about their dogs’ names and breeds, ages and habits. Walking past, you might overhear, as I did:

Dogwalker 1: Ugh, Buster, don’t sniff his butt!

Dogwalker 2: Oh, it’s ok. It’s what dogs do.

Just a normal dog owners’ conversation. Except there were obviously no dogs. As I passed a group, one woman wielded her leash in my direction, as if her invisible dog had come over to sniff my groceries, then grappled with the air as if trying to rein him in. I saw others break their gaits down the street as their invisible charges paused to water a tree, and one particularly zealous owner bent down with an invisible plastic bag (one hopes) to pick up an invisible poop.

It was all very ridiculous, and I couldn’t help but smile, though others seemed to be vexed by the odd behavior. I think when odd things happen, people like to know why, and the dog walkers stubbornly refused to acknowledge anything strange about their behavior even after much questioning. Rumors started to fly. One man at the farmer’s market told me it was some sort of protest against a new dog law. Another said it was to encourage adoption from shelters. But it turns out it was a good old flash mob, put on by well-known pranksters Improv Everywhere. Apparently the leashes came from Invisible Dog on Bergen, a gallery that occupies a former invisible dog leash factory.

Even being a spectator who wasn’t in on the joke, I have to say I thought it was fun. Times are tough, and we all need a little silliness in our lives. Improv Everywhere says their mission is to cause “scenes of chaos and joy in public places.” It’s interesting to think of chaos and joy together. Chaos is often associated with lack of control and unhappiness, but that lack of control can also go the other direction and bring delight. More photos and first hand accounts from dog walkers here.

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September 28th, 2009

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