I take Vesper out for a walk last Friday, when the summer heat was just giving way to a cooler wind ushering in the start of September.
I mean walk in a loose sense of the word. We walked in circles in the front yard, dashing under bushes where she could scrape her harness off, sniffing posts and side-walks and clumps of grass.
“DAD! IT’S A FERRET!” She froze in her own front yard, tugging at her father’s arm, trying to pull the phone from his ear. “Look!”
Vesper always introduces me to neighborhood children. They see her from far away, come running, want to touch and hold and play with her, ask what she is.
Vesper hates them. She ran from sisters in Maryland who were convinced she should be held; bolted at the sound of ill-behaved and somewhat neglected sister-and-half-brother who lived behind our rent house, and had ferrets of their own that they mauled in their own back yard.
This girl, though, with her glasses and wise old eyes and cheerful (and never-ending) conversation, approached with a gentle respect. She held out one hand, let Vesper explore her smell before petting her. “I’ll watch them for you any time,” she promised me. “I feel bad for animals in cages. You don’t have to pay me!”
And for the next hour, long after we left Vesper back in the house to run and play without the harness, she stood at my front porch, talking.
“You’ll like it here,” she told me, wisely. “It’s a good neighborhood.”
It’s not like Greensburg, or Pittsburgh, where people think “I’ll kill her here in the city because there’s so many people no one will know it was me.” Tornadoes can’t reach us, either, because the hill protects us, though they might hit the little league field a block or two behind us.
And don’t worry, most of the dogs walked past our yard will leave our ferrets alone.
She knows all the neighbors, too; the crazy old lady with a half-dozen dogs who sued her mom when her border collie escaped into her garden one day (left unsaid was the damage done by the collie); the mean ladies behind us who slice up errant balls with scissors in front of small children and say bad words to them; which house has her friends, and which her enemies.
She finally went home to wage an all-out campaign for a ferret (and judging by the menagerie she al-ready has, lacking only a horse or a pony, to her chagrin, I think she’ll get one).
And I know which yards to avoid tossing balls into. Always a vital piece of information.