We go for an early evening walk around our neighbourhood almost every day, and usually along our favourite route. I particularly enjoy greeting the dogs we meet along the way, as lots of people are out walking their dogs after work. I’ve found that most of the dogs are very nice when you meet them outside their own yards, and that their owners are often happy to stop for a chat. And it’s a lovely way of meeting other residents!
I’m always wary, though, of approaching dogs when they’re inside their own yards, because their friendly tailwagging can turn into a furious teeth-baring defense of their territory alarmingly quickly!! So I respect that.
There is one exception to this rule, though.
About two years ago, I reached my hands through a fence and made friends with an adorable Staffie and her companion, an elderly Golden Retriever. As I didn’t know the staffie’s name, I called her “Noeffie”.
I got into the habit of talking out loud (even when I was walking alone ;-)), softly calling out her name, as I approached her yard.
Much to my delight, Noeffie would usually be waiting at the gate for me (she must have excellent hearing!), her little tail whipping from side to side with such joy that her whole rear end was shaking. The yard had two gates, a car gate and a pedestrian one, so I’d greet and pet her extensively at the one, and then – in a flash – she would race down to the next gate to get more cuddles there!
The Golden Retriever, also a female, always trotted down to get her share of the cuddles too, but she was more restrained than Noeffie, who just couldn’t contain the joy and excitement that was exploding out of every inch of her compact little body.
When she wasn’t waiting at the gate, I would pause to look for her – and as soon as she spotted me, she’d race towards the gate at breakneck speed, stopping at the last split-second to push herself against the gate and my hands. When Noeffie was asleep, the retriever would jump up and bark, announcing my arrival, and an instant later, Noeffie would come racing around the corner of the house, hurtling towards me.
And when I said goodbye, she sometimes did these funny somersaults on the lawn, stopping in-between, her mouth hanging open in a big smile, making sure that I was still looking at her performance. What a little clown!
These doggy encounters were invariably the highlight of our walks.
One day last year, I met Noeffie, her companion, and their human mommy and daddy, walking along our road. Noeffie almost had a heart attack of delight when she saw me, and she pulled at her leash, until her human allowed her to approach me for her usual cuddles.
I explained to her surprised owners that we had become friends, and asked what the dogs’ names were: the Staffie is called Ella and she is four years old, and the Golden Retriever is Annie, and at 13 years old, she is an elderly lady. So now, when we meet the two dogs and their humans on the street, I can greet them by name.
Very nearby them lives – or rather, lived – a Pyrenean Mountain Dog. He was a large dog, with soft white fur and a beautiful face. I was pretty sure he would be a very friendly chap if I were to encounter him outside his yard. But everytime we walked past his gate, he would spin in a tight circle, barking loudly and crossly. His bark was deep, emerging right from the depths of his belly. For many months, I wondered what his name was.
At last, shortly before Christmas last year, the opportunity arose to find out. His lord and master was busy in the front garden, so I said hello, and asked him about his dog. He told me that the dog’s name was Galahad, and what kind of breed he was (I didn’t know at that stage), and that he was actually a very friendly and affectionate dog, although he did tend to bark at strangers walking past their gate. Which is not necessarily a bad thing!
From then on, whenever we walked past his gate, Galahad would spin and bark, and spin and bark, and I would greet him by name and say hello. I always called him ‘Sir Galahad‘, because there was something so proud and majestic about him. I was hoping that, one day, I would meet him outside his yard and make friends with him.
But things took a different turn.
Earlier this evening, when we went for our usual walk, we met Ella and Annie, taking their human father for a walk. We chatted for a while, and then the man told us that he had gotten a note in his postbox from the owner of the large white dog.
Apparently, the dog had had to be put down last weekend. Which explained why we hadn’t seen him for the last few days.
Someone – some foul, evil, thoroughly despicable bastard, not worthy of being called a ‘human being’ – had poisoned majestic Sir Galahad.
My heart is heavy tonight.
Why are there such horrible human beings in this world?