Welcome to the neighborhood?


We don’t talk to our neighbors much.

I know Joe, right next to us, whose daughter I taught piano until she moved in with her mother. I know his friends Bill, from around the corner, and Lenny, from the next street over.

Sarah and Melanie across the street I know by name and we wave when we pass on the sidewalk, but that’s all. The ladies behind us mostly keep to themselves and the house on the other side of the alley is a rental; the occupants change regularly.

But now and again something happens and I remember that we live in a neighborhood.

Thursday it was a dog.

He was a big dog, wearing a collar that rattled long before you saw him, running up and down the street through everyone’s yards. He ran around ours several times, checking out scents from the side of the house. I watched from inside.

It was my day off but I hesitated to sit outside in the grass with the baby while he wandered. He looked friendly but then no one was outside to threaten him.

He ran off. A borough police cruiser headed up the dead-end street slowly — a rare occasion in itself — then back again.

Maybe an hour later he was back; I heard the rattling collar again and saw him run out from along the hedge. But now the neighbors had noticed. Joe was on the phone on his front porch watching for the dog. The renter and a teenage girl — I don’t know to whom the girl belongs — were wandering up and down the street, calling for the dog.

“Here buddy, here boy!” they were calling until the girl got close enough to read the letters on the collar. Then “Come here, Stakes!”

Everyone who passed either on foot or on wheels was stopped: “He’s not yours, is he? You missing a brown dog?”

Despite his intimidating size and square jaw, Stakes had no interest in any of the excitement. He had too much to smell. Maybe he saw the red leash in the teenage girl’s hands. Either way, he was loving his freedom way too much to be caught.

I went back inside to change the baby. After a while I stepped back out. Joe was still on his porch but the girl was gone and the renter was sitting on his back porch, texting.

“Catch him?” I called across the alley.

“No, but he ran up behind the ballfields and I don’t know where he is now,” he called back.

The clouds were blowing over and we went back inside and the dog stayed gone.

And that was more than I’d talked to the renter since they moved in.

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