When I was growing up, there was an old woman in the neighborhood all us neighborhood chitlins called "The Dog Lady." There really wasn't any reason for this, except the fact that she was ancient, crooked, and gray and could always be seen walking around the neighborhood with anywhere between one and three little dogs. It's not like she lived shut up in a house with 36 cats who would ultimately eat her face after she died in her Lay-Z-Boy watching "The Price Is Right." Lots of people have more than one dog. And lots of people walk those dogs around their neighborhoods. But for whatever reason our little brains decided, she was and will always be The Dog Lady. And The Dog Lady was a classic neighborhood fixture of my childhood.
It was the dogs though that attracted our attention to her, and -- whether she liked it or not -- often brought us to her doorstep. We'd walk a bit with her, she'd let us pet her dogs, and then she'd invite us in for juice. And now that I've written that, it definitely seems like the beginning of "To Catch a Predator" and I can't wait to get all those e-mails and anonymous comments about how a child so stupid as me is lucky I'm not decaying in a back alley right now. Yeah, well Mrs. Hanahan didn't raise no fool, The Dog Lady was a little old lady, pervs. And also, I hadn't yet been educated by "Law & Order" marathons, so whatevs.
The downstairs of her house -- because we never made it past the living room -- was exactly what you'd expect the downstairs of a house of someone who's older than your grandparents to look like. Dark, carpeted, musky, and cluttered with knick-knacks.
And the thing that amused us most about The Dog Lady was the way she spoke to her dogs: like they were furry little humans. And that just cracked our shiz up. We loved her for it. Well, I did anyway. Monica was an ardent believer that The Dog Lady was a witch because no neighborhood is complete without a witch, right? I didn't buy it though. For me, she was just The Dog Lady who talked to her dogs. Monica did, however, manage to convince me that the family on the corner was a group of vampires who loved making little children into meatsicles. It made sense at the time.
Anyway. Anytime The Dog Lady would ask one of her dogs a question, I fell into giggles. What do you think of the weather, Pebbles? What time would you like to eat tonight? Do YOU think you've done enough walking today? Ooooh what a crazy old bat. How wonderful.
It's probably been a good 10 years since I've even thought of The Dog Lady. After a while, she was seen around the neighborhood less and less, and eventually she was gone altogether. Her house still sits quietly, no doubt filled with new people, but the only real sign of life is the holiday decorations that go up and down depending on the season. The reason that I'm thinking of her today is because it dawned on me that, at 25 years old, I have become The Dog Lady.
While walking Rooney, I often kill the time by talking to him. I'll tell him about my day. I'll see if he has opinions about what I should make for dinner. What he thinks of the weather. How he likes my new haircut. It never occurred to me how batshit crazy this most certainly sounds to people passing me by. It's only a matter of time before the neighborhood children give me some kind of slightly degrading nickname and start following me home.
Not only do I talk to him like a human, I treat him like one too. When Rooney jumps into bed with us at night, he walks right up to the pillows, burrows himself under the covers, and falls asleep with his head on our pillows and his body completely covered. Whenever I'm in the mood for an apple, I ask Rooney if he'd like to split one with me. Of course he fecking would, he's a dog, he eats poop. And I share my apples with him. Why don't I just shove a pile of poop in my mouth?
When Rooney starts a-yelpin', I come a runnin'. Good gah I annoyed myself just by writing that. And, perhaps worst of all, when I was presented with the opportunity to go on a 10-day, all expenses paid Mediterranean cruise, the first* thing I thought of was, but I'll miss my dog so much. Uuugggh I'm disgusting.
The next thing you know, I'm going to be walking around with one of those hoodless sweatshirts with a picture of Rooney silkscreened on the front and his name in Comic Sans font across the chest. And I'll be calling it my "dress sweatshirt." Kind of like how my mom got my dad a bunch of new sweatpants for Christmas and he calls them his "dress sweats" because they don't have holes and paint splatters all over them on I'm pretty sure I made it until December 26 before I exploded "THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS DRESS SWEATPANTS. AND YOU'RE NOT ALLOWED TO USE THE WORDS 'DRESS' AND 'SWEATS' IN THE SAME SENTENCE EVER AGAIN." And now I totally sound like the type of person who would have grown up in a neighborhood with a Dog Lady and a family of vampires.
* The second thing I thought was, DAMNIT all those retirees and housewives are going to get so far ahead of me in our fitness classes. And the answer is yes, sometimes I do make myself sick.