Honey, having gotten her token tribute, began some olfactory reconnaissance; the bottom of the fence, the hydrant, the neighbor’s recycling bin, each scent a neon advertisement of a comrade’s general health and diet. Lastly, a bit tentatively—she wasn’t sure she liked getting her feet wet—Honey sniffed the violas, and the blend of smells there, a perplexing mixture which she pondered, deciding the sensible thing was to make a clear statement, and she squatted.
“Honey,” Maurice screamed, causing Honey, cake half baked, to leap into into the air and scurry to Suellen who too had been horribly startled. Suellen had a tetchy heart and was huffing like a teapot. She was afraid the unnatural abbreviation of what ought to have been a simple function might have long-term effects on Honey’s well-being. She opened the door. “Go inside, darling. Let’s get away from this rude old man.”
Honey had already recovered—she had gotten yelled at plenty of times before—which dog hasn’t?—and was eager to commence their customary walk to the park. What was confusing now was Suellen yelling at her, “Get inside” when clearly she wanted to go for a walk, insisted and begged to go for a walk. Suellen had never refused her anything. At last she shambled inside, and Suellen followed with a dramatic rendition of shutting the door.
Maurice felt bad. He was about to apologize when Suellen made her comment. He wasn’t old. And talk about rude. Who gave dog people the right to foul other people’s violas? He could easily have washed the half-deposit into the gutter (where the next person getting into a blue Pathfinder would step or not), but decided against it. Suellen would deal with it, then they would make up. She was one of the most fastidious dog owners on the planet.
Two days, 3 days, it sat there, turning gray. Maurice wasn’t sure if he was being paranoid when he sensed a chilliness from some neighbors. He encountered Suellen twice, and each time she lifted her nose as if she was the one smelling something nasty. Honey as always, tried to nuzzle his shin for some petting. “See,” he wanted to say to Suellen, “your dog isn’t petty,” relishing the pun.
As in all wars, accidents greatly factored into the play of events. The accident, in this case, was literal. A car with failed brakes plowed into the brick planter in front of Eric and Jane’s ranch-style house at the end of the block. They were fortunate in that the planter stopped the car, which would have ended up in their living room otherwise. Jane was rather delighted about it, never having liked the brick planter, and now insurance was going to pay to replace it. What she really wanted was to get rid of it, take out some concrete and grow vegetables, lettuce, spinach, kale. Their back yard was far too shady for vegetables.
When Jane mentioned her plan to Maurice, he said as gently as possible, “You’re not going to want to eat anything growing there. Do you have any idea how many dogs will go by and pee?” Ruefully he recounted the incident with Suellen.
Jane’s most salient characteristic was her idealism, kept alive by infusions of optimism, and she said, “We’ll just ask dog owners to be more aware.”
Jane’s husband Eric was the street’s “mayor”. He was the one who set up an email network of its residents, and together they hosted bimonthly meetings to discuss neighborhood affairs. They had time for this because they had neither kids nor pets. When the email announcing the upcoming meeting arrived, Maurice noticed that “Canine Etiquette” was number 4 on the topics agenda. “Parking” was 1 and 2. “Loitering High-school Kids” was 3.
Maurice never before attended the meetings, so he had no way of knowing that there was an unusually large number of people in Eric and Jane’s living room on the given night, including a columnist for the Chronicle. Even Dwight the psycho was there. Despite Dwight’s malign presence, the atmosphere was genial, especially among the wine drinkers. Two small pizzas were reduced to nibbled crusts in minutes. Honey was there, as well as Clarissa, Spangles, and Neener; a yorkie, a mutt, and a pug. Neener got the crusts.
Jerry’s dry report on permit parking caused Mariska and Vince to make side trips to respective houses to fetch additional bottles of cheap wine. By the time “Canine Etiquette” came up for discussion, the buzz in the room was as loud as in any hip Valencia Street restaurant.
to be continued