The neighbor dog, a mixed breed of the Heinz ketchup variety, showed her unconditional love with a wide tooth grin stretching her lips to the gums. If you didn’t understand her gentle docile behavior and her jumpy playful nature, you would think that she possessed a furious temper. Lacking that snarl was the main dead giveaway that you were the recipient of plain old puppy love, and nothing more or less. Of the two of us, it took me longer to get comfortable with her in my presence since I didn’t grow up surrounded by dogs like my husband. And to top it off, I had been bitten on the leg by a dog further down our road one year, and it was a painful reminder of keeping my distance if at all possible.
Still, it was a little unnerving to people coming to visit and for the UPS driver delivering packages, for she had those protective qualities about her, too, and we were extended family after all. A car pulled in our driveway, and she started barking incessantly from her yard before quickly crossing the road inspecting the strangers. It was hard to make her quit, too, and it was embarrassing explaining off the “adopted” pet circling around nosing in. “Go home.” Off she’d trot with her head hanging to wait near the side of the road in case her services were needed immediately.
In warmer weather she bounded over to our yard when she heard one of us open the door and we trained her to sit patiently with her tail wagging while she received her doggie treat for the day. Two bones and off, became her normal routine that she kept up for over ten years. On Christmas morning her owners would let her out to receive her special Christmas bone from us, all the present that she would ever desire on such a fine holiday.
Often when I was walking alone down our back trails, I heard her bounding from across the road panting a mile a minute. The huffing got louder the closer she came catching up to be my hiking companion. A few pats on the head and a rubbing of her eyes as she kept pace with me was all she needed to be accepted. She stayed along beside me until a bird or chipmunk in the brush would distract her attention, and off she would go in pursuit. Sometimes I never saw her again until I returned back to the top of the hill where she would be waiting for me to catch up. Apparently, she knew the short cuts better than me. It was doggie treat time and I needed to step up my pace.
The family owned a smaller dog, a cat or two, and growing up as one of several others, she learned the art of give and take early on. She thought nothing of coming to our back porch and befriending our only cat, but alas, he was not a mixer and kept to himself going back inside through his magic door opening. She’d hang around for awhile before giving up and finding another activity, especially splashing in our pond and coming for a rub after shaking herself all over us that sheepish smile all over her face.
There came the time when we didn’t see her as frequently. It became clearer when a couple weeks before she passed away of old age and mixed health problems, one of her family members came over to tell us that she would be leaving this world soon. They knew how much we loved her, too, and they wanted to share the sadness. With tears and hugs, the teenager daughter and us chatted about all the lovely memories we would hold onto.
The neighbors don’t own a large dog that roams unleashed anymore. We miss our Harley Girl.