The morning walk
Every day I take my dogs, ooh -- strike that -- dog (my other one died earlier this month) on a walk in my Tucson, Arizona neighborhood. There are plenty of stories and connections to make every day, but today was especially rich, ironic, and beautiful. To begin the walk, my 8 year old, 80 pound "puppy" and I encountered our neighborhood coyote off in the distance. We have named him Clarence. He's THAT kind of Clarence. A bit stodgy and perhaps he even wears glasses when he plays the piano. At the moment, Clarence is suffering from a bit of mange. It can happen to the best of us. The neighborhood association has wondered on our social media group about what to do about Clarence. Some folks advocate trapping him and taking to a wildlife care facility in town. Others think the Arizona Department of Fish and Game should come take care of the scoundrel (he's after our kitties and toy poodles, after all). Then there are those who argue he should be fed dog food and offered water so that his mange clears up, and he can become an upstanding member of our community -- or at least a better looking one. The discussion on Facebook has gone from do-gooder ("that poor sweet animal") to paranoid ("what if that mange is contagious!?") to rational ("the law says we cannot do anything therefore we shouldn't") to angry ("WHY ISN'T ANYTHING BEING DONE" in one post while another asks "WHY ARE YOU YELLING AT ME ABOUT THE LAW?"). In many ways the diversity of opinion on just how to handle Clarence is indicative of my neighborhood. We are seriously a motley crew -- all ethnicities, creeds, socioeconomic statuses, gender identities, ages, nationalities, and political persuasions live within one square mile. Mostly peacefully if you can believe that. After we turn in the opposite direction of Clarence (I mean, what if the mange IS contagious??), a young woman, who has just bought a new house in the neighborhood waves and says timidly, "can I ask you a quick question? You seem like you know things." This is something I get often. Everyone, everywhere I go seems to think I know "things" -- especially where the nearest bathroom is. Guess I just have that face. Anyway, the woman, whose dog is named Dakota (of course I didn't ask her her name), then asks me if the neighborhood is safe to walk in. I suggested that property values were higher across the main street, so maybe that would feel "safer" to her, but that despite our very palpable diversity, it is "safe" to walk a dog here in the early morning sun. And then, I thought, I should tell her about Clarence, but just as I began to mention the most controversial character in the hood, I stopped. Mange?? I mean, that might lead this sweet, young, clearly innocent woman to rethink her choice in real estate. Better to hope she can just avoid the most unsightly parts of our community. From this encounter with purity, I next came across some laborers who were re-roofing a home. Look, it's Tucson. In June. If there is a worse job in the world than roofing in Tucson in June, it is probably only roofing in Tucson in August. One of the laborers was taking a break. He had propped his head up with his empty water bottle and had settled his floppy hat on his knees. He spoke in rapid Spanish to someone on the other end of an inexpensive cell phone. Languid yet animated his darkly tanned face broke into a broad smile when he saw me. He sat bolt upright and waved...to my dog. "Beautiful coyote" he said. I swear Chinle (my Lab/Weimeruner mix) stood a little taller having been mistaken for the brave dog of the desert. I suppose the timid woman who inquired about the safety of the neighborhood may have had this guy in mind when she asked. Maybe she would fear he had been brought to this place by a coyote more mangey and more nefarious even than Clarence. I asked if he had water (his pillow bottle was empty), and he nodded "oh yes...plenty of agua but thank you." Then he looked sideways at me as if I didn't quite belong in this neck of the woods (keep in mind I was in short shorts and a florescent yellow tank top with a green sports bra and Nike running shoes to match with no hat and clearly no water). "You from Tucson?" he asked, and I said no, I'm from Colorado but I've lived here a long time." I returned the question and he said, "no, not directly from Tucson, but indirectly far back into generations." Chinle and I continued our walk (80 degrees by 9 am), and just as we were returning home, we saw Clarence again. He stood in the middle of the street, staring at us. Now that we were closer, his mange seemed better than it had last week. He seemed less desperate and more astute. Just as we were saying hello, a feral cat caught he and Chinle's eyes. Feral cats are ubiquitous in our neighborhood. And all fear them. Lizards, birds, pet cats, backyard sitters (you see they use EVERY piece of sand as their litter box): ALL fear the ferals. You can tell the feral ones from the "outdoor cats" by the wild look in their eyes and their unkempt fur that needs love and attention. Chinle and Clarence looked back at each other just long enough to share a connection that goes back far into generations. Coyotes united by a common past and a common memory. And it made me think about the worker who lay on the sidewalk to grab a bit of shade and the woman who was worried about her safety. What were their shared memories? Surely there were some. As I opened the door to the blast of 72 degree air, I wondered who, in this morning's story, were the actual interlopers and who, in reality, had more to fear? I had at least part of the answer, certainly; that non-native, unloved cat who ran for its life with Clarence in hot pursuit and Chinle following in spirit.
6/6/2017 02:28:00 pm
I love your writing style. Transported me to neighborhood and put a smile on my face. Keep up the good work!
Leave a Reply.