Roxboro

The Sounds of the Dog Walk

ImageI’ve been thinking about the various sounds I hear, especially early in the morning, when I take Izzy for walks.  Some of them are the usual:  the world waking up around us, birds stirring, leaves rustling, the breathing of every living thing.  Others make no sense at all, unless you live in the small rural town in North Carolina where Izzy and I explore something new each day.

In the morning, a rooster who lives across the railroad tracks makes certain that everyone knows he’s around.  The ra-a-ra-a-roooo echoes down my quiet street and Izzy’s ears perk up.  Unfortunately, that rooster really has no clue what time it is, because he cock-a-roos at all hours of the day and night.  It’s just easier to hear him when everything else is silent.

The other dogs in the neighborhood are let out into their respective yards, so those sounds are part of the fabric.  The shepherd mix across the street is still yawning as the sun comes up, so he does little more than give us a ‘huff’ as we go by.  The two rescues behind the fence on the corner are invisible to us (I’ve literally never seen them), but Izzy sniffs through the fence at them to say ‘good morning’ and they do their usual crazy, frantic barking as they trace us from the inside of their compound.  The chihuahua that lives around the corner doesn’t go out into his fenced in section of the yard until later in the day, so we’re spared his craziness.  (That’s one dog both Izzy and I can live without.)  And there are several others that are either just waking up in their houses and want to be let outside or who have already spent the evening tied up in the yard and want to eat.

But those aren’t the only sounds.  The turkey vultures that nest in a huge magnolia behind Mr. Mendoza’s house lift in unison–25-30 big birds–and the whoosh-whup-whoosh of their wings sends shivers down my spine, whether it’s first thing in the morning or late at night when I can’t see them.  Izzy stops whatever he’s doing and lifts his head to the sky to watch them.

Robins always tempt Izzy to chase them because they poke around the edge of the newly-mown yards in the hopes of getting a worm.  Though Izzy is fast, he hasn’t caught one yet (thankfully), but that doesn’t mean he’s quit trying.  Cardinals swoop past us, a flash of scarlet and a quick double whistle-clack-clack-clack, to signify they’re on the move.  The dainty call of a pretty Eastern Bluebird as it sings to its mate, the low coo of the soft gray doves that live in the rafters of the stately brick house on the corner of Main Street, the insistent call of a blue jay guarding its nest.  Normal bird sounds.

Then there’s the gas station on the Boulevard where a verse from the “Car Wash” song blurts every couple of minutes (and, personally, drives me nuts–Izzy doesn’t even notice anymore).  And the bang of trucks filling with lumber at the lumber store further down Main Street.  During the day, those sounds disappear into the fabric of other, louder sounds:  bleeping car horns, the occasional whine of a police siren, the rumbles of trucks.  Not to mention the phone that rings at all hours of the day and night — I think it’s on a stereo speaker so that the mechanic to whom it belongs can answer whenever he’s outside, but why do people call at 6 AM and let it ring and ring and ring?

My favorite sounds of all, though, are the ones Izzy makes.  He huffs and sniffs at dandelions, whines softly when we pass the dogs unlucky enough to be on ropes in their backyards, burps loudly when we stand waiting at the corner.  He’s my funny companion, quieter than most, but his language is just as recognizable as the language of the morning, the sounds of our dog walk.

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Dog Brains

When I was younger, I took a women’s literature course and one of the writers the young professor introduced us to was a revolutionary woman named Rigoberta Menchu.  Physically, she presented nothing of a threat:  plump, ordinary-looking, no scowl on her round face.  But mentally and dynamically, she’s a powerhouse for the indigenous population of Guatemala.  I remember reading her work and appreciating the guts it took for her to speak truth to power and righteously defend her people.  She not only defended people; she defended animals and nature  . . . basically, she defends the rights of all living beings.

She said, “There is not one world for man and one for animals; they are part of the same one and lead parallel lives.”  That statement is so simple but incredibly powerful.  And true.  One thing you can count on with Menchu is that she tells the truth.

This morning, I was thinking of that statement when I walked Izzy before the sun rose.  We saw several of his dog friends while walking.  One’s a female boxer whose submissive and sweet personality reminds me of Menchu herself.  Boxers are strong, muscular dogs, yet Peaches defies the stereotype.  Instead, she is friendly and wiggly, like you would expect Izzy to be.  Both of them are the exact opposite of what you would expect, as is Menchu.

We inhabit a neighborhood where possums live next door to foxes, bluebirds share the sky with buzzards, tiny yappy dogs (like the Chihuahua down the street) walk the same streets as burly pitbulls.  Black Methodists sing in a church a block away from White Baptists.  Single women who have grown up in North Carolina and spent their lives surrounded by family are friends with others who grew up in New England and have no family nearby.  Doctors shake the hands of field workers.  Though there are times when our paths do not cross — and other times when they collide — we all are part of the same world, and as Menchu states, we lead parallel lives.

As I pondered that thought, Izzy did his morning routine:  sniffing under the old white Cadillac for the tortoiseshell cat that hides there, peering into the sky when the rook of buzzards lifted off the roof of Mr. Mendoza’s house, lapping the pool of rain water that has collected in the dip in the sidewalk.  Occasionally, he’ll glance up at me, tongue hanging out the side of his mouth, and I laugh at him.  He may not speak human words, but the language he has says one important thing:  I’m here for you.  I’m part of your world.

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Pitbull

Izzy spends the weekend days and nights at my screen door, looking out on the street and letting me know if anyone comes too close to the house 🙂  He’s a guard dog as long as he’s behind the door, but if he’s out on the street, he just wants to meet all the new dogs in the neighborhood and greet those he already knows.

I spent Saturday writing, so I was in my office and looking out on the same street Izzy sees from his door.  It’s early Fall and the day glowed with that special light autumn days embody.  We made excuses for more walks than our usual, mostly because I needed to stretch after sitting in my office chair for so long — and Izzy had to see the people and “other beings” who had walked by the house during the day.  The last week at 10 PM presented the gift of a star-filled sky, high-flying planes that competed with the brightest stars, and a glimpse of what I think was Venus near the half moon.  I breathed deeply, sure that all was right within my world and comforted by the thought that there is so much more than what exists within the perimeters of Roxboro.

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Izzy took his seat again on Sunday afternoon as I did my laundry and ironing.  The weather, as gorgeous as Saturday’s, enticed more people to take a walk, and I really didn’t pay much attention to what was going on unless Izzy growled or did his squirrel dance (on his back two legs) in front of the door . . . until I heard a tinkle-clink-clank-tinkle-clink like a broken ice cream truck going by.  Izzy came to where I stood at the ironing board, dancing and whining, then went back to the door as if trying to tell me something.  Curious, I followed him and heard the sound but didn’t see anything.  Still, he wouldn’t calm down.

A couple of minutes later, he still hadn’t calmed down and kept going to the back door, then coming to the dining room like he does when he wants to tell me to take him out.  Though we had gone for a walk only half an hour before, I gave in and put him on the leash.  He scrambled through my gravel driveway, choking on his collar and trying to get me to walk faster.  I could tell he had picked up the scent of something and thought it was the groundhog we have in the backyard (that has pretty much destroyed my garden).

On the way down the street, Izzy was at “high alert” but I still didn’t see anything.  Then a van coming toward us slowed down and stopped in front of us.  The window rolled down and a heavyset, older woman in a flowered dress leaned out.  “You might not want to walk up that way,” she said, motioning toward Izzy.  “There’s a brown pitbull wandering around up there.  He’s dragging a 6-8′ chain, so I think he got loose from someone’s yard.  He’s kinda big.  Your pup wouldn’t stand a chance.”

I thanked her and wondered whether it was the same one that my friend, the old man, was having trouble containing when Izzy and I walked earlier this week.  Then I realized he never had a chain on that dog.  And I realized instantly where the loose pitbull had come from.  The night before when Izzy and I were out, I heard howling, barking and growling from beyond the railroad tracks.  I’ve heard it before, and it’s obviously a group of dogs that are either caged or within close proximity of each other.  I’ve seen several pitbulls with some rather large guys who walk them up my street and can barely hold onto the dogs when they see Izzy.

I think there’s a dogfighting ring close by . . . and I’m feeling two emotions:  fear that my Izzy wouldn’t have a chance if any large dog became violent and compassion for those dogs who are chained up in a yard or made to fight when they should be in a loving home.  Now my journalistic curiosity is aroused.  I need to find out what’s going on.