Last summer one of the open lots on our deadend dirt road was finally sold and during the fall we watched this little patch of land become dominated with really quite a hideous McMansion. Well, some people are into that I guess. They also wisely erected a pole barn between their house and the house next door that looks like a lot of places I remember from my childhood in Tennessee, rusted out cars and miscellaneous garbage everywhere with the yard gone to weed. (To be fair, their front yard is an open field they keep mowed, so only these new people have to see their hording).
They moved in at the beginning of December and being we only get a few hours of daylight this time of year, neither my husband nor I have met them as yet, although the neighbor between the two of us has told us all about them.
I have, however, met their dog.
When you were little, did you ever meet a kid at the playground who was way too dressed up, who wanted to play but really couldn’t do anything because his mother told him not to get dirty? I’ve met a handful of versions of this kid, and looking back they were probably there vising relatives for a funeral or something, but it always made an impression on me, the strangely formal kid with the neatly combed hair, wearing clothes just short of being a suit, standing and watching the other kids and not getting dirty.
This dog is like that kid.
He first came over when they were moving in, a cold bunch of days. I was out with my own dogs before dawn, not yet wearing my glasses, and this dog is big, but black all over so he gave the three of us quite a start. Tachi, my 40-pound pit bull mix, promptly hid behind my legs. (She is still quite visible standing behind me; she’s not fooling anyone). Mugen was more willing to meet the new guy, but the other dog just stood there, perfectly straight, a bright blue collar around his neck and the hair on his head looking like a carefully coifed pompadour. He acted like his mother had told him not to get dirty.
He looked like the sort of dog who would have a human name like Steve or Theodore (definitely not Teddy).
We met him a few mornings after that, always very early and never with his humans about. Mugen only got upset the day we went outside and this dog was waiting for us on our back porch. He’s not territorial about our yard, apparently, but the porch is not for just anyone to use. I had to shove Mugen back in the house until I had shooed Steve away.
Since then the neighbors got their invisible fence installed and I haven’t seen Steve again. At least until last Saturday. He must have chased a squirrel out of his enclosure and couldn’t get back in because he was wandering around and around our yard in the middle of the day. My husband was out shopping and I was on the treadmill and saw a flash of black in the corner of my eye. I was startled – how had Tachi gotten outside? – then both my dogs started barking and I knew it was Steve. Steve ran around to the backyard as my husband pulled in, then ran back to the front yard when I tried pointing him out to my husband.
Now I had described this dog to him thoroughly, formal pose, neatly arranged hair, bright blue collar like a bowtie, probably named Steve. But his owners must have called him home because he had quite disappeared.
So now my husband things I’m imaging him. And yeah, I’m probably projecting on him. I do that with people too, fictionalize everything about them based on first impressions and then get confused later when I actually meet them because the fictional version seemed so real. It’s a thing.
But man, you should see Steve. He’s quite a dog.