Sunday, December 28, 2008

A portrait of pals

I’ve seen them around many times, always walking along Babcock Boulevard. I’ll be driving by, and they’ll be making their way on foot. I always get a good look at them, because there’s never much of a sidewalk in the spaces they frequent; Babcock is lined with many necessary but unattractive industries, all of which seem to sneak right up to the edge of the road.

The short one is a man, slightly bandy-legged, usually wearing a scruffy coat, broken jeans, and nondescript work boots. I couldn’t tell you his facial features, because he often wears a baseball cap that obscures his details. There’s nothing hanging out the back of the cap, so I figure the fellow is either short-haired or tucks it up under the hat.

The tall one is a dog. A huge, rangy, all-black dog of indiscriminate breed, with the longest canine legs I’ve ever seen. The dog’s head sort of resembles a Great Dane’s—although this dog isn’t quite as sleek as that breed—and the dog’s gigantic face easily comes up to the guy’s bicep. They walk side-by-side, not hurrying, not tarrying, simply traveling with purpose. The dog is always leashed, and I’ve never seen him fight it or strain against it; like many large, mature dogs, he is confident and calm.

When I passed them today, the guy was seated beside the road on something—I’m not sure what—and the big beast was seated in the dirt next to him. Sitting like that, they were practically the same height. And the man was stroking the dog’s ears, and the dog was loving it, tongue lolling a bit, eyes half-closed.

It made me wonder where they live, and whether they walk for fun or because they have no choice. I’ve never seen them hauling big bags of dog food (or anything else for that matter), so I’m guessing the man must have a vehicle, since the dog looks healthy and well-cared for. I suppose the walks must be for the dog’s benefit. The beast certainly appears to be a dog that could walk on and on and on without tiring.

Are they best friends out of necessity? Did one find the other by accident, or was the relationship sought intentionally? Was the dog a tiny puppy once, and then metamorphosed into its current behemoth state? Did that smallish fellow have any idea of the size and appetite that would accompany the grown animal? Does the dog stretch out at the bottom of the bed and then, by morning, move up to claim a pillow, or is he relegated to his own doggy area on the floor?

The details don’t matter. They are pals, steadfast and true. At least in my mind.

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