I do a lot of walking because of Gracie, my dog. She’s a great dog: five years old and a true sweetie. She was rescued from the Hartford Pound. Apparently she and nine siblings were found under a porch somewhere in the South End. It was winter. All the puppies made it into the Save-a-Pup program and I got her when she was about ten weeks old. She was so little I could hold her in my cupped hands.
Gracie looks like a Rottweiler. She’s black and mahogany, with two little dots over her eyes where her horns will grow in. She loves to run. Her gait is like a German shepherd. She has a huge block head. There’s probably some Pit Bull in there. And she has purple spots on her tongue. That would be Chow. So she’s a big mixture of all the dogs people love to hate. I call her my “Nottweiler.” She’s the best dog ever.
She loves to go for walks around the neighborhood. She has her route and she leads me on it. She stops at the edge of the sidewalk before crossing the street. She pauses every few feet to read her pee-mail, and to leave messages for other dogs.
I get to talk to a lot of people while walking Gracie (who is also known as Noodle, Schnunkie, Schnunk-Bucket, Miss Oo, Noodle-oo, Stein, and Bucket). Little ones in strollers point and say, “Doggie? Doggie?” Groups of kids sitting on their front steps wave and ask if she’s friendly. “She’s friendly,” I tell them, and then ask if they’re afraid of dogs. If they say no I invite them over to say hello. Then I teach them how to let a dog sniff their hands. Sometimes the kids are hesitant, so I hold their hands in mine and we touch Gracie’s nose together. This brings on contagious squeals and giggles. The kids are happy. They look right into my eyes and smile their bright smiles. They say thank you.
I can’t tell you how many times people have pulled over to the side of the road to tell me that Gracie is beautiful. They ask what kind of dog she is and where they can get one like her. “At the Hartford Pound,” I say. “Really? That’s a pound dog? That’s a fine-looking dog.”
Yes she is. She’s a great dog and a great excuse to be neighborly. Because of Gracie I know most of the kids in my neighborhood. (My theory is that you should get to know the kids in your neighborhood for a few reasons. One: it’s fun. Two: maybe, just in case they don’t have many, you can be a positive adult influence in their lives. Three: in case they slip out of your hands and lose their way, at least they won’t break into your house.)
Last night I was walking Gracie around the block when I heard a little voice from somewhere. “Excuse me! Excuse me!” I stopped and looked around, and then realized the voice was coming from a brick two-family to my right. A little boy was hanging out of the second floor window. He was probably nine or ten years old.
“Excuse me,” he said. “Is that a canine mix?”
Canine mix? What’s that? I thought for a moment. Oh. Yeah. Mutt.
“You’re right, she is a canine mix!” I said. “We think she’s German shepherd and Rottweiler. Her name is Gracie. She’s five.”
“Canine mix…shepherd and Rottie…exactly what I thought,” said the boy, nodding his head. “Thanks. Bye Gracie!”
I waved goodbye and headed home.
Canine mix. Hmmm. My dog is a canine mix.
I stood a little taller.