We’re not in Forestville any more, Judge

I sit in the corner of the bed off the kitchen in our little apartment in Philadelphia. The narrow house catches the sounds of the neighbor next to us. On this side of the wall is Judge, and Merv. On the other side of the wall is a lawyer, getting up, I think, for his day. The garden, where we might sit for coffee, is cold and wet from rain. If the neighbor opens his back door, we won’t see him. He won’t see us. We stay inside.

Judge, the country dog, with hay still in his coat, listens, prepared to defend us. A conversation passes down the street. The sound is muted, through the windows. Judge raises his hackles. He growls. The door one house down receives a key in the lock. Judge barks the alarm.

We take Judge for a walk. Judge, the country dog, stops at every bush, every house corner, every signpost, every tree, every front stoop, every light post, every mailbox, every trash container, every car, every curb. He sniffs. He walks one pace. He sniffs.

The walk to the dog park is slow. Judge sees a dog across the street. His body tenses. He stops. He lasers in to the dog’s stance, his ears, his mouth. Judge statues. He granites. The dog moves along. Judge moves his head, then his neck, then turns back to life.

I take off Judge’s leash at the dog park. Dogs in winter coats. A greyhound with a fleece coat and a turtleneck collar. A Scottie with a Shetland isles sweater. Poodles in new do’s. A sleek pit bull mix has eyes only for his dad’s dog frisbee. Over the other dogs it sails. Through the other dogs the pit bull races, then jumps and catches the frisbee in his mouth. Back to his dad. Again. And again. Judge loves a good frisbee. He catches it. Then he pulls it apart. Not this time. He steers clear of the invisible line between pit bull and dad.

Judge gets a crush. A great fluffy brown something. Not a poodle. Not a Portuguese Water Dog. A great brown-eyed beauty. Judge, the country dog, tries his pick-up line. An act, to be precise. Judge attempts…oh the shame of it…the embarrassment of it…the lack of class of it…the we don’t do that here of it…a hump. He tries to hump the beautiful fluff. Other dog moms and dads look at me. Humping is not done. The brown fluff growls and nips at Judge. And runs. Judge follows. Around the park and around and around.

My fingers get cold. I call Judge. He hears me not. Around goes fluff. Around goes Judge. My hands get cold. I call Judge. He hears me not. I pull out a treat. He smells it not. Around goes fluff. Around goes Judge. My body gets cold. I call. I treat. I entreat. Judge is transfixed by fluff. Around and around, running. Running. Is it hours? They slow. I catch Judge’s collar. We leave. The slow walk home. And then, collapse. Sleep. Exhaustion.

Merv announces that having a dog in the city is a good way to meet people. I imagine the conversation. “Hello. We met at the dog park.” “Oh yes, you have the dog that humps.”

Another day. Another trip to the dog park. Another intimate look at bushes, corners, signposts, trees, front stoops, light posts, cars. Another adventure at the dog park. Another love at first site. Another dirty look by another dog’s mom or dad.

I am ready. Ready to hop in the car. Ready to pull out my snowshoes. Ready for snow. Silence. Ready for a dog that bounds up hills. Observes where I am. Runs to me. Ready for the country.