Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Dog Day Afternoon, and Morning, and Evening

Our sidewalk is one of the major dog walking corridors in the northeast.

The paved pathway runs along two sides of a property at a three-way intersection. The fourth way is the northern end of a bicycle/walking path and therefore prime territory for a canine outing.

The times are relatively predictable -- before and after work for the employed folks, mid morning and afternoons for the retired or those otherwise with a day off. And the participants are pretty consistent, with occasional visitors from outside of the area as the weather gets warmer and the foliage along the bike trail becomes fuller and more attractive.

Our relationship with them is mostly observational, with some sporadic small talk thrown in every so often. Still, in some sense, they do become a part of the cycle of your life.

For example Mars and I have watched a female German Shepherd and her master develop from a lanky, random explorers into a closely synchronized, proud-walking duo. On the other hand. the white Jack Russell "Terror" that circles, stops behind, and runs ahead of its steadily-moving, coffee-toting male handler always has, and always will behave more like a balloon leaking air than a well-trained pet. While the eighty-plus year old lady from up the street and her equally elderly red-haired spaniel companion move along every day, rain or shine, in their own slow, linear manner.

Throughout the day three different parades of pugs, each with their own set of handlers and never seen all together at the same time, trudge their portly little bodies along at the same steady cadence as if they are all graduates of the same drill school.

Later in the afternoon a Basenji, one of those small bark-less African hunting dogs, strolls along with its female human companion. It used to be tethered to a taller thin man, while the woman walked slowly behind with a slim, gray, arthritic dog that creaked to the edge of the path but never went down it, instead choosing to stand and wait while its younger successor explored the underbrush.

In the early morning Emmy Lou the Yorkshire Terrier, one of the few whose name we know, clamorously tugs her rugged looking master diagonally across our front lawn as she unsuccessfully pursues the squirrels. Other times she walks meekly and quietly, within the strict confines of the sidewalks, behind her "mom".

And then there is Emma -- the neighborhood Pit Bull -- who is holding us hostage. (Technically she is half Dalmatian as evidenced by the occasional black spots on her white coat. In body structure she is totally Pit Bull.)

She is the only one of her breed in our area, and the only bull terrier that Mars and I have ever met, although we did pull up next to her doppelganger draped out of an open car passenger window at a stoplight in our nearby capitol city. It was in the mid thirties Fahrenheit but the naked canine seemed quite comfortable in its al fresco situation. The driver had his right hand gripped securely around the back of the dog's cloth collar but it showed no interest in doing anything other than hanging out the car window and taking in the urban aromas. The light changed, we turned right, and they went straight ahead with the large terrier still quietly stretched out of the porthole.

We mentioned our Pit Bull sighting to J, who along with G, provide room and board to Emma. J takes her for walks around the 'hood, usually passing in front of our house. This is where the hostage taking kicks in. As she walks by, Emma looks longingly up at our family room door and frequently will not leave the front sidewalk until at least either Mars or I come out to see her.

If it is I, Emma crouches down on her front legs and sniffs my hand as if she is scanning a bar code to record the fact that she has officially made contact with me, and then immediately begins looking for Mars to appear. But Emma actually visits with Mars -- allowing her head, neck, and back to be scratched, and paying attention to what she is saying.

Emma has a similar ritual with B and M, the couple across the street -- except she allows both of them to get up closer, and more personal. She actually has a longer personal relationship with them that Mars and I suspect has also been influenced by a little under-the-table gift giving -- something that Mars periodically attempts to compensate for.

Other friends of ours, J and K, were over for dinner and they were talking about the friendly, welcoming ambience and feeling of community in the part of Maine that they frequent on their vacations. "It's just so nice with everybody out walking their dogs in the neighborhood."

Yes, it is.

2 comments:

Inge said...

Jim!
I have just read your story - and I must say I simply love the way you write...one can almost 'see' the various humans with their canines.
Thank you for a lovely morning read.
Inge
Cape Town, South Africa
PS: I am an English Bull Terrier breeder and have six of them - ranging from a mature 9 year old female down to a 16 week old pup!

Jim said...

Inge,

Thank you. I am glad you enjoyed my essay.