People With Dogs

I took my dogs for a walk. It was sunny. High 80s. The blossoming trees made Crestwood smell like heaven.

The first person I met was an old man, sitting in his yard. He was beneath a massive oak. He ate from a hospital tray, sipped tea from a straw. He wore a Gilligan hat. His nurse was seated with him.

I was walking past his house and he spoke to me because everyone talks to you when you have dogs. It is a universal truth, unrefuted by science.

At the time I had three dogs on a leash. A blind coonhound (55 pounds), an alleged Labrador (110 pounds), and a bloodhound (60,000 metric tons). My ligaments were being torn asunder.

I waved hello. The old man waved back. His nurse waved. I asked how he was feeling today.

“Don’t ever make the mistake of being 88,” he said.

Then he laughed. “Actually, it’s not so bad,” he added. “If you don’t mind having a titanium hip, bolts in your knees, or being violated with catheters the size of commercial garden hoses.”

I walked onward.

Next, I met three young men who were playing catch in their front yard. And by “young men” I mean these men were still in diapers. They were maybe 2 years old.

Their mothers were outside with them. The boys were tossing a Wiffle ball back and forth. Although, technically, it wasn’t a proper game of “catch” inasmuch as nobody ever caught the ball.

I waved at them. They all waved back.

“Pet da puppy?!” one boy shouted to me.

I let the kids run their hands along the smooth coat of my blind coonhound. They enjoyed this. But not half as much as me.

After that, I met two older guys, loading a canoe atop their Honda. They had tackle boxes strewn in their driveway. Clearly a fishing trip was on the horizon.

One of the old men was wearing a plastic boot, using crutches, and smoking a cigar that smelled like a turd.

I asked what happened to his foot.

“I have diabetes,” he said. “Doctors tell me I should stay off my bad foot, and stay inside. But you know what? You don’t quit having fun because you get sick. You get sick because you quit having fun.”

Onward I went.

Next, I happened upon a few college-age girls who were in a nearby yard, cutting grass, shaping shrubs, and landscaping. They wore orange and navy blue.

They said they were home from Auburn University this week, helping their neighbor get her house ready for summer. They tell me this neighbor woman is elderly, and can’t do her own yard work because she has come down with a summer cold.

“That’s very generous of you,” I tell them.

“We figured, hey, why not?” replied one young woman. “We have time, and we’d want kids to do this for us when we’re that age.”

“How old is your neighbor?” I asked.

“She’s 54.”

I kept walking.

I met a gal who was also walking her dog. The lady was middle-aged. The dog was a giant. Which is saying something, coming from me, because I had three quarter horses on a leash.

Our dogs hit it off nicely. The animals took turns sniffing each other’s most fragrant cavities, whereupon we all walked together for a few hundred yards. Four dogs. Two humans.

I asked the woman what her dog’s name was.

“His name is Pig,” the woman explained.

“That’s an interesting name for a dog.”

“Thank you. I named him after my ex-husband.”

She got the dog from a shelter after her husband left her for a younger woman. She was in her mid-50s at the time. It was her first time living on her own, being a single woman.

“I learned that I actually like living alone,” she said. “I was capable of being happy and secure by myself. And I have Pig to thank for that.”

“Which Pig?” I asked.

The old dog has white hair around his nose and hip problems. She tells me that Pig won’t be with us much longer, so she’s trying to make his latter days wonderful.

I run my hand over his old muzzle. Then the dog decides I’m worth giving a lick of appreciation.

“Isn’t it great?” the woman says. “You ever notice how everyone talks to you when you have a dog?”

Took the words right out of my snout.

1 comment

  1. stephenpe - May 19, 2023 10:52 am

    great story. The lesson is talk to people. Strangers. It is surprising how even the most anti social looking people are ready to chat. Im getting better at it as I age. I hope to make the mistake of being 88 one day. Its sort of a goal of mine.


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