It was, what I thought, an ordinary walk in every way: the air was cool but clean, the sky was wide, the park was entirely ours. Duncan plodded along beside me, uninterested in roaming far and wide in search of any scraps or stray balls that might have appeared overnight. He was content to walk beside me, a happy, showy, Broadway sort of strut in his step, head high, ears higher, a grin on his face as he breathed in the morning air and sunshine and exhaled warm clouds of breath. I talked with him, as I always do, unconcerned that he's "just a dog" and that people might think the conversation one-sided. I know better, though. He responds in ways that only people who live with dogs would understand: dancing around me if he approves, cocking his head if he likes something I've said, blinking his wide eyes an agreement. We talk and share and confide and who cares what anyone else thinks.
I was unaware that we were being followed. I was whistling––a Christmas song––in time to Duncan's footfalls when the walker came up quite suddenly behind us. She was a short woman, athletic-looking, with her hair pulled back and a faded purple band covering her ears. he had a skier's face, tanned and lined by hours and hours in the sun on a mountainside. But she was smiling and relaxed.
"I hope you don't mind," she said as she came behind me, startling me and ending my whistle quite suddenly. "I've been behind you for awhile now and I just wanted to tell you that that is one happy dog."
And then she was past us, her arms swinging at her side in the way that serious walkers have. I didn't even have a chance to respond, so I looked at Roo who was looking at her, his tail wagging, and patted his shoulder.
Yes, indeed. He is one happy dog.