“Would you guys take two?”
My spouse rolled her eyes. We were at a dog rescue shelter and had come to look at “Teddy” the cutest (mostly) black Lab puppy. The child with us, the youngest and only one left in the house, heard the question but was far too intelligent to say anything, knowing that I would probably cave on the request. We sat on the floor, bonding with Teddy, who turned out to be the runt of the litter, and his three bigger and more energetic siblings, who kept knocking him over as they jumped around happy to see people until I finally picked up Teddy and put him in my lap, where he licked my face and feel asleep.
Teddy’s bigger brother was a black Lab too, and his two bigger sisters were yellow Labs (different colors can come from the same litter, who knew?) and the dog rescue person wanted us to take the brother because, she said, black dogs are less likely to get adopted. Which is kind of sad. So we walked out with two black Lab puppies.
The three older (human) children, having long since departed for parts known (or at least we think we know where they are) were and weren’t supportive; two of them wanting a dog, no matter they weren’t home, one of them, the most practical one, saying you shouldn’t do it, but the youngest one promised to help take of it, and she was taking care of her two shelter cats (Tuna who came with only one eye, and Sophia, who we had seen when we first got her, but pretty much never saw after that, with the child reassuring us when we remember to ask that Sophia is still alive and in the house.)
So I took the youngest one’s promise at face value, and she has walked them about three times, and does feed them every so often, which is a state of affairs that I can’t really comment on. But no one ever bothered to really train them, so they are a little bit semi-wild, which is how I tell my children they would have been if I was solely responsible for their upkeep.
Our son did insist we rename them, especially since the bigger one didn’t have a real name. After many long group Skype sessions between us all, the son suggested Aragorn and Legolas, Aragorn because he would be a king among dogs, as Aragorn was (of people) in the Lord of the Rings and Legolas because he and Aragorn were like brothers.
Fortunately Chestnut Hill is dog country, or at least dog city. So since I wanted them I am the one who walks them too, and every morning we are off, and sometimes in the afternoon too, going in one of the four possible directions out from where we live, all of them with Germantown Avenue as the center, to either side of Mt. Airy, or either side of Chestnut Hill, ultimately bounded by Stenton or the park. We did experience brief freedom at the park off leash as puppies, till we encountered the “Russian Translator” who seems to live in the park and sort of threatened us, for reasons known only to him, although it was early in the morning, and I wasn’t quite sure what he said, but we left and never went off leash again.
Instead we are off, with my coffee and our bags, often ending up on one side or Germantown or the other for the return trip, with me looking in the shops to see what the latest fashions are that are all far too small for me (“I’m sorry we don’t carry your size” usually said with a sweet apologetic smile) and the cute little stores with their cute little signs that say dogs welcome, but if we went in, with the boys’ semi-wild nature, we wouldn’t be welcome for very long.
Since they are (mostly) black Labs, they have to pause every few seconds to eat something they find, and since they are boys, they have to stop every other few seconds to pee. And when they do other things, we have to clean those up too, with our handy plastic bags, which is a little rough at times, and I will leave that thought alone.
But it is often beautiful in the early morning, the sun rising, and the world just waking up. Sometimes I look the cars that pass by too, and the hurry up faces of the commuters inside. Or we walk by a gym, and look at the people working out inside, staying fit so they can shop at the wonderful clothing stores. Or we just walk, and greet people and they greet us with a “Good Morning” or sometimes just “morning” or sometimes just nod or wave, especially if they are across the street, but if they are rushing to the train, with their hurry up walking faces and earpieces, we simply steer by them, usually taking the lead in going around them, into the street or across the road, since there are three of us and only one of them.
Sometimes other dogs appear, and we or they cross the street to avoid dog confrontation, except when we are caught unaware when all of a sudden we or they turn a corner unexpectedly, and all of us are face to face. A flurry of activity, from people and dogs, and we all sort ourselves out and move on.
The dogs are happy though and their little smiley faces more often than not provoke a smile in the people that pass. Which is neat, and sometime with the regular schedule, and the regularity of Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy and the niceness of the people, and the good mornings and the smell of the bread, and even with the people with coffee and errands and work, I feel like Belle, in the Beauty and the Beast with her opening song in the town square, but without Belle’s angst, because I am older, and more settled, and alive on the day the Lord created, with two of the happiest animals in the world, in one of the best places in the world, for them, and us.