The family was playing catch in the park. They, and the friends who'd joined them, were young, perhaps only in their mid-20's. It was a perfect day with temperatures in the low 70's. The sky to the north and west was threatening to cloud over but the air was warm and without a breeze. The men and their young sons had their shirts off while they tossed the ball. The grass was green all around them and because the sun was so bright the shadows of the trees were crisp and dark. The smell of hamburgers drifted across the soccer field from the grill where the two women––no more than girls, really––tended to lunch, spreading the buns and jars of condiments on the picnic table, checking the patties, chatting softly amongst themselves over the portable CD player they'd brought. Two daughters, uninterested in the baseball or the cooking were wandering across the field gathering sticks from the grass. The blond girl was taller and older than her companion, a child not yet four, who wore shorts and a diaper. When they spotted Duncan and me trotting along the edge of the hillside overlooking the big willow they stumbled toward us in that way children have when they run and their legs are still not quite yet used to it.
Duncan did not want to tend to business. Most walks he'll go as soon as I simply show him the bright green plastic bag with the words "Poopy Pouch" printed across the front beneath a cartoon of a squatting dog. Once he sees that he'll begin sniffing until he finds his spot and then, after I turn my back, will take care of things. But today he did not want to. He looked at me with the kind of vacancy most people reserve for foreigners and merely trotted along. "Duncan, go!" I urged him. "When you go we'll take a long walk down Leawood and hunt for bunnies." His ears perked at their mention but he soon lost interest. So we wandered here and there, up to the skate park and finally down to the long grass and reeds that grow around the willow. I figured the privacy might be beneficial but he didn't care and pulled me up the hillside. After wandering back and forth for a few minutes he seemed to have found what he was looking, that perfect place in the long, cool grass. It was when he started to squat that the little girls spotted us.
They squealed and ran straight toward us. "Puppypuppypuppypuppy," the little one chanted as she climbed the hill on her fat, unsteady legs. Duncan stood up quickly, as though caught in the act and wagged his tail as they approached. I sighed and put a smile on my face, giving him the hand signal to sit and wait.
They paused a few feet away. "Can we pet your dog?" the older one asked. Once I gave them permission they stepped forward and began stroking Duncan's back and shoulders, running their little fingers over his ears and across his nose. The stains on their faces and hands told me they'd been eating ice cream. Duncan began lapping at them, moving back and forth between the two until they giggled loudly.
"What is his name?" the blond asked.
"Duncan," I told her.
"Duncan," she said as though feeling the word in her mouth for the first time. "That's an awkward name," she frowned. "Are you walking Duncan?"
"I sure am," I said. "I'm trying to get him to go potty."
The older one nodded thoughtfully. The little one stepped up. "Doesn't he like to potty?" she asked.
"Sometimes he does but I think he's shy."
She nodded. "I'm not shy," she said thoughtfully. And then, a moment later added "And I like to potty." Then, without hesitation, she arched her back, farted loudly and promptly filled her diaper, grinning wildly at me as she went.
That was all the approval Duncan needed. He immediately squatted and did the same.
It's a glamorous life I lead.