Django

Dog.
Natural highlights.

She was not a dog you told your troubles to. Confidences made her uncomfortable. Also tears, hugs, too much petting. We have no stories of, “hey I was crying and you’ll never guess what she did! Cuddled at my feet and looked up at me with gentle understanding! Or nuzzled me and got me to play with a ball to distract me! So cute!” It wasn’t her job to distract you. She was a dog and you were a human and she had her own issues to deal with.

She had the neighborhood to patrol. Skateboarders to hysterically lunge at, no matter how many training techniques we’d tried over the years. Positive reinforcement. Time outs. Being the alpha. “Try putting her on her back and reminding her you are in control.” “Try abandoning her immediately, so she realizes there are consequences.” “Try ignoring her—when they only get responses for good behavior they learn to practice only good behavior.” None of it worked. She went ballistic, even in her last days, when she was  shaky on her feet and the things her old eyes saw as skateboarders were actually bikers riding past. She never had anything against bikes. Only skateboards and scooters.

And certain dogs. Bill. Princess. Misty, until they made up with help from Kerry. She could sniff them out from a block away and her hackles would go up. She’d slow down, scanning the horizon and sniffing for their precise location. Even last week, when we walked up Sunnyside with Summer and Lake and Ever, Django trying to keep up with her newest favorite dog friends, maybe because they sort of looked like her, I saw Bill and his owner walking parallel to us across the street. He too was feeble, walking stiffly. I told Summer, “She used to hate that dog.” And Summer looked surprised that Django could dislike anyone. Dear sweet Django walking along, slowing down Summer’s dogs but they didn’t seem to mind. Then we reached the corner and suddenly a line rose on Django’s back like a Rhodesian ridge of backwards fur. She looked across the street, saw Bill, and let out a furious bark. “Rarrrrfff!”

Poor Bill seemed shocked. He was long over it, and anyway I don’t think he ever hated her as much as she did him. “Okay, Django, let it go,” I said, pulling her around the corner and away from Bill and his owner. Django reluctantly stopped barking and Summer said, “Wow, her hackles are up!”

“Yeah,” I said, a little proud of her fury. As Tashie would say, She still had the fire. It took half a block for the ridge to smooth back down.

There were many more dogs she loved, or at least loved seeing. Izzy and Lulu, Sullie, Tazzy and Toby, Ginger, Jack, Barney, once we weren’t fostering him anymore. Certain dogs she liked better as time went on. Buddy, Solo, Beau. Certain ones she always liked and seemed calm with. Maize, Charlie, Millie, Larry, Ernie, Chloe and Lucy.

There were the dogs from older generations who have passed. Nina, Audrey, Venus, Tiger, Bat, Cane, Riley, Moe, Jinx, Spoof, Poncho, Cinnamon, the rough-coated charcoal dog who looked a little like Mookie. Red used to take care of her and he and her owner were in a relationship for a while. He’d take Django sometimes when we travelled, and told me Django always slept with his mom in her bed. Those were the days of Roscoe, and Wrigley, whose owners moved into Dave’s apartment when he moved out, which reminds me of Windsor, who lived downstairs. And the one German Shepard she wasn’t terrified of, whose owner was Ann and had us over for a Christmas party once. So many dogs. And also Zoe and Teva and Barkley and Bramble and that dog who killed a squirrel, whose owner was a famous photographer. And Chase up at Watervale, and that dog she met last year in the cottage next to ours. So many dogs.

So many people, as Dave just said. People here and gone. Liz. Dan. My dad. My mom, who would throw bits of scrambled egg and toast at her instead of holding them out because she didn’t like dogs. Donna and Mark. Chuck and Kate. Lisa and John, who she only snapped at once, just a little John, because your hand was too close to her face and she didn’t know you were only reaching over her for a drink. Amy and Kristen when we all used to hang out together. Tom, who gave her the best nicknames. Heather who fed her way too much cheese and thus whose boundless affection was tolerated. Patrick who ignored her sufficiently to be trusted. Deanna and Tori, who technically I guess belongs in the dog category. Kelly who meditated in the living room, drawing Django to her with her calmness. Shannon and the other dog-obsessed herding people, and Shannon’s husband Bill, who would took Django out on his postal delivery rounds when she boarded with them. Shannon said Django would run to the barn where Bill was working, ready for action or just to watch while he did barn things. And Steven, who only met her once but said as he was leaving, “Good dog, Django, thank you for letting me live today.”

Summer and Shayna. Nina P. and John Byrne and Gayle and Other-Donna and Neighbor Dave and Ruth and Elaine and the Betty’s and their men. Amy and Tracy and the fun of being at their house in Madison. Michelle, the one groomer Django was truly happy to see. Bob the woodcarver. Aaron who she only bit a little that one time, because she was already stressed out by the party. A tall blond skateboarder at the park who used to slow down when she ran after him so he could give her treats. Once she got used to this, she stopped barking at him and trotted casually over instead. This had absolutely no effect on her behavior with other skateboarders, who remained objects of outrage.

There are a hundred people I’m forgetting and a million ways in which she was spoiled, treated, appreciated, laughed at, and wondered at. “She’s so beautiful,” people would say. One woman standing on a street corner smoking asked, “Did you have her highlighted or is it natural?”

Did she know what a good life she had? Or is that something for us to know? She knew joy. She knew fun. She and Nina wrestling on Liz’s deck when they were 2 or 3. Long before she began to be frail and I worried about her back. They would shove and gnash and twist each other onto their backs, and back up and jump at each other again, so happy and ferocious, but only if they could knock into me and Liz, intertwined right under our feet. Send them down to the yard where it was safer, with grass to land on and more room, and they’d stare blankly at each other and sniff around. Then they’d wander back upstairs and into our space, and Nina would nose Django, or Django would shoulder into Nina, and one would bat a paw at the other, and they’d start again.

There were random things she loved, like Abbie’s too-small dachshund bed, that she crammed into instead of the proper-sized beds we bought her. And walking slowly under plants to let them stroke her face and back. And her perch at the front window. And getting her butt scratched firmly and briefly. And sleeping by herself for the first few hours at night and then standing quietly over Dave at three in the morning, staring at him, until I woke up and nudged him and said, “She wants to come under.” Then he’d lift the covers and she’d crawl all the way in, a doughnut of fur with the tip of her nose poking out only when I couldn’t stand it, positive she would suffocate, and pulled the covers back a little. She didn’t like to be petted but she did like to curl up next to me with her rump pushing into my thigh or my shin. As long as I didn’t touch her too much or make much eye contact she was a great companion on the couch.

Django was a pretty good travel dog. I think she relished stopping at random gas stations along the highway. We’d trot over to unfamiliar ground while Dave filled the gas tank, and she’d do her business efficiently, and then come back and hop into the car. When we rode the ferry long ago, on the first trip Dave and I took together, Django jumped up onto the bench next to us and sat quiet and alert, looking at the water as we travelled from Washington Island to Rock Island, where no cars were allowed. She hiked with us around the seven-mile perimeter, staying close but reveling in the rocky shore and the smells and wading in the shallow water. It was all very idyllic until we walked back toward the dock to wait for the last ferry and Django suddenly saw a herd of deer and took off. Just disappeared over a hill. We ran after her but she was gone. We panicked. We wandered and called. We blamed ourselves for letting her off leash in unfamiliar territory. Dave hadn’t had a dog in 15 years and I knew he thought I was too lax with her. We waited and wondered if we could stay there overnight. We had no water or food. We wondered if the deer would kill her if she caught up with them.

About a half hour later she trotted back, ecstatic, bristling with energy. A happy dog.

Her passing frees me to remember all the years before she was unable to do so many of the things of vigor and action. Leaping into the car or up onto walls that seemed too high for a dog her size. Chasing a ball like fury, or circling other dogs who were trying to play and barking, shouldering, nipping, doing whatever she could to break them up. Because that was fun for her? Because that was her job as a herding dog? Because she simply disapproved of their chaotic silliness? We’ll never know. Or chasing Zoe to the garbage cans across the field in the parking lot. To bring her back? To join her? To simply be a follower in the pack?

Or running at a skunk and then running from a skunk down at Kenyon during a mime school barbecue, sprayed and confused but also seeming cheerful and curious about this new scent, trailing it into the open door of the dorm where we were staying. It only took one race up the stairs and then back down to stink up the whole building so bad that Kenyon decreed, next year at mime school, No Dogs.

During the years when Dave and I drove up to Wisconsin every Wednesday, so she could go herding at Shannon’s, she’d lie quietly in the back seat for the first 87 minutes. Then, as soon as we got to Genoa City and turned left at the pizza place she’d sit up. She’d sniff the window desperately and when we opened it she’d stick her nose out, pulling in the Wisconsin air. The road turned into country and farmland and she’d pace furiously between the open windows, seeming like she couldn’t get enough of the smells and the open vistas. Then we’d pull into Shannon’s farm and she’d jump out, vibrating with excitement to get at the dumb sheep and the more challenging goat mafia. Shannon could make her behave just with a look, and we’d tell ourselves again that we were bad owners, we must learn to do the things Shannon did to make her behave. Then one day she got side-butted by a goat and wasn’t so into herding, but we kept going because she loved to walk the field after herding lessons, running with Frodo and all of Shannon’s border collies and Snowball who didn’t really run and the beautiful, perfect herder owned by the woman who was a nurse in Milwaukee.

So many great memories, it makes my heart find places I forgot were there. The last few days, we’ve been overwhelmed with messages and flowers and cookies and chocolates and cards and poems and stories and healing stones and love and kindness from people who knew her, people who know the pain of losing an animal, or who maybe haven’t lost one yet and wonder a little bit how it is that other peoples’ dogs die when theirs surely won’t. Django, I miss you so much and love you so much. You were a good dog.

Day 1: Here

Everything is pretty much blue.
“In particular, lives which had come to a violent end were supposed to carry on a metamorphosed existence in vegetable form.”

I’m unpacked. I’m showered. My stuff is put away. I’m in the Blue Room. Blue fern papered walls. A generous single bed – is it a TWIN? does that MEAN something? – with a chenille bedspread, white flowers proud of the pale blue background.

I can hear a man’s voice, across the hall or downstairs, on the phone or having a live conversation with someone whose voice is too soft to hear. I’ve already hunted for how to turn off the startup chime on my Mac because the handbook says not to talk on your cell phone in your room, in respect or I guess out of respect for the other guests. I’ve learned I’d have to buy an app or use some free Japanese app that I don’t really trust. I don’t trust free.

My desk is in a wide, shallow alcove filled with windows. I have a beautiful view of the prairie, and the amphitheater, if that’s what it’s called, an open white proscenium structure in the middle of a clearing.

I have a desk with a thick leather deskpad, at the top of which is a wooden pen rest. I’ve set a pen in it. The desk has a rolling task chair with lumbar support, the only modern-looking thing in this room. And probably the only thing I wouldn’t have chosen, because it’s not “charming” like everything else. But as soon as I sat down to look up silencing my chime I was grateful to whoever put it here. It has become charming due to its comfort and wheels. It is blue.

There’s a French door leading to a screened porch, with a couple of wicker chairs, a writing table, and a chaise that will be perfect for naps if it gets warm enough. I share it with someone in another room, but there’s a wooden screen in the middle, so we can each have our own half-porch.

There’s a mission-style rocker and a mission-style easy chair. There are built-in bookcases, painted white like the trim. On most of the shelves are half-lengths of books. Poetry and novels and reference. The Dictionary of Symbols. Spain. To these, I’ve added four binders of works in progress, some random journals from the past few years, where I hope to find ideas if I run out, and my diary from 1974. Also an old translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam that was my dad’s.

Also there’s a perfect little bathroom with a huge pedestal sink and a glass shower stall. Also, a roomy closet with lots of extra hooks. A dresser, of course. A nightstand, of course. A couple of framed prints that you’ll be glad to know I’ve straightened.

Dave drove me here this afternoon, with Django in tow. The idea was to drop off my stuff and then walk through the prairie. But when we got to the prairie entrance, there was a sign: “Closed until May 2.” Something about plants needing to grow and mud. So we  walked back to the car and they went home. I found out later, at the orientation, that we are allowed to walk there if we are careful not to don’t disturb the plants. Maybe they’ll come back.

Awkward

solo dog
She plays better solo.

When I first saw her, she was talking to Dave and our host. I walked over and said, “You look so familiar.”

“You look familiar, too,” said she. I love that moment when two people recognize each other without knowing quite how. It could be past lives or high school or almost anything. It’s so full of possibility. She cocked her head, “Did I used to buy drugs from you?”

Dave and our host laughed, like maybe they’d been talking about drug legislation or something before I walked up. “Oh, that’s right!” I said, “You were a great customer.”

“You were an excellent dealer.” It’s so much fun to improvise with a complete stranger, especially when it’s not in a theatrical setting.  It’s a leap of faith in adult playfulness potential.

We continued a few more rounds of banter, and I was really starting to be pleased with my comebacks when she cocked her head the other way and said , “Oh, now I know you. You’re the person whose dog bit my dog.”

“Of course,” I said, feeling mortified but also not wanting to look mortified. Bite is such a strong word. Was it really a bite? Wasn’t it more of a, you know, more of a something you wouldn’t go right out and call a bite?

“What?” said Dave.

“Yes, two little cuts on his face,” she added. “And it was strange because we’d already passed by and then your dog just turned around and bit my dog.”

Our host, still smiling, said something like, “This actually happened?”

“Yep,” I said. “Is he okay?”

“Oh, yes,”‘ she said. But she didn’t change the subject. And clearly I couldn’t change the subject. Actually I became fixated, mentioning all sorts of details from the event. “It was on Sunnyside. He was so cute. Did you get your luggage back? Did I give you my number and stuff, just in case?”

“Oh yes,” she said. “You gave me your card.”

There was some silence, and I wondered if I should have done more, like offered money right off the bat. Was that what she meant? Did she think I was just some irresponsible dog owner, whose dog goes around biting people?  Was I just some irresponsible dog owner? “She’s never bitten another dog before,” I said.

“Oh, really?” she said.

“She’s actually good with most dogs,” said Dave.

“Is she really?”

“She tends to snap her jaws,” said Dave, “but she doesn’t usually make contact.”

“She has gotten bits of fur from time to time,” I added, for full disclosure. Eventually we moved on to other topics, and I tried to adjust to my new role as that person whose dog bit her dog.

For full disclosure, I should have added that she also snapped at a friend of ours on New Years Eve. But in her defense, we’d told our guests repeatedly not to pet her.  She looks, like most dogs in the world, like she would like to be petted, but she doesn’t. Or rather she does, but only under certain very specific circumstances which are impossible to predict or quantify. She would make a terrible scene partner.

Herding cats

Pandora interface
On the other hand, now I’m thinking I should give The Sopranos another try.

Sometimes I look at people who listen to vinyl and I’m jealous. I roll my eyes when they brag about the preciousness of the pops and the balancing of the needle and quality of the sound, but I’m jealous. They have a machine that does just one thing, plays records.

Meanwhile, a friend is worried about her dog, who has become very clingy and affectionate after ten years of mellow reserve. He’s eating blinds while she’s gone. He’s sleeping on her socks.

Django is also clingier, though not any more affectionate.
She won’t willingly walk unless both Dave and I go. If it’s only one of us, she keeps trying to turn back.
When we leave the house, she won’t go first. “But isn’t that what they taught us at obedience school, humans go first?” I ask Dave. “Maybe those classes finally paid off.”
“No,” says Dave. “she just wants to make sure we’re all going.”
She follows us around the house wearily, like, “We just got comfy in the office, why the hell are we going down the basement?”

What I can’t figure out is why, with music so much more easily accessible–
on my computer
on my phone,
through the stereo if AppleTV or my Remote app is currently letting me access my iTunes library, which is about 50 percent of the time, averaging out the times it lets me in at first try,
lets me in after I turn on sharing AGAIN,
lets me in after I go up and open iTunes or just remind iTunes that it is indeed open,
and the times it works for a while, then cuts out in the middle of a song like it suddenly remembers it had a roast in the oven,

–I don’t listen to music as much as I used to. These days, if I want to listen to music that sounds good, I generally just turn on Pandora through Roku, because:
it will play through the house speakers.
I can listen to the sort of music I’m in the mood for
(Americana Radio, Rain Dogs Radio, Blossom Dearie Radio)

…though not a specific song or album. If I want a specific musical experience, and the song or album happens to be
in the subset of my iTunes library that’s currently on my phone
or
findable with a Web search that usually turns up at least a YouTube version
I’ll generally just play it there,
turning up the volume and reminding myself that it sounds not that bad for a phone speaker.

Maybe I could solve this with Spotify, which I would then connect to on the Roku, and thereby have infinite choice of artist or album or genre, which would be great, but it would also mean:
the screen of the TV has to be on so I can choose things
(and everyone knows the TV screen sends out hypnotic watch-me rays that fundamentally conflict with the auditory omnipresence of good audio)
and
the sheer abundance of choice at any given moment would result in buffet blindness
–which happens when I go out for brunch and end up with ketchup on my cantaloupe because I put too much stuff on my plate because it was all free, free! for the cost of brunch, so I don’t even know what I’m eating and the omelet is cold–
and
I’d be paying for a service instead of buying albums, so any fantastic music I discovered would become inaccessible as soon as I stopped paying for it.
(What was that band singer song called again? Oh, never mind.)

I thought I was alone in my vague sense of musical dissatisfaction until yesterday, when Dave said, “I miss music.” Then in the car with friends we were group-grocery shopping with because of the coming snow, Sam piped up from the backseat, “Me too! I used to listen to music all the time. And now…”

So now we’re looking at the way media is configured in our home and trying to figure out how to change it without:

  • sacrificing all the things that are great about remote access to music
  • buying another component
  • spending $2000 at Room and Board

Django doesn’t care about music, or cuddling, or laundry. She doesn’t nestle with my dirty socks. She just stands at the top of the basement stairs, waiting for me to finish folding clothes so she can get back to a room with a dog bed in it.

Saturdayish

Anyone need 80 8"x3"by3" boxes?
Anyone need 80 8″x3″x3″ boxes?

Dave is talking to himself as he practices. “Oh, Dave.” Then he plays some more, then “No…no.” It sounds strangely detached, like he’s not surprised, just disappointed.

Django is in her bed. Her new portrait is on the mantel. We picked it up at the memorial service for Fern today, because the artist drove in from Indy for it, and she’d also finished the painting.

It’s lovely, especially around the muzzle. The body looks a little too brawny, like the woodcarving. But it’s a far cry from Marmaduke. And the eyes are very, very Django.

At the service, one of Fern’s neighbors told a story about how her dog had swatted a baby bunny in the back yard, and the woman called Fern crying, “What should I do?” Fern came right over, and held the bunny in her hands as it died. She talked to it quietly, saying “It’s all right.” The woman said Fern had the most beautiful hands, and I could see them as she spoke, just holding the bunny very calmly, like everything was happening just as it should.

Another neighbor said they had a feral cat and Fern was the only one who could get near it. Once she sat for an hour, combing it.

Dave seems a bit happier with his playing. He just said, “Hm.”

Buspocalypse

buspocalypse
Exactly like the fingers of God, reaching down to tap you on the shoulder, if you were a tree and the fingers of God were branches. Just exactly like that.

Django and I were walking back from River Park. We’d crossed Lawrence just east of the river, and were walking west over the bridge. There, just west of Manor, I saw a familiar vision: The Lawrence bus trundling east and a would-be rider stood at the corner, attempting to flag it down. Technically it’s not a bus stop, but it is a corner, while for some reason the official stop is on the middle of the bridge. Not a great place to stand, especially when the wind is blowing like crazy and you’re freezing.

The woman waved her arms frantically, but the bus didn’t stop. I swear the driver inside was the same guy who passed me by at this exact same spot the other night when I tried to flag it down to get to Brasserie 54. He maneuvered his vehicle with the exact same air of Je nais se give a fuck.

With an air of defeat, the woman started walking toward me, heading east. I called, “That bus did the exact same thing to me the other night!”

“Really?” She said when she realized I was talking to her.

“I couldn’t believe it,” I continued, “Why wouldn’t he just stop?”

“It makes no sense,” said the woman. She reached me and paused for just a second. “You gotta write this shit down,” she said.

“I know,” I said. So I did.

Business as usual

trick or treaters
Out of candy, except for 6 fun-size Almond Joys in the sideboard.

“This street is dead,” I heard some boy shout last night, when we’d turned off the porch light and shut the shades and hung a sign saying, “Out of Candy.” I’d contemplated writing, “Sorry, Out of Candy,” but reasoned that we’d bought plenty and I didn’t owe anyone an apology. But also I didn’t want to get egged. I settled for adding an exclamation mark, like we too were stunned. “Out of Candy!”

I probably wouldn’t have heard the kid, our windows were fastened tight, but I was out with Django. She was both fascinated and terrified by the walking hordes of costumed marauders with their lit-up candy bags, unzipped backpacks, cavernous pillowcases, and crinkly grocery bags. Or was that me. Mostly older kids now, in the dark, trolling for houses that still had candy to hand out. The guy on the next block who’d set up with a laundry bin full of candy AND bloody Mary fixings for the grownups, was cleaned out and cleaning up. “No matter how much you buy, it’s never enough.” He wasn’t nearly as cheerful as he’d been on our early walk, and I learned he’d just seen two kids peeing on the side of his house.

“I told them, have a little respect for the neighborhood,” he said. But they shouted back something nasty and went the other way.

“How old were they?” I asked.

“Maybe early 20s.”

Django and I crossed the street to avoid an oncoming horde. “A doggie!” I heard a witch yell. We walked past the one house still open for business. “How do you still have candy,” I asked the couple standing at a table set up on their front walk.

“Starlight mints,” said the woman.

We came home through the back gate. Instead of running up the stairs, Django sniffed and listened to the night. I was glad Tashi and I changed our rehearsal to tomorrow, so she wouldn’t be walking to the train on All Hallows Eve. I need her safe for opening night. So instead, she’d called earlier and told me the whole show like a radio play, while Dave manned the candy station. I think in every show I ever work on, I want to do one rehearsal like that, audio only. It was strange and wonderful.

“This street is dead,” I heard the kid yell out front, and I decided it was time to get inside.

Capture the pee

The instructions are really quite simple.

“The real problem is that the glove is too small,” said Dave. It was his third attempt to capture pee from the foster dog we are calling Fredo. It was 11:30 pm. We were on a late night walk and Django was on full bunny alert. Meanwhile, Fredo was peeing on various things but never quite long enough or in the right direction.

I wanted to say, “Just let me do it,” but Dave was the one wearing the plastic glove provided in the pee sample kit. You catch the pee with the tray provided, using the plastic glove provided, then you suck up the pee with the dropper provided, then you screw the dropper into the jar provided, then you seal the jar in the bag provided, then you put the bag in the fridge until you can get it to the vet. Easy.

But the first time Fredo peed, Dave hesitated. He said he didn’t but I saw him. I saw the pee coming out and I saw Dave wearing his glove and holding the tray and half-stooping down to try and catch it but hovering. Fredo was lifting his leg on a tree, away from Dave. “I couldn’t see exactly where to put the tray.”

“Under him,” I did not retort.

“It’s hard when they lift their leg,” he added. “Squatting is easier.”

“True,” I said, remembering when I used to have to catch dog pee in any old Tupperware, bare-handed. One time I made the mistake of using an old yogurt container that wasn’t as clean as I thought. The vet thought my dog had a mysterious strain of pink bacteria until we realized it was low-fat strawberry.

The next time, Fredo peed on a bush. “Get in there,” I hissed. Dave got in, but too far back. The stream arched over the tray and into the bush. When Dave pulled out the tray, one lone drop had been captured. “The glove makes the tray hard to manipulate,” he said.

“I don’t think that will be enough,” I replied curtly. I was already annoyed that we were up late again after not sleeping for two nights because of Fredo’s persistent cough and repeated attempts to get up on the bed and adorable but maddening way of sticking his face into yours when you were lying on your side, too close to the edge of the bed. We could have crated him, but he broke out the first time we tried, so it seemed pointless.

We gave up on the pee and walked toward home. Then, like a miracle, Fredo lifted his leg again. Like a champ, Dave swooped in and slid the tray into the perfect location. The sound of pee hitting the tray was joyous, constant, substantial. Success!
Then Fredo finished and set his back paw down, knocking the tray sideways, spilling all the pee.

The real problem,” said Dave, “is that the glove is too small.”

Coming back

Clown noses from Dale's birthday
Ruby said the noses were cheaper in bulk.

When we got back from vacation I realized Django is old. I’m afraid to say that because I don’t want to look like I’m projecting. I can’t help it. I’m turning 50 and she’s turning 12. I didn’t plan it that way, it’s just what happened. So coming back and hearing that all the warnings and nightmare scenarios I’d given Kelso and Karl, “she goes ballistic at skateboards, she will attack toddlers on scooters, she intensely hates a white dog named Princess,” came to nothing, I had to wonder: Had I prepared them for a younger Django? Had I written up two full pages of instructions on leash-gripping and treat distractions for a dog that no longer exists?

She looked so old on our first walk this morning. It was hot here, full of humidity which I’d forgotten about after our days in northern Michigan. There, the heat was dry and breezy, soft across your skin. Here it pushes heavy and intractable. We walked down Sunnyside. Django did her business and then, when Dave turned into the alley to toss it out, stopped dead in her tracks. Paws pushed against the pavement, head down, eyes staring up under half-closed lids. “She’s not even going to make it around the block,” I said despondently. Kelso and Karl probably wondered why my instructions said “three walks a day, at least”  when clearly all she can manage is a trip around the yard. “She wants her ball,” said Dave.

I looked again. We were standing near the head of the alley, the spot where we usually throw a tennis ball if no one’s around. Granted, she wasn’t actually in the alley, so she wouldn’t be able to see the ball if I threw it. Perhaps she’s too old to remember she needs to be able to see. Anyway, I threw the ball and she tore around the corner. She chased it down, brought it back, and got her treat.

Because of the heat, I only threw it a few times. I worry about her collapsing. In Michigan, Ruby said that after 50 you start second-guessing every ailment, every ache. You think, “Is this it?” she said patting her chest. But a day later, on her husband Roy’s 49th birthday which we celebrated with clown noses and a horrible clown statue and “Send in the Clowns” playing on Tara’s iPad and a clown sundae created by the waitstaff, Roy said age is nothing, not even worth thinking about. To some guy who said he’s not really 49 because he’s now in his 50th year he said, “Whatever.”

We continued walking east, until Django pulled south to go to Hanover Park. That’s what Kelso and Karl called Horner Park accidentally, and I like it. It sounds prettier, more European. No one really cares what a park is called, as long as you know how to get there. It always surprises me, how many small freedoms are ours for the taking.

Today’s projections

It’s all in how you look at things.

I don’t think Django likes people parking out front and then walking to the train. Something about the way they shut their doors. A big slam though it’s early morning. But for them it’s halfway through the journey, it’s been morning for hours.

They pull in quickly, slam the door, and walk briskly away, street shoes clicking on the pavement. Django fires off one short, piercing bark. She pauses as they continue off, unheeding. She barks once more.

What else does she do that I misinterpret? I don’t say project my emotions onto, because I don’t care that people park here and walk to the train. It’s a public street, and I’ve done it myself, in similar close-to-an-el-stop-but-easy-to-park-in neighborhoods. Vaguely feeling like someone’s going to yell at me when they see where I’m going, imagining myself retorting, “I’ve just as much a right to park here as you do,” seeing the slashed tires when I return. No, I’m not projecting. What am I doing? Being silly. Pretending she’s a deep thinker. Projecting my image of Django as Parade Marshall. It never gets old, at least to me.

Yesterday Chris came over. It was too late to take headshots of Dave, so we sat outside and had a drink. Chris told us some odd stories of people from a bar he used to work at. For example, a couple showed him their pictures from the guy’s birthday party where a conservative-looking woman was going down on his girlfriend. “She was down there for like ten minutes,” said the guy, flicking through picture after picture on his iPad. “It was awesome.”

What was that guy trying to project? What image of himself? His girlfriend? His lifestyle? We reveal ourselves with every act, every word. Sometimes people are paying attention.

On the phone this morning, Ruby told me about how when she lived in Appleton she used to read the Bargain Bulletin, a sort of print precursor to Craig’s List. One listing read, “Wanted to buy: Large green aquatic frogs.” Why on earth, wondered Ruby. Being Ruby, she called to ask.

“I just thought they’d be kind of interesting,” said the man. “Do you have some to sell?”

“No,” confessed Ruby, “I do have a friend with a farm, though, and could ask her to keep her eyes open. What would you be willing to pay?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe a dollar or two?”

This stumped Ruby, who couldn’t imagine how someone could want large green aquatic frogs enough to post a classified ad, but not have a specific reason or even assign them much value. “How large is large, anyway?” she asked.

The man answered, “Just about any size.” And that was the end of that.