He is ecstatic. He is so excited that he's running in little circles. So many dogs! So many smells! He doesn't know where to pee first! Nor is he willing to let a single, savouy stone pass untouched. It's all paving stones and no grass, and I guess the odors last longer. We procede from light post to corner to hydrant, Xingxing lifting his leg every five seconds. The pump soon runs dry, but that doesn't stop him. He is in ofalactory heaven, and it's all I can do to drag him back to the hotel. Now I know how he must feel when I'm standing and stare at scenery, or paintings. He wonders, What is she looking at? Just as I'm wondering, What is he smelling?
Having paid an arm and a leg to be allowed to check in early (it's basically 5 AM for us) I am now too excited to take a nap. As soon as I unpack, we set out to see the sights. Xingxing is all for exploring every wonderful stink along the way, but we do manage to get as far as San Marco Square, which is wall-to-wall tourists.
Strange as it sounds, everything is smaller than I'd expected. The buildings are lower, the streets are narrower and the scale is extremely navigable. When I look at the map I've been given, things that look as if they'd be miles from one another are within twenty steps. There are no cars. This is definitely a city for walkers.
I have no idea how Xingxing is going to handle the time difference, which is nine hours. My plan is to give him his dinner at five in the evening, and see what happens. I'm not a bit hungry, so I content myself with popcorn and a Scotch. Xingxing eats his dinner with relish. So far so good. We're both asleep before dark.
At 4 AM, I am awakened by the canine equivalent of, Ahem! Xingxing is sitting on the floor, staring at the door. Can you at least hold it until the sun rises? I ask him. No. He can't. He has to go. He has to go now.
I scramble into my clothes and we go downstairs. The lobby is deserted. But the door is open, so we proceed out into the courtyard in back (the Grand Canal is in front) of the hotel. As always, Xingxing needs to find the right spot. And there are so many spots to choose from! He drags me into the narrow, dark alley that leads to Calle Barozzi, where the gondolas pick up their passengers. He doesn't mind that it's dark. He sees with his nose, sniffing, pausing, peeing, still searching for the elusive spot. I'm a bit nervous. The streets are deserted. Is this safe?
The streets are quite different, at night. I suddenly feel that the city has breathed a sigh of relief and is enjoying this respite from tourists and tourism. It's as if the ghosts have come out to play. I don't mean this in a scary sense. It isn't scary at all. It's sort of magical. We make our way down Via XXII Marzo, past the designer shops. Finally, Xingxing squats.
Back at the hotel, the door is locked. There is no buzzer, no bell. I peer inside. The lobby is empty. I tug at the door. It is definitely locked. Suddenly, someone appears and opens the door. He had to go, I explain weakly. The man who opened the door for us looks a bit bemused. Probably thinking, Crazy Americans!