His hair is matted and dirty, and he can't see because his hair covers his eyes. He's weathered the coldest frosts and the most smoldering summer days.
On several different occasions, I've found myself standing in my apartment parking lot, twenty yards between the dog and me, tears in my eyes, whispering "I'm so sorry." I've also found myself standing in my parking lot, scowling at the owners as they get out of their car and pass their dog who loves them dearly without touching him. They shut their front door on his wagging tail, he stands at the door for a second, then hopelessly lies back down.
There's an alley that runs behind the owners' back yard that I use when I'm walking or biking to work or downtown. Usually the dog is asleep on the backporch, and if he's awake, he typically doesn't see me because of the hair covering his eyes. When he does see me, he barks viciously, and every now and then, he jumps off the porch, bounds up the hill leading up to the alley, and lunges at me furiously. His leash catches him just before he reaches me, but I'm always worried it will break, and he'll attack me- the one who actually loves him.
One time I fed him half of a steak. He didn't bark at me then, but that fond memory faded quickly from his animal brain.
This morning, I walked to work in the sunshine. When 5:00 rolled around, the sky opened up and sent forth a torrential thunderstorm. I stayed at work waiting for it to die down with a couple of co-workers. When it finally let up, my boss asked if I wanted a ride home.
"No, thank you," I said. "I'm going to steal this umbrella that's been sitting in our lobby forever and walk." When was the last time I purposefully walked in the rain? I thought.
I made my way home under what I learned was an umbrella in shambles, cut through the yard of an abandoned house to the alley. The rain began to pick up as I neared my neighbors' backyard.
I noticed that the sheep dog wasn't on the porch. Then I noticed his leash running from the porch, up the hill toward the alley, disappearing under a tree. It was then I saw his face and the leash wrapped tightly around a small stump of a tree. He was stuck, probably panicked during the thunder and lightning, running in circles until he couldn't move. He saw me but didn't bark. I took a look at him and decided he was too unpredictable to help. His owners will come unwrap him soon.
Wait... no they won't. They're terrible!
I stared at him for a few seconds, closed the umbrella, and inched down the hill toward him. I talked to him in my sweet animal voice while I put the umbrella near his face. He nipped at it but didn't growl. I kept talking to him and began pulling at the leash to untangle it from the trunk. He sat there calmly and didn't even move after I had freed him. I was soaking wet at this point.
As I walked away and ironically said "Be free," he began bounding around. He pushed through the low branches of the tree toward me, wagging his tail. I patted his disgusting head and scratched his matted behind with the umbrella. I pushed his hair back from his eyes with the hope that he'll remember me the next time I see him. I cried a little, too, because that's just what I do.
We said our goodbyes and as I walked home, I thought about being his secret friend. I'd come to the alley at night and cut his hair and give him snacks**. Maybe at night I could free him from his leash and we could walk around the neighborhood together.
I could be his Boo and he could be my Scout. Or would it be the other way around? Or maybe that makes no sense, but what I mean is that we'd have a great amount of affection for one another.
* Who or whom?
**That was for you, Audrey.