Home is where the dogs smile at you.
In my corner of the world, there are more dogs than people. Well, okay, more dogs than kids. Not surprising, considering I live in the yuppiest section of the city where you will be hard pressed to find a real family. No, I don't live here because it's so hip, I live here despite it being so. I don't live here for the mindboggling diversity either - tell me where else in the world will I find a blue-eyed blonde boy from the cornfields of Kansas living right next door to a blue-eyed golden-haired farm boy from Kentucky living right next door to a blue-eyed strawberry blonde girl from Milwaukee, WI? For the longest time, I thought I was the token "we believe in diversity" person in the neighborhood but now I know there are two of us - MR lives just a couple of blocks down.
Getting back to the topic at hand, there are a lot of dogs in my neighborhood. I have a 'live and let live' policy as far as dogs go and I try to stay out of their way as much as possible. I embraced this policy after my encounter with a street dog back when I was 5 years ago. Technically, it wasn't my fault, I just wanted to see if he was asleep or not and so I gently tapped him with a red balloon I had gotten from one of those beach vendors the day before. Needless to say, he didn't take to it very kindly and what followed is best left unwritten. Let it suffice to say that I have never taken an interest in dogs ever since and to this day, I am very much unable to tell a labrador from an Alsatian (or are they the same?)
So you can imagine my astonishment when I realized that not only do I know the dogs of Lincoln Park, they know me too. Yesterevening I was just getting out of my apartment when I see this little, brown pup right in front of the building. For the life of me, I do not know what kind she is but I know her well enough to know that she likes candy. What kind of dog likes candy, you ask? How do I know? All I know is I have seen this one hogging candy bars. And I knew who owned her. I didn't know her master, but I sure knew what he looked like without looking up. Yes, thats what it has come to - I now recognize my neighbors because I associate them with their dogs.
It would have been okay if that was all there's to it. After all, when the dogs are more interesting than the masters, why would you remember the owner and not the dog? But that's not all happened. This little brown thing sits right in front of my door a and smiles at me. Yes, smiles at me. And its owner was completely startled. He told me that he had never seen this expression on his baby and wanted to know what I did to make it happen. Me, make his dog smile? Dude, all I did was try to go around the dog so that I was as far away from it as possible. I sure as hell don't know why it did that.
It would have been still okay if it was just this little brown pup. These little things are always craving for attention anyways and they probably smile at anything that moves. Five minutes later, I was running past one of the most popular dogs of the neighborhood - I just know he's popular, don't ask me how - he is pretty cool. He is your regular metrosexual - looks great, knows he looks great and is usally very well-behaved. He saw me running, followed, caught up, overtook, turned around and sat there on the lakeshore trail smiling at me. What was I to do? Is this a conspiracy or do these things really like me?
I figured there was only one way to find out. So I ran back to Oz Park where I knew I would find the saddest dog in Lincoln Park. His master takes him there every evening and he tries to catch the squirrels. He is very shy and never plays with the other dogs. He kind of looks like a sheep(is this a sheepdog?), its like he has an identity crisis or something. I find him at the Northeast corner of the park and I try to catch his attention. He sees me, gives up on the squirrel he was running after, and gives me the saddest smile that anyone's ever given me. That's it. No more lingering doubts or questions. These dudes do actually like me! I somehow, by just going out of their way every time I see them, seem to have earned their endearing smiles. Yippee! Woof woof!