Lucy and I (and sometimes Ash) go for a walk around our neighborhood twice a day. The first time is at 6:00 AM, and there are very few people out and about at that time…which is a good thing, since my verbal skills do not kick in until after 8:00 or a shower (whichever comes last) and I would be hard-pressed to make coherent, language-resembling sounds with anyone trying to engage me in conversation. (Aside: This fact seems to be lost on Norma, a lady who lives in the next complex over. At 6:00 in the morning when she walks her extraordinarily large black dog, Midnight, Norma already has makeup on and is ready to show her face — and sparkling wit — to anyone she might bump into. I am having a hard time loving Norma with the love of the Lord, but I trust I will find something to appreciate the more I get to know her. Which at this point seems unavoidably inevitable.)
We take our second walk when I get home from work, around 6:00 PM. This is becoming the highlight of my day. (Sorry, Honey.) At six in the evening, Port Hueneme, CA transforms itself from Gary-Indiana-by-the-Sea into a beach-town paradise, without the yuppies. Parents romp with their kids on the sand, older couples stroll with their tiny, yappy dogs and young couples snuggle close to savor together the day’s last golden hours. People get friendly. Not that they’re ogres earlier in the day, but there’s something about the beach’s evening vibe that makes them especially magnanimous and humane.
Being a dog owner makes it easy to benefit from this friendliness. I guess there is a good reason walking a dog is a great way to hit on people: you can’t beat them off with a stick. Of course, they are not at all interested in you, but I suppose if one was steely with determination to parlay interest in one’s dog into a date, it could happen. (Obviously, I have no such steely resolve.)
I have met more people in the 10 days since we brought Lucy home than in the two years we lived here before her arrival. (Now who’s an ogre?) It’s incredible. And also kind of weird, because when I see people I’ve met a few days earlier, they look down at the dog and say, “Hi, Lucy!” and completely ignore the fact that she’s attached to a human being. What the hell? All Lucy can do is jump up and slaver all over them…I’m semi-intelligent and mildly entertaining and think almost deeply about the issues facing the world of today! And I haven’t slavered in like, months.
I’m glad and grateful that being Lucy’s owner affords me the opportunity to meet people in my community, but I’m bemused that I seem to be the only one interested in getting to know them, not just their dog-petting skillz. (Granted, this is a skill not to be underrated and in shocking short-supply. It’s astonishing how many people try to scratch Lucy’s back without letting her give them a sniff of approval first. How invasive and rude!) It’s crazy that we’re comfortable talking to dogs but not to each other. Is it fear of rejection? Or just an aversion to strangers?
I don’t know. We’ve only had Lucy for 10 days, so maybe this is some kind of trial introductory period where we all sniff each other’s hindparts to see if we’re Okay. Whatever it is, it’s creepy. I hope we all go back to being people soon.