Although my right femur is no longer broken and I'm walking as well as one can expect at seven months, I'm still "expressly forbidden" by my spousal equivalent Steve, to walk our three dogs without any help. He doesn't want me to fall again! Maneuvering the three dogs on their leashes is no easy task since two of them weigh 90 pounds, and the third one becomes a ferocious little bitch when she sees other female dogs walk by. But I have no choice when Steve and our live-in friend, Brian, are both unavailable, and the dogs are begging to go to the park!
So, this morning as soon as Steve left for work and while Brian slept, I braved it (as I've done many times). I risked being pulled, tripping, falling, and getting tangled up in the leashes because I love my dogs and they love going for walks.
When we got to the park, I saw my neighbor, Mr. Johnson, an elderly man, walking by himself. I'd never seen him beyond his front yard, so I asked, "what are you doing out here?" He surprised me when he said he was stiff and needed some exercise. (I couldn't help thinking that he ought to give his dog some exercise!)
My history with Mr. Johnson goes back several years. I've watched him acquire puppies since 2003, plant them in his yard on a short chain where he leaves them to rot while they live out their short lives. I plotted a few years ago to steal a sweet pitbull puppy he had named Bouncer, but Bouncer was one of the lucky ones. He broke free from his chain. Most of the dogs I've seen in Mr. Johnson's yard simply die young. I've called Metro Animal Control over the years but it never helped.
As he usually does whenever he sees my dogs, Mr. Johnson said, "oh, those dogs, they is honeys" "Oh yeah, they's honeys." I said, "Yes, they are!" Then he said, "We lost our big dog." (This didn't really surprise me, since I had recently noticed a new little dog chained up in his front yard.) "Oh?" I asked. "Yeah,...she died," he said. "the heat got her." I felt my rage rise up through my cheeks as I got sick to my stomach. I had seen that beautiful, sweet and friendly rottweiler chained up outside in the hot sun all summer.
I asked Mr. Johnson how old the dog was. He said, "I don't know, she was my daughter's dog." "Maybe, 10?" Incredulous, I said, "I think she was only about one, wasn't she?" Then he said, "Well, we all gonna go sometime." And I said with a disgusted smirk, "Well, I'd rather it be later than sooner.
Trying to impart a little wisdom upon his ignorant, deaf ears, I said, "It was a hot summer. That's why I keep my dogs in the house all summer. It's too hot to leave dogs outside. Is your daughter going to keep the little dog in the house?" He shrugged, then said with his shit-eating grin, "I don't know." I wanted to scream: "YOU AND YOUR FAMILY NEED TO STOP GETTING DOGS!" Instead, I held my breath, smiled politely, and somberly walked my dogs home.
I was still upset as I ran the water for my shower. When I started to get in, I noticed a huge grasshopper struggling to hop up the side of my tub, trying to escape the water, fighting for survival. For an instant, I thought of killing the grasshopper. Instead, I ran and got a couple of paper cups and helped him out of the tub. I covered one cup with the other until I got him outside and released him on the front porch. I wondered if the grasshopper felt afraid while he was inside the cup. I thought of how I had his life in my hands. Then I thought of Mr. Johnson and his innocent rottweiler, and how that poor helpless dog didn't stand a chance in this world.
I went and lay on the couch with my dog Spike, buried my face in her fur, and cried.