I like to think I can charm any dog out there, just as these dogs all charm me. This is an illusive, possibly delusional, thought, but it works out often enough with dogs’ winsome ways and my secret technique that I think it’s true even when it isn’t.
So when Julia said Sadie hadn’t really gotten a walk in a couple of weeks, I figured it would be no big deal — I would just go over with Oz, and the three of us would gambol about the empty Western campus, which starts just across the street from Julia’s house. That’s not the way it worked out.
I could be giving you bad information, but I believe Sadie was rescued from life as a producer in a puppy mill. (I’m pretty sure that’s what Julia said, although I know that the owners of my bike shop have a rescued male dog who was kept in a kennel and used for breeding, so maybe I’m conflating the two.)
I do know Sadie arrived later in her life to become the pampered first dog of the Edwards family who up until recently was the recipient of two walks a day, one in the morning with Julia and another in the evening with Paul.
So let’s put ourselves in Sadie’s shoes, not that she owns any: for the last two weeks her world has been topsy turvy: sick humans, then one human vanished from the house and the other making mysterious hours-long disappearances, coming back smelling all medically and now hooked up to a machine like a leash, stressed and worried about the vanished human . . . and a stranger arrives in the back yard to try to haul her away from where she needs to be.
Thus, while our first walk didn’t go badly, it didn’t go far, and it did require me to break out my secret technique from the outset.
Okay, it’s not a technique at all, and it’s not particularly secret, but it does make me very popular among the four-legged set, whose affections can readily be bought with a Milk Bone Flavor Snack. I carry these snacks around in my jacket pocket and dispense them semi-liberally. Dogs may not have elephantine memories, but they do have Flavor Snack memories and are always very happy to see me again.
Including Sadie, but first we had to get that first walk underway, and she wasn’t very interested in coming to greet me — until I broke out the Flavor Snacks. Then I was able to connect her to the leash I’d brought, and I figured the walk itself would be reward enough, especially since she’s only been on a couple, thanks to two other people, since Julia and Paul got sick.
But Sadie wasn’t really having it. Oz, always amenable, was ready to head out, but Sadie required lots of coaxing. In very halting steps we made it the length of the back of the neighbors’ house.
Let’s pause a moment here to discuss this house. When Julia and Paul first bought their house, they moved in next to the Merrills, an older couple with whom they became fast friends, going over to each other’s houses for board games and generally sociable companionship. But then Mr. Merrill died and the house was sold. To an odious couple.
The first thing the new people did was completely tear the house down, clear to the studs, maybe clear to the ground. They weren’t interested in game night. They weren’t interested in anything the Edwards family had to offer; in fact — and why would you buy a house in a neighborhood if this is your attitude and you had enough money to tear down and then build a house from the ground up? — they hired a surveyor and determined they were within their rights to install a seven-foot privacy fence that went within about a foot of the Edwardses’ dining-room window.
Their idea of compromise was to bump the fence out another foot past the house itself, so that if the Edwardses are motivated and perhaps turn sideways, they can walk on the north side of their house.
But even that wasn’t enough for this couple. Next the woman tried demanding that the Edwardses not use their upstairs room, because a window overlooked her backyard. That demand failed, but what lovely people, hm?
So yesterday, after we navigated the power pole that Oz wanted to broach on the left and Sadie insisted on going right, I was a little concerned as Sadie persisted on wandering onto the neighbor grass, snuffling close to the house.
It turns out, though, that the Awful People are gone, replaced by Joe and Katie Dix, people who retired here and who have given themselves completely over to this community. They both log tremendous hours at the food pantry. She was the unpaid executive director, able to step back once a paid director was located — until that woman left and I believe dumped the job back in Katie’s lap. And Joe yesterday said he’s been volunteering with the EOC, which I’m guessing stands for Emergency Operations Command, for Public Health.
Big improvement, then, in the neighborhood, and better for me as Sadie and I navigate our way through our new walk. We can’t call it a routine yet. Sadie took a couple steps along the side of their house and decided that was far enough. I didn’t push the issue, just turned around and let her lead the way back to her yard.
I left Oz at home for the second walk, since the two dogs had completely ignored one another and Sadie didn’t seem encouraged by his example. I tried this one at Sadie’s usual post-dinner walk time, and we certainly got off to a better start: she saw me and came on the run. Flavor Snacks, every time.
She still wasn’t much interested in leaving her yard, but she was very interested in Flavor Snacks, so I broke off little pieces and bargained with her as we went along: one piece for making it to the end of the alley, another for making it to the Dixes’ front corner, yet another for crossing the street and reaching a block of campus housing.
Campus housing where some student’s dad was putting a bicycle at the back end of an overstuffed pickup bed, and for the first time I really gave thought to how disruptive this has been to the campus community. When school closed down a couple of days before the scheduled spring break, there was still some thought that the semester could be recovered for on-campus learning, so I’m betting lots of students went home without their textbooks and notes. Since then they’ve been told to stay home and learn on-line, while everything they use for their college life has probably been stuck in their dorm and apartment rooms.
Sadie stopped buying into the bribery at the far end of Chipeta Hall, just set her feet and refused to look at the ever-diminishing Flavor Snack. So we turned around — after all, we’d made it three times as far as earlier — talked briefly with Joe, who came out to see what the word was on Paul (they may try taking him off the ventilator today) until Sadie had enough of that and tugged me toward her house.
I’ll try again this evening, and maybe we can go farther still. Sooner or later, I told Julia, Sadie’s going to figure out what every dog eventually knows: I’m the fun one. Or at least the one with the Flavor Snacks.
I had no end of technical difficulties with the photo caption, so I’ll just let you know clear down here that Sadie does in fact have two eyes; one is just very dark brown.