Feeling whimpsical today. It’s been a while since I posted. Reading Hunger Games trilogy before the movie comes out in wide-release. Sounds like an exciting film about community and survival. And speaking of sounds . . .
It’s 10am. Breafastime. Designing Women is on television. The Southern-drawl quips that jut between Suzanne, Julia, Charlene, Mary Jo and their handyman, Anthony, crack me up. Their easy commaradarie, and sense of community entertains me while I organize a quick meal.
A beam of California sun streams through the open curtain of my den. As I sip my orange juice, the TV goes silent – an unintentional blackout between commercial reels.
The mutt next door barks – “Arf, Arf, Arf.” He’s about one-foot tall, maybe three pounds wet. He’s on the other side of the block wall that surrounds my backyard. I can hear, but not see him. Ever. He’s new to the neighborhood. Adopted two months ago from a shelter, I often hear him skittering, barking, yelping as he gets familiar with his surroundings. He’s lively, nosey and noisy, amusing and playful.
The pitbull who lives on the other side of me answers in a heavier, gruffer – “Arf, Arf, Arf.”
She’s fully grown. Stocky. Albino white. Her pink lips and saliva sloppy gums surround a mouth full of lethal jagged teeth. Menacingly silent, the neighbors keep her confined in a side yard. The only time I see her is when they walk her at night. Her luminous skin announces her presence before her bark resounds. She’s been taught good manners – seldom barks.
These two dogs are separated by two solid block walls, but that doesn’t seem to stop them chatting over the backyard fence.
The mutt says, “Arf.”
The pitbull answers, “Arf.”
The mutt, “Arf. Arf. Arf. Arf.”
The pitbull responds in an identical cadence of inflection and tone.
They chat for a full minute, back and forth matching bark for bark, until the pitbull abruptly stops.
Sounds of a lawnmower bursts to life interrupting their tete-a-tete.
Undaunted the mutt continues to chat. When no response comes, he persists with urgency almost seeming to ask, Hey, where are you? He tries different patterns and tones. Nothing.
The pitbull answers once, “Arf.”
They fall silent while the gardener manicures the pitbull’s front yard.
When the human leaves, the dogs have lost interest in their lively repartee. Silence pervails.
I wondered how often they strike up these impromptu conversations. How long has it been going on without a human noticing. And what do they talk about – the weather, their owners, living conditions, their favorite treats? Or are they just acknowledging one another’s presence. Have they met face-to-face? Would they recognize one another if they did? Would the mutt become breakfast for the pitbull, or does the wily mutt know his winning personality is, and always will be, the key to his survival in this sometimes cruel world. Afterall, he was rescued from the pound by a family somewhat indifferent to his size and makeup. They wanted a large guard dog for their home and camping trips, not a “lap dog” as his owner once admitted, “But the kids wanted him.”
The mutt’s antics have charmed me as I work in the garden on his side of the house, when I open a window facing his domain, when he hails the meter reader with enthusiasm and gusto.
Maybe he’s using a form of social networking more primitive than Morse code or Facebooking that’s equally effective in his world for making friends. It’s definitely a dog-eat-dog world out there, but I suspect it’s the social animals in this world, like the mutt, who find the odds ever in their favor.