Chapter 7

   Steve and Telly’s neighbors who have passed on and are no longer with us, Mary and Josephine, lived in the house on the driveway side of them. The woman who used to be absolutely horrible to Thelma, but is a little less horrible now, lives on the other side of them. The Italian man and wife who love their dogs live behind them.

   Josephine and Mary, who were sisters, lived together in the two-story brick bungalow for 62 years. Neither of them ever married. Josephine cooked hot dogs, brought them to the fence, and fed the pigs in a blanket to their dogs every day. They hardly ever saw Mary. She never came out of the house.

   They both died this year. Steve fixed up a security light in their living room afterwards and he mows their lawn. He parked Telly’s 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 them. Chuck has been in his house the whole time Steve and Thelma have been in theirs. He’s a nice polite guy. Dawn moved in sometime later, after Chuck was already their neighbor. She’s not so nice, although she’s not as horrible as she used to be.

   “She’s from New York City. She started in on us right at the start. 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 chat. The things she says to him about us I don’t even want to imagine.”

   She would call the dog warden on them every other week. It was always about their dogs barking, even though they’re not big barkers. What she didn’t know was that Steve and Telly’s dogs were 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.”

   They don’t bark much, at all. Their 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,” Dawn 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 Telly started doing her hair, knowing that she didn’t have kids herself, it was the kids in her talk all the time. “Do you think you could come over and watch them for a few minutes?”

   “No,” Thelma said. That’s why I don’t have kids of my own, she thought. “I don’t want to sit your kids,” she said. She might have done it to be a good neighbor, but Dawn would have started taking advantage of her, so she put an end to it.

   The old Italian couple behind them bought their house the year Thelma was born. That’s almost fifty years ago. They’re straight out of Italy and they can hardly understand a word they say, her more than him. His name is Anthony, but they have never been able to understand what her name is. They always just call her Mrs. Anthony.

   Everything in their back yard is a farm. They grow everything they eat the full year long back there during the summertime. When they first moved in, they had little grandkids that fed their dogs doggie cookies.

   They would hear them from their patio. “Can we go see Telly and Steve’s dogs?”

   The kids are teenagers now, but they still come over to see their grandparents. The dogs run to the back fence and line up, waiting there. “You can’t stop doing that, you have to keep giving them cookies,” Telly tells the teens.

    Steve used to walk the dogs every day. He always stopped and talked to their neighbors. They asked him about the dogs, so a lot of them found out they rescued them.

   “That is so cool,” some of them said.

   That’s how they came to be called the dog people. That’s what they’re known as. One day a lady was walking up and down the street looking for her lost dog. “Did you try the dog people,” somebody everybody told her.

   “Have you seen my dog?” she asked Thelma.

   “No, but I’ll keep an eye out for it,” Telly said.

   Sometimes neighbors donated dog food to them. They found it left on their front porch. It’s nice to have a little community support.

   They started taking the dogs to the dog park in the Metroparks lately instead of walking them because Nookie, their Husky, is an absolute screamer. The second you put a leash on him the screaming starts. It’s sounds like somebody is ripping out his toenails. He screams the whole way on the walk. People come out their doors to make sure they are not beating their dogs.

   It’s so embarrassing, Steve stopped walking them. He drove them to the dog park, instead.

   But Nookie hates the dog park, too. He doesn’t like other people or other dogs coming up to him, or even up to them. One day they thought they would hide from him so he would learn to leave their side and run around with the other dogs. They hid behind a tree. But it was sad what happened. He just ran around looking for them.

   “Steve, we can’t hide from him,” Telly said. “He’s never going to relax.”

   When they came out from hiding and he saw them he ran over right away. “He’s back to guarding us again,” Telly told Steve. He gave us a warm glow of a bark.

   One of their neighbors fell in love with Grayson, who is their little silver Lab. He’s got a great personality, mostly because he hangs out with Baby. He’s a cutie patootie, too

   Their neighbor did everything she could to get them to sell Grayson to her.

   “He’s not for sale,” Telly said. “He’s my dog.”

   “But I love him,” she said.

   “We love him, too,” Telly said.

   One morning they 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, they did Doggies on the Patio, another fundraiser. It was a long day. Afterwards they took the dogs out for gelato.

   They loved it, the whole day, and the gelato, too, especially the cutie patootie. Telly could never sell him. She couldn’t see that happening.

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