In Carty Finkbeiner's living room, an overstuffed rectangle takes up much of the available floor space along one wall. It's a plush, easy-to-trip-over dog bed for mayoral best friend Scout - which is to say, this oafishly lovable, yellow Labrador retriever is one big dog.
"Scout's at about 60 pounds now," Hizzoner said. "He gained 10 since [Carty's wife] Amy forgot to get him the right kind of dog food. He's supposed to be eating diet."
Not only is Scout a wee bit on the plump side, he also suffers a touch of arthritis.
Chatting with Hizzoner a while ago, I learned that if Scout doesn't accompany the mayor to city hall, it's usually because Carty doesn't feel like hoisting the dog into his car.
Put it this way: Lifting that dog requires a level of exertion such that our ultra-health-conscious mayor considers it "part of my exercise program."
So, Scout has issues, OK? But transportation ain't one of 'em.
On Tuesday night - Snow Mania! - I caught the evening news on a local TV station. Giving details of a downtown power outage, the reporter mentioned that the mayor was caught on his top-floor city hall office and had to hoof it down 22 floors - with Scout.
Knowing the dog's mobility problems, I called Carty yesterday for details, and learned that sometime around 7:30 p.m., Hizzoner had been wrapping up a meeting.
The mayor, his press spokesman, his public service director, his chief of staff, and his chief of staff's two assistant chiefs of staff (you dizzy yet?) ended an hour's debate over whether city workers should report in the next snowy morning. Some of the staffers then left, while the mayor and two stragglers remained.
"I was getting real close to going home," Hizzoner said, "and then the lights went out. It was totally dark.
"The red light on the exit sign over the door, that was lit. And the stairwell was lit. But first we had to find the stairwell. There was a big debate about where the stairwell was."
(Government in action, I guess.)
Carty and assistant chiefs of staff Dave Moebius and Tom Kroma started down the stairs. Then Hizzoner remembered Scout's arthritis, and then Mr. Kroma (a cat owner) remembered the fun of descending a skyscraper while toting a 60-pound shedder.
"I was behind Tom," said Carty, "and with each floor, Scout was getting closer to the ground, and Tom was getting more stooped. Finally, at about [floor] 10, he had the wisdom to say, 'I'm gonna take a break here.'•"
(Mr. Kroma estimates he took a break on five. Should we split the diff and say the group stopped midway between seven and eight?)
Amy Finkbeiner, meanwhile, isn't the only one to help Scout pack it on.
During the dog's periodic wanderings through the 22nd floor, he often stops to visit Mr. Kroma, and who could blame him?
"I have a little stash for him," the assistant chief of staff confessed. "They're called Gourmet Select Peanut Butter treats."
Tsk, tsk. If Mr. Kroma huffed 'n' puffed while cradling Scout, it's partly his own darned peanut-buttered fault.