I couldn’t believe how happy she was to see me. It was like having a stalker. My cat is happy to see me, but a dog– that’s different. Seeing me was the best thing that ever happened to Daisy, and I wasn’t even that nice to her.
We did the same walk we always do in my dad’s neighborhood. Everyone always does the exact same walk: toward the park, turn to go between the pool and the tennis courts, head up the short, steep hill to the playground and public school, where the map of the United States used to be painted on the blacktop, go down and over across the track and through the yard of the Catholic school, toward it and past it, past the last remaining tract around a farmhouse, from when there used to be farmhouses, past its fence and its two acres, down past the thick bushes with the berries, and around the corner back to the house.
It must be some deep genetic thing. I did this walk with my baby brother, pushing his stroller, many times. I took a blanket, and we camped under the weeping willows and I read him the doggie book: “One dog/woof.”
I have done this walk with siblings and cousins and nieces and nephews, often to talk over some emotional business away from whomever was at the house. Not always. Sometimes just for the fresh air.
When my dad moved to this house, I was too old for playgrounds, really, but being the oldest, there were people to play with, and we loved the complex of towers and bridges near the public school. We played Ship. I always enjoyed Ship, whether it was spaceShip or pirateShip, there were minor skirmishes and you could run out of supplies and discuss navigation.
This visit, the walks were usually just Daisy and me. Her pink harness, my monkey hat, her green leash, her crazed enthusiasm at leaving the house, my near-certainty that I could get her to listen to me when I told her to get back, to stop, to sit, that I would leave her a better-trained dog than I found her.
Up at the public school, I sat on a swing for a while, and big black birds flew around the huge sky. I don’t know why people think a huge sky is so pretty and great. It’s nice for sunsets, but it’s also kind of overwhelming.
The church’s bells were playing “Joy to the World.” The stuff under the swings was black, shredded tires.
My dad’s previous dog, Jo, I took over to the nursing home when my grandma was dying. Grandma loved Jo.
I hooked Jo’s leash around a doorknob when I had to take Grandma to the bathroom, and Jo ran away through the complex of corridors of the nursing home, which, come to think of it, looked a lot like a space station.
I really hated Jo that day, yanking me around, I was wearing high heels because the errand was already so depressing, and I had also brought an African violet and a box of kleenex. But then I also loved Jo because she was with me, and she seemed to know what was up.
I found Jo hanging out with this guy who looked like an ogre from a fairy tale. “I have doughnuts in my backpack!” he said.
“That’s very nice,” I said, and I grabbed Jo’s collar.
I don’t know if I remember this so well because I have written about it before, or because it was so absurd.
The first day I was supposed to dog-sit Daisy, she ran away. I was taking my dad to the airport at 4 am, I had slept about three hours and I still smelled like cigarettes, it was dark and December cold, and Daisy decided it was a good time to zoom around the neighborhood.
We couldn’t find her. The ride to the airport was tense and sad.
When I got back, close to the house, I drove slower and wondered if I wanted to find the dog or not, because maybe she should endure some Dickensian suffering like that which she had put others through.
I saw her a block away from the house, skipping down the street like she had been waiting for me to get home. I grabbed her and walked her past dark stars, dark Mary and Joseph and manger Jesus, the Christmas display timer having shut itself off about midnight. We went inside the house together, and we both got some rest.