“It’s important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you.” Nora Ephrom
The neighbors who have passed and are no longer with us, Mary and Josephine, lived in the house on the driveway side of us. The woman who used to be absolutely horrible to me, but is a little less horrible now, lives on the other side of us. The Italian man and wife who love our dogs live behind us.
Josephine and Mary, who were sisters, lived together in the two-story brick bungalow next to us for 62 years. Neither of them ever married. Josephine cooked hot dogs, brought them to the fence, and fed them to our dogs every day. We never saw Mary. She never came out of the house.
They both died this year. Brian fixed up a security light in their living room and he mows their lawn. We park our Honda Element in their driveway to make it seem like it isn’t vacant, at least until the house is cleaned out and sold.
Chuck and Dawn live on the other side of us. Chuck has been in his frame house the whole time we’ve been in ours. He’s a super nice guy. Dawn moved in sometime later, after Chuck was our neighbor. She’s not so nice.
She’s from New York City. She started in on us right at the beginning. Whenever we used to wave to her she would never wave back. If she caught Chuck talking to either of us he had hell to pay. He would have to sneak over to say hi and talk. The things she says to him about us I don’t even want to imagine.
She would call the dog warden on me every other week. It was always about our dogs barking, even though they’re not big barkers. What she didn’t know was our dogs are licensed, all of them, all the time.
“Here’s the thing,” the dog warden finally told her. “Their dogs are licensed and everyone’s dogs bark sometimes.”
Our little Lab doesn’t even bark. Dawn finally got tired of that game.
Most of the rest of our neighborhood loves it when our dogs are out. It was Dawn who gave us the most trouble.
I don’t care if you’re from New York City, or not. It doesn’t give you the right to be a bitch. That’s all changed now that she needs me. When she couldn’t afford to have her hair done at the Charles Scott Salon in Rocky River anymore I became good enough for her.
“Chuck doesn’t pay for anything for the children,” she said. “Everything falls on me. I have to pay for their school.” She has two kids of her own and doesn’t have any money anymore.
Then, when I started doing her hair, knowing that I don’t have kids myself, it was the kids with her. “Do you think you could come over and watch them for a few minutes?”
“No,” I said. That’s why I don’t have kids of my own, I thought. “I don’t want to sit your kids,” I said.
I might have done it to be a good neighbor, but she would have started taking advantage of me, so I put an end to it.
The Italian couple behind us bought their house the year I was born. That’s almost fifty years ago. They’re straight out of Italy and I can hardly understand a word they say, her more than him. His name is Anthony, but I’ve never been able to understand what her name is. I always just call her Mrs. Anthony.
Everything in their back yard is a farm. They grow everything they eat all the full year back there during the summertime. When we first moved in they had little grandkids that fed our dogs doggie cookies.
We would hear them from our patio. “Can we go see Julie and Brian’s dogs?”
The kids are teenagers now, but they still come over to see their grandparents. My dogs run to the back fence and line up, waiting there. “You can’t stop that now, you have to keep giving them cookies,” I tell the teenagers.
Brian used to walk the dogs every day. He always stopped and talked to our neighbors. They asked him about the dogs, so a lot of them found out we rescue them.
“That is so cool,” some of them said.
That’s how we came to be called the dog people. That’s what we’re known as. Once a lady was walking up and down the street looking for her lost dog. “Did you try the dog people,” everybody told her.
“Have you seen my dog?” she asked me.
“No, but I’ll keep an eye out for it,” I said.
Sometimes neighbors donate dog food to us. We find it left on our front porch. It’s nice to have a little community support.
We’ve been taking the dogs to the dog park in the Metroparks lately instead of walking them because Nookie, our Husky, is an absolute screamer. The second you put a leash on him the screaming starts. It’s like we’re ripping out his toenails. He screams the whole way on the walk. People come out their doors to make sure we’re not beating our dogs.
It’s so embarrassing. Brian stopped walking them.
But, Nookie hates the dog park, too. He doesn’t like other people or other dogs coming up to him, or even up to us.
One day we thought we would hide from him so he would learn to leave our side and run around with the other dogs. We hid behind a tree. But, it was really sad. He just ran around looking for us.
“Brian, we can’t hide from him,” I said. “He’s never going to relax.”
When we came out from hiding and he saw us he ran over to us right away. “He’s back to guarding us again,” I told Brian.
One of our neighbors fell in love with Grayson, who is our little silver Lab. He’s got a great personality, mostly because he hangs out with Baby. He’s a cutie patootie, too
She did everything she could to get us to sell Grayson to her.
“He’s not for sale,” I said. “He’s my dog.”
“But, I love him,” she said.
“We love him, too,” I said.
One morning we took Baby and Grayson, who are best friends, even though Baby is five times bigger than Grayson, to Project Runway on Whiskey Island for a fundraiser for dog shelters. From there, later in the afternoon, we did Doggies on the Patio, another fundraiser. It was a long day. Afterwards we took the dogs out for gelato.
They loved it, the whole day, and the gelato, too, especially our cutie patootie.
Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus.