Friday, August 28, 2009

Setting sun

I'm out with Stella and we pass by the usual bored bus stop waiters, junkies casing for unlocked car doors, schizophrenic homeless looking for their lost euphoria on the sidewalk, sin-free religious people all polished clean and neck-tied and God smiley, crack-hos with slippers hanging off their dirty feet, shirtless guy who for some strange reason is wearing a sports jacket today but still shirtless under that, baby stroller jogger plowing everyone off the sidewalk, stony faced cops on horses leaving huge piles of shit for cars to drive through and splash on pedestrians and ringing streetcars and hip hop boombox cars and honking taxis and pneumatic garbage trucks making up for lost time and then we turn off the busy street and everything is quiet.

We walk but it's a slow walk because Stella is sniffing every vertical thing coming out of the ground or she's grazing on the tips of a specific type of tall grass or she's glowering at squirrels, cats and wasps. We pass a big dragonfly on the sidewalk and I stop to look at it, see if it's still alive but it's not moving and I point to it and say, "Look Stella," and she looks and she sniffs it and for a moment I know she's thinking about how this thing might taste - somewhere between flies and bees perhaps? - but she decides against it, not that I would've let her anyway, and she backs up and looks at me, So what about it?

At the parkette, which is a small patch of ratty grass with some sandy bits and some muddy bits and a swing set and some plastic climbing apparatus which I've only ever seen teens draped over with piles of cigarette butts growing around their feet, there are no dogs and Stella is disappointed not so much because she's looking for friends but more because she's looking for new dogs to grumble her royal displeasure at so instead she spends three minutes investigating the well dowsed trunk of an old maple tree. She's like a sommelier, poring over every inch, taking deep breathes, exhaling, taking another deep breathe over the same spot, letting the scent settle in, exhaling, move over an inch, repeat. Seriously, I don't get it. I'm more understanding of Rocky: sniff and piss, sniff and piss. Maybe it's a male thing.

At the end of the street, there is an old man, must be in his eighties, with his old terrier in a faded harness on the sidewalk ahead of us walking towards us. The old man is walking slow but his dog is walking slower, every step slower, like it's winding down, head lowered, just slightly swaying.

The man sees Stella and me and frowns. He turns around and waits for his dog to reorient. I cross the street with Stella. Stella would be fine with his dog, too small and too old to pose any challenge to her authority, but I don't want to give the old man a heart attack, or his dog. I remember how Barclay was when he got that old, when he couldn't hear or see very well and how he'd startle when dogs came up from behind him and how he'd lose his balance and topple over like a cartoon drunk except there was no laughter in it, just a sense of fading.

We're on the other side of the road and I look over and I see the old dog still confused about the turn in direction and then the old man bends over slowly at the hips and a bit at the knees and puts his hand on the back of his dog and just holds it there for maybe five seconds and the dog leans into that touch and looks up at the old man looking back down at him and that look they share and that feeling which binds them and gives them ease, that partnership they have which saves them from the world, buffers them against the unending aches and pains of old bodies, against the knowledge of the inevitable, it seems so, it is so good and beautiful.


Lynn said...

Nice. Thanks.

foxpen said...

That's beautiful.

Shannanigans said...

sweet, I just posted a story a ew weeks back about an old man and his old dog. I was jogging and stopped as his dog just flopped down in defeat, and the old man picked him up lovingly in his arms and carried him home.

And I dont get girl dogs either. Ive re-learned patience while walking Pepper and she has to overly investigate every pee soaked blade of grass

Social Mange said...

That's such a lovely picture in the last paragraph. Thank you.

Miz Minka said...

What a beautiful moment -- thanks for recording it for us, Fred. That look the old man and his even older dog shared... it's an expression of the heart of what makes the relationship between a dog and his human so special.

I do so miss having a dog.

Marcie said...


Lynda said...

Great story, Fred. Thanks for that.

Stella and my Jill certainly have a lot in common.