One evening at dusk, we spied her waddling around the alley near our garbage can. Concerned she had lost her way, the girls asked Husband if they could let her into the yard. He said yes, and the dog—that we didn’t recognize—scuttled inside. Her looks were not nearly as remarkable as her odor. She had gotten into something stinky in the alley, and we decided if a smell could have a relative, hers would be the first cousin of a skunk’s.
I could tell she was a friendly pit bull—beating her tail back and forth when we talked to her—and had probably never missed a meal in her life. She sniffed our yard, poking her nose into my planters and pots. She was a low rider compared to Lala and twice as thick, and the two romped around the yard. I grabbed ahold of her collar and read the name on the brass tag: Ginger. Her owner had etched a phone number on the other side, but the last digit was illegible.
“We can dial the ten combinations and see,” Flicka offered.
“Let’s just get her on a leash and see if we can find where she lives,” I said.
Clipping a leash to her collar was the easy part. But Ginger had neither the aptitude nor the willingness to walk on a lead. She plopped onto the ground.
“Any idea how to get her to walk?” I said.
The girls hooted in high-pitched voices, trying to coax Ginger to move.
“Let’s go,” Husband said to the animal.
He took the leash from me and managed to get Ginger out of the yard, the girls scampering alongside him. I stayed back in the house, hoping for the best while I cleared away the dinner dishes. Soon, the group returned, but there was Ginger—still at the end of the leash.
“We checked with a bunch of neighbors, but she doesn’t belong to any of them,” Ricka said.
“She must live on the block. Just look at her,” I said, pointing at her girth. “She couldn’t have wandered far.”
This time I took the leash, determined to find her family myself, but maneuvering Ginger was like walking a furry brick wall with its own agenda.
“Let’s try Peace and Freedom’s house,” I said to the girls.
We entered the neighbor boys’ back yard and rapped on the door. Their mother answered.
“Is she yours?” I said. Freedom was suddenly in the doorway too.
“Yeah, thanks,” the woman said. “We didn’t know she got out.”
“She must’ve jumped the fence,” said Freedom.
Fat chance, I thought.
Another day, a neighbor across the alley came over with his pit bull, Daisy. He introduced himself as T.J.
“Could these two play together?” he said, indicating Lala and Daisy. “She’s good with other dogs.”
“Sure,” Husband said.
Daisy played for a while and came over again the next day for a play date. And the day after that. At first T.J. hung out while the two played. Then he began dropping off his dog, saying he’d be back for her later. We didn’t mind. Aside from her penchant for digging, Daisy had a sweet disposition.
One day, T.J. knocked on our door. He asked if he could leave Daisy to play.
“Just for a half an hour,” I said. “I have to leave the house at 3:00.”
Three o’clock came. No T.J. I let some minutes slide by, but still he didn’t come. I called his cell phone, but the number he had given me had been disconnected. I would have to return Daisy myself.
Since it was just our houseguest—ten-month-old Rashad—and me at home, I formed a plan. First, holding the baby in one arm, I lured Lala back into the house. Then, with my free hand I attempted to wrangle the leash onto Daisy, but she was as easy to lasso as a slippery eel. I decided to leave her in the back yard while I went to T.J.’s to tell him to come and get her. Before I could clasp the gate behind me, though, Daisy scooted out and dashed off.
Worried about being late to pick up my girls from school and now also concerned about Daisy’s whereabouts, I hustled to T.J.’s with Rashad on my hip. I dodged some toys and trikes in his yard before I got to his front door. Music blared from T.J.’s upstairs apartment. I knocked first, then rang the bell, and at last caught the attention of the downstairs tenant. She screamed up to T.J., and he sauntered down to the door, looking disheveled.
“You got a baby?” he said, scratching his chest.
“Daisy got out of the yard. You have to come and get her. I’ve gotta go.”
I buckled Rashad into his car seat and drove off, leaving T.J. scouring the alley for Daisy. Before I turned the corner at the end of the alley, though, I glanced in the rearview mirror just as he caught her.
T.J. and Daisy showed up in our yard later that week. This time, the man also had his kids in tow. He introduced them and rattled off their ages—five, three, and two years old. He asked if the dogs could play again.
“How about an hour this time?” I said.
Daisy zoomed around the yard with Lala, and before I knew it, T.J. disappeared, leaving his three kids behind too. They weren’t surprised like I was. Instead, they were smiley and seemed unconcerned about being left in the impromptu care of strangers.
One day, our family was enjoying ice cream in Uptown when my cell phone rang.
“There’s a dog in your back yard,” Dallas said on the other end of the line. He gave me a description. “Do you want me to call Animal Control?”
“No,” I said. “I know that dog. We’re on our way home.”
Back at the house, Husband went over to have a chat with T.J., but he wasn’t home. Instead, he talked with T.J.’s brother, laying out some parameters. The man apologized and retrieved the dog from our yard.
We never saw T.J. again. But we saw his kids and their uncle—and sometimes Daisy who would come to play on our turf and terms.
They say it takes a village to raise a kid. But maybe it takes a village to raise the furry neighbors too—or at least provide them with a little entertainment before helping them find their way home.
*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date
*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.