Cricket and I had gone for a short pee trip after dinner a couple of years ago, in Spring I think, during dogwood season. We found Mickey the Maltese digging up the grass on a neighbor’s sidewalk. He was thrilled to meet Cricket. He was a friendly little guy, not suspicious at all when I went to look at the tag on his collar to see where he lived. He was matted and scruffy, but he licked my cheek when I picked him up and carried him in one arm while holding Cricket’s leash with the other.
We walked downhill towards his address and I heard a woman calling out “Mickey! Mickey!”
“I found a little white dog!” I called back, because his tag said, “Mikmous,” and I wasn’t confident I knew what that meant. Cricket led me to Mickey’s Mom.
He’d just run out of the house, leash free, she said, because her sons had left the door open and they didn’t care and they resented him and he was her husband substitute because her husband had died a few years ago. She sounded drunk, actually. I didn’t love handing him back to her, but I had no right to balk, and no one with me to help if I tried to run back up the hill with the two dogs. I had to hand him over and hope for the best. But it stung.
My neighborhood has become more dog-filled in the fourteen years I’ve lived here. When I used to walk Dina, my black lab/shepherd mix, who died five years ago, we would mostly hear dogs barking at us from behind closed doors. Dina was, to be honest, fine with that. But Cricket meets new dogs all the time. There’s Bella and Coco and Toya, there’s Snuggles and Poochie and the twoRockiesand Amber and Taffy, and on and on.
Poochie is a Maltese with a drop of Bichon mixed in to help poof out his waistline. He’s a very slow walker, especially since he hurt his knee. His mom is devoted to him. She gives him allergy baths and forces him outside at regular intervals, to his dismay. He’s not a fan of socializing, or exercise. He’d rather sit on the porch while his mom does the gardening, cleaning, heavy lifting, etc. Whenever Cricket tries to play with him, by jumping and screeching and sniffing his butt, he stands behind his mom and waits for the onslaught to be over.
But, around the time of the Mickey incident, we were out walking near Poochie’s house and we heard him barking as we passed by. I didn’t think much of it. Cricket rushed ahead, because she thinks barking, from other dogs, is scary, no matter how much she likes the non-barking version of that dog. We crossed the street and started up the hill and only stopped when Cricket needed to sniff an errant pair of purple underwear on the curb. I glanced back, just because I wasn’t as enticed by the underwear, and there was Poochie, alone and unleashed. He stood there, twenty feet away, watching us. I wasn’t sure I was really seeing him. Poochie is the mama’s boy of all mama’s boys and I’d never have imagined him misbehaving, going anywhere without his mom, or, and this was the biggest shock, being so desperate to see Cricket that he ran out of the safety of his house. He stood still as we moved towards him, slowly, and he even let Cricket sniff at him for a moment. But a moment was more than enough and he turned and started to run into the middle of the street. I called to him, but he just stood there, until I aimed Cricket at him and managed to coax him to the side of the street with the threat of her nose about to sniff his butt. When he saw his Mommy running out to find him he raced into his harness and asked for uppies, while Cricket jumped up at his mommy’s legs.
Now we troll the neighborhood looking for dogs to save. It is such a high. For those few moments, I felt like an actual good person, a brave person with her values in the right place, even an effective person – none of which I get to feel in my life otherwise.