Outside Dog

Milo is sitting outside my window as I write this.

He is standing on an extension ladder. (Don’t be alarmed, the ladder is laying down.) He is making little whimpering noises as I type. I say, “It’s okay, Milo. Good boy.” He looks at me doubtfully. He is waiting for us to go on our evening walk.

There are no woods nearby so every night we take a slightly different route around the neighborhood. There are lots of dogs in the neighborhood behind chain link fences. The dogs bark at Milo but he ignores them. The only dog he pays attention to is a small, slightly dingy white poodle who runs loose and seems a little crazy. The poodle heads towards Milo in a zigzag pattern and occasionally takes a sudden lunge towards him. Milo is a big dog, but the crazy little poodle makes him nervous.

Every night, no matter which way we go, we always end up walking by the same house.

There is nothing unusual about the house except that it is surrounded by a tall adobe wall. Outside the wall, there are big bushes of Russian sage spilling onto the sidewalk and cactus and morning glories. The wall has narrow windows in it and the windows are filled with vertical slats made of round tree branches so we cannot see through, only catch a glimpse of what is inside. As night falls, a warm light passes through the tree branch slats. There is nothing special about this house, but Milo and I walk by it every night.

Milo has always been primarily an outdoor dog, but he makes occasional forays into the house for doses of attention. When I get home from school he comes in for ten minutes and we play “sit and stay.” It’s a kind of hide-and-seek game where Milo sits motionless until I call him and then has to find me. Milo loves “sit and stay” and is very good at it.

But this week, Milo’s in-house excursions were sharply curtailed when our landlord, Hector, found a dog hair.

This was no surprise to me. Yes, I had just swept the house, but Milo is a long-haired dog and the shock of moving from the cool of our farmhouse to the heat of New Mexico caused a lot of hair to go missing. Despite a vigorous brushing (or perhaps because of it) Milo leaves a little hair wherever he goes. If this bothers you, then Milo is going to bother you.

This bothers Hector. Hector explained how he really could not abide hair of any kind— dog or human. We were standing outside when Hector broke the news about the hair. Milo kept nudging Hector’s hand to say, “Come on, you like me don’t you?” But Hector, who comes from a culture with a slightly different take on the role of dogs in the household, was unmoved.

So there is no more “sit and stay.” Now Milo sits outside my window or stands on the extension ladder and looks in at me.

I mopped the floor and then I took Milo for a walk. We walked where we always do. I told Milo that we wouldn’t always be living in such cramped quarters. I told him he was a good dog to be so patient and live with the chickens in the backyard. Finally, we came to the house with the big adobe wall around it. As always, it made me happy.

We walked by the wall and we imagined being inside.

Till next time,

—Carrie

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