I’ve been on dog duty the last few days, feeding and walking Alfie and Butter from upstairs while my neighbors are away. It’s been interesting taking them out at night, seeing how different it is to wander around my neighborhood at a time when I’m usually indoors. It’s surprised me to see how many people are hanging out after hours — on their stoops, in their front yards, on the street. There’s one house with three comfortable chairs lined up on the curb facing the house, arranged around a big planter overflowing with pink and purple flowers. Each time I’ve passed, there have been three older men sitting there chatting. At 11:30 at night.
Seeing how many people are afraid of dogs has been a bit of an eye-opener for me, too. I know that I don’t run right up to strange dogs on the street, and I spent the whole week with T___ helping her remember not to run up and pet strange dogs but to ask their owners first if the dog is friendly. But I’m not afraid of dogs. And, too, I know that Alfie and Butter are two of the sweetest, friendliest dogs in canine history, but it still surprised me to see people pull far away from us as we made our way down the street. I made a point of keeping the girls on short leashes when we passed other people, but people still drew far away. Not everyone, of course, but many more people than I’d have imagined.
Something I had forgotten from my last turn walking the girls: dogs’ fascination with putting gross things in their mouths. Something I hadn’t realized last time was that this fascination often means I have to put my hand in their mouths to remove the gross thing … and gross-thing-removal leaves me with a hand covered in dog spit and a hand full of whatever foul thing I’ve just pulled from Alfie or Butter’s mouth. Blech. I’ve had my hands on old food, questionably-dirty paper, other dogs’ poo (thanks, Butter), and a whole lot of chicken bones.
I would never have guessed the streets were so full of chicken bones. What are people doing, walking around eating chicken and just strewing the bones behind them as they go? I could have constructed a coop full of chicken skeletons had I pocketed all those bones.
We had a really beautiful-sounding rain Friday night into Saturday morning — heavy, lulling, straight-down rain. Saturday morning the girls and I walked to the park. Our little park has a ball court and two small playgrounds in addition to general green space and benches and such. As we passed one of the playgrounds, several little boys arrived. They ran to the swings, slide and monkey bars, exclaiming with a hysterical, overblown joy that each piece of play equipment was dry after the rain. “The monkey bars aren’t even wet. Thank the Lord!” “The swings are dry. Hallelujah!” They were cracking each other up with their praises to “Sweet Jesus!” because the slide wasn’t in a puddle and their pleasure to find — “Glory to God!” — no mud impeding their run around the playground. They were cracking me up, too. Not so much the almost-grown-up who was minding them. I’m guessing she was their older sister, a supremely annoyed-looking teenager who was busily texting while the boys ran around. She kept trying to quash their comical enthusiasm with threats of a shortened stay: “Y’all stop acting retarded or we’re going right back inside.” Didn’t stop them, though.
I noticed a cute thing about the dogs when all of this happened. We’d been making our herky-jerky way through the park: stop and sniff every blade of grass here, leap over huge swathes of turf to thoroughly check out that tree trunk there. When the boys ran into the playground, the girls didn’t look up from their careful sniffing, but as soon as they boys began to call out to one another in their over-the-top joy, both dogs stopped what they were doing and turned toward them, tails wagging. I noticed it again after we left the park. As we passed a church, woman came out with four small children, all of whom were laughing. At the sound of their laughter, the girls perked right up, tails wagging. Now, maybe the dogs react to any happy-sounding person. I’m sure that’s true, but I loved seeing how the sound of children’s voices really got their attention, made them happy. Very sweet.