Thursday, July 24, 2014

Black Dog

I don't run past this particular house every single day. With the vagaries of my schedule,  would imagine that I only pass by two or three times a week. That might explain the reaction of the dog in the front yard. This black dog has made it her personal mission to let me know when I am a few feet from approaching her line of sight and will keep barking at me until I am once again out of her view. Sometimes, when I am lost in a thought or enjoying whatever song has come up on the shuffle of my iPod, I forget that I am about to enter the doggie danger zone and I am surprised by the somewhat ferocious attention I receive. Just enough to knock me slightly off my normal stride, but mostly I just keep going. After years of making this same loop, I have become accustomed to this interaction. It has even spread down the block just a bit, as a new yard full of puppies now take up black dog's complaint as I run past their fence. They aren't nearly as concerned or vicious, but they seem to want some of the same attention as black dog. Or maybe it's part of the neighborhood alert system.
That's what I used to believe when our dog, Maddie, used to make a fuss about strangers walking past our house. She would get her back up and rush back and forth on her side of the wooden slats that kept her from being any more involved in the security of her home. "Hey," she would yelp, "the mailman is outside the gate for the three thousandth time and I want everyone within the sound of my voice to know it!" Like the ubiquitous car alarm, her alert became part of the sound tapestry of our lives. If one of us was nearby, we might admonish her and tell her that the mail carrier was our friend and we should treat him or her as a guest and not an interloper. Of course, living in our urban setting, having a dog that would let us know when there was a stranger in our midst or a fire in the barn was essentially a good thing. She was the Neighborhood Watch Dog.
Of course, I also knew her secret. I knew that once someone was inside the fence, she was everyone's friend. Not that the U.S. Post Office wanted to find out. We were once warned to keep our dog under control or we might stop getting home delivery. Our UPS guy got it. He and Maddie became close over the years, and there weren't many deliveries when he didn't stop and have a little fetch or tug of war with his puppy pal. This is what went through my mind as I rounded the corner a few days back. I heard the black dog bark before I saw her. She started to run along her side of the fence, making ferocious sounds. Until I stopped. She stopped in her tracks and blinked. This was not part of our rhythm. I waited. I hoped that she might even come back to the fence to take a sniff of this confounding new reality, but she kept her distance. "Okay then," I told her, "I'll see you again in a few days." No barking.
Not until I got down the block and the little watch dogs to be started in. I stopped at their pen, and waited for their leader to put his nose up to the back of my hand. No fear. Just a welcome. I looked back up the street to see if black dog was watching. She wasn't. She had, no doubt, retreated to her spot on the porch where she would wait for my return. Maybe next time I'll bring Snausages.

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