After our walk this afternoon–a rather uneventful trip through the park, up Rebel Hill to the memorial and back home–we stopped by Duncan's favorite spot, The Glen. Everything looked the same to me–the curling brown leaves that littered the bottom of the natural bowl in the earth, the bone-white limbs and branches of the Aspens, even the page of newspaper that had blown through and gotten caught in the bars of the gate was still there. But Duncan knew things were different. He had no interest in his tennis ball, dropping it from his mouth right where I'd tossed it. Almost immediately he began making the rounds, scouring the perimeter with his nose, stopping every few feet to sniff, sometimes veering wildly off course as if following an invisible trail, only to retrace his steps and start over. After several minutes of investigating every tree and shrub and post, he began marking, which seemed tedious work, all that squatting and peeing, leg-lifting and peeing, crouching and peeing. When he was finally satisfied he returned to where I sat on the hillside near the spot where he'd accidentally taught himself to fly a few weeks back. He rolled over on his back and let me scratch his belly, but I'd hardly began when a sleek black shape appeared in my peripheral vision, charging down one side of the depression and up the other straight at us. She was a lean lab mix, quite thin and long. I jumped up to grab Duncan, but he met her dead on, leaping into the air, spinning Matrix-style around her and catching her neck under his chin. They huffed and crashed into the leaves and began rolling wildly down the slope. I looked up to see a young woman darting toward me through the trees, a wide smile on her face. "She's okay," she said. "She's just young." I'd frozen on the spot. thinking of the stories I'd heard of dogs mauling other dogs while out on innocent afternoon walks with their owners. It had been on my mind a lot and I'd wondered whether Littleton's unenforced leash laws needed to be addressed– after all, only twenty minutes earlier at the park we'd been charged by a rather large German Shepherd whose owner finally appeared and stopped the beast just as he loomed right over us. I was relieved to see that Duncan and Kona, the newcomer, were not fighting, but had become instant friends instead. His best friend at Stapleton is Maddie, and I wondered for a moment if he thought this narrower and lighter version was his old pal. Melissa, as she introduced herself explained that they'd just moved in and that Kona loved our spot and had become pals with the few other dogs she'd met there. No sooner had she said that than two other racing shapes appeared, a smaller Golden who looked exactly as Duncan did two years ago, color and all, and a matted, yip-yip dog, a "Malty-Poo," Leanne and Deke, her owners described her breed when they appeared. Melissa and I left the dogs to wrestle and romp while we did what I imagine parents do when they meet the parents of their child's friend for the first time. We quickly introduced our dogs (theirs were Sadie and Cinnia) but it was a while before we thought to introduce ourselves. We made small talk for a bit and then just sat and watched the slobbering, leaf-encrusted parade of dogs, Cinnia always at the rear, yapping and snapping at tails and ankles as little dogs are wont to do.
Finally, covered in saliva and exhausted, Duncan appeared at my side, nudged the hand I was holding the leash in, and announced that it was time to leave. His ears and the top of his head were wet and matted, and a thick string of someone's slobber streaked across the top of his head. He looked beat so I hooked him up, waved good-bye to the others and we took our leave. No sooner were we in the door than my tireless dog collapsed in a heap and slept. And I got to sit and do nothing.