“Is he tied up?” my cousin asks me as we stand behind her friend’s car to remove my bags from the trunk.
It’s late. We had left Northern VA less than three hours earlier, enjoying the last official holiday of the summer along with the smoked ribs, brisket, broccoli salad, and spirits that normally complement it every Labor Day weekend. I had asked her to drop me off at another relative’s house. She’s tired, having to travel another hour or so, but she becomes alert to the gruff bark that belongs to the large golden dog next door.
My cousin has a small dog. Gizmo is his name. He’s an oftentimes shaggy, dirty-blonde Shih Tzu, who occasionally tries to get snippy with a select few of her guests. He yaps at those who cross the back yard because he knows visitors normally approach the door from the opposite side. And he senses the inherent fear or dislike that other guests carry with them toward dogs. As those visitors turn to leave, Gizmo jumps up from his rested position and runs them out the door faster than they intend to walk.
“Gizmo, stop it!” my cousin commands. “Come back here!”
But this owner watches us from a plastic chair on his front stoop at 11 p.m. His golden retriever – I think, because I really don’t know my dogs – is tied to a post with a thin, red, maybe plastic cord.
“Yeah, he’s tied,” I reply. “See the strap?”
But inside I’m a little jittery, too, because this dog is huge, much bigger than Gizmo. If he gets loose, we’ll all be severely injured, including the two passengers in the car. But we’re not going out as punks.
My cousin stares for a few more seconds before checking the trunk to be sure I didn’t leave anything, like my good Coach umbrella that I didn’t pack in a bag since it was raining the day before. The owner stares back at us. I cut my eyes one last time at him and then his pet as I enter my relative’s house.
Two days later I take a seat on the top step of my relative’s stoop. I’m drafting a blog post on my laptop when the neighbor comes outside with his dog who I’ll call Goldie. Goldie resumes his spot on his balding lawn, faces me, and ferociously barks again as if I’m invading in his space. I glance to my left in their direction with a look that reads Look, check your damn dog.
The owner acts oblivious to his pet’s conniption as he approaches a nondescript car that pulls up to the sidewalk in front of his house. He only speaks to the driver for a few seconds. I gather my belongings and go back into my relative’s house because obviously the dog owns her front yard, too. I tell her that once I get inside.
Two years ago, I didn’t like dogs. I was scared of most of them because I was always afraid of getting bit. While some of them were cuddly cute and all, I still couldn’t touch them. I didn’t like the way their fur felt against my skin, especially when the yarn-like strands were stiff from them licking themselves, and I didn’t like how their tongues felt on my hands. It was only after I got used to Gizmo that I could tolerate feeling a dog’s tongue on my fingers as I gave him treats or rubbing a dog’s head and back when Gizmo’s playful and presumptuous Yorkie cousin, Charlie, would simply hop on my lap with his pleading eyes looking for a massage. I might say that I love dogs.
But I still couldn’t stand Goldie with his entitled, “untrained” ass. At a minimum, he’s a menace, and I wished for someone to kill him: Shoot him or spike his dog chow with poison. Sorry PETA. Or at least make him disappear. Gift him to the SPCA or something. Just evict him from the neighborhood.
I wasn’t really feeling his rude, conceited owner, either. He wouldn’t speak like folks do in the country or in any respectable neighborhood where folks are in close proximity. He’d just look, in retrospect to see if I was looking at him. But on the sly I’d watch him walk down the sidewalk to the corner or so and back, phone clipped to his hip like he’s someone important. He even adopts this pimp walk, as we call it, which only makes me dislike him even more. Fool, you are not President Barack Obama. He has swag.
When the neighbor wasn’t walking, he was biking it, sometimes dragging a lawn mower behind him. I’d roll my eyes at this grown ass man pulling a grass cutter behind a bicycle down a sidewalk. Where they do that at? At least get a pickup truck, I’d say to myself. But I also turn a blind and crooked eye to the frequent traffic that stops at the edge of his cemented pathway. Day and night. And it’s always a quick encounter – like a few seconds – and sometimes it’s the same cars.
I periodically glance at the yellow, square-shaped sign that’s across the street in front of his house. Maybe I’m the only one here who notices it and sees the irony in it.
Barely a week later, someone in the neighborhood exchanges a few words with Goldie’s owner. The other neighbor claims he’s walking down the sidewalk to the corner store when Goldie gets a little too aggressive. It’s unclear whether Goldie’s red leash extended too far or if Goldie was barking a little harder than usual because I’m out and about when the altercation occurs. And when I return, I can’t quite comprehend what the near-victim is saying because he’s speaking too fast, tripping over his words like he normally does. But what is clear is that the sheriff intervenes.
The sheriff concludes that the cord is not thick or strong enough for a dog of Goldie’s size. He’s a danger to the kids passing daily to and from the school that’s down the street and the mailman he may have bitten some time ago. I’m surprised Goldie is still around. I’m also perplexed that it’s acceptable for Goldie to be restrained in the first place, not that I want his vicious ass to freely roam, but I’m really not a fan of chaining dogs period even if I do want this one quarantined or dead. And I didn’t think law enforcement was, either.
Perhaps the sheriff lets things slide for a reason.
Hardly another week passes before I’m startled awake to a symphony of loud voices. I’m mad because I hate for my sleep to be disturbed, especially before dawn. I think the voices are coming from inside the house, so I prepare to throw back my blanket and stomp out front for an explanation. But the commotion is coming from behind my head through the window. It’s actually outside.
“Help my mama!” the voice appears to yell, but I could be wrong because I’m still groggy.
I sit up, immediately think “FIRE!” and determine what I need to grab. My bags are still packed because I stay ready to go, but then I realize I don’t smell any smoke.
I hear clanging and banging and more voices. I peek through the blinds. I see men in black standing on the front stoop next door. I see similar figures in their back yard, around their dilapidated cars, in their shed, in the road. And I see orbs of white and blue, illuminating the house and the street and the dark-colored sedans and the white box truck directly across from that yellow “Drug Free School Zone” sign.
It’s the freakin’ task force.
This quaint little house on [Redacted] Rd with the owner of a bully dog swiftly converts to a set from The First 48 – without the murder.
A trap house.
I’m in awe. It’s the closest I’ve ever been to a drug bust, not that I want to be in one. This shit doesn’t happen where I’m from. Okay, it does, but not in my neighborhood. I realize I’m a judge. I’m nosey. And I’m a voyeur.
I peep the outdoor agents peeking in the outdoor barbeque grill, shining their flashlights across the grass and then across the contents in the back yard shed.
I shift my gaze back to the front yard. I think I spot an elderly woman on the front step. She stands stoic. I remember the plea to help the young man’s “mama.”
I think two agents can see the little crack I make in the blinds because their eyes appear to meet my eye. I quickly flip the louver back down, but not before I notice Goldie standing at their feet, looking up into their faces and back down.
This dog is actually smart after all. He’s all bark – to the right people or wrong depending on how you look at it, I suppose – and no bite.
Goldie did not bark during the entire raid and search, which takes 2-3 hours.
He was a mute mutt.
Lemme find out the dumb dealer’s guard dog is actually an undercover K9.