1. Do We Resemble Our Pets?

Baxter loves leaves.

“Do you think we resemble our pets?”, I asked my neighbour Gil, as I scratched the dog, who didn’t think of himself as a dog, behind the ears.

“Well, quite possibly we does”, drawled Gil in his best Bruce County accent, looking philosophically through the glass of his Sleeman’s Honey Brown Ale at Selma Filk manhandling her three Shih-Tzu’s down the street. “Certainly SOME folks does…”

I looked up just as the dog who didn’t think of himself as a dog launched headlong at the baby crib rail we use as a gate on the back deck. “Yes, she does come to mind…”

“Well,” continued Gil, “it is a good thing some folks pets don’t live too long – otherwise there might be an attitude situation around here.”

I nodded in agreement. If there is one thing that defines my little town it is the variety of pets being lead down the street, poking their heads out of truck windows or generally meandering from several miles away to deposit what is left over in their digestive tract on my front lawn. If you chance to meet any of the local citizenry at say, the Fall fair where pets are discouraged, you come away with an entirely different perspective regarding their personalities than when you are tap-dancing around a still smoldering deposit on the sidewalk next to the River Village Co-op! How revealing it is to see the pompous Mayor chatting on the street while dangling what is for all intents and purposes a small black floor mop on the end of a rhinestone studded leash. Certainly there must be some correlation between adjusting property mil rates and remembering to take Fifi to the grooming parlour!

Ms. Filk was another case in point. Every day from sunrise to sunset she walked the dogs, yappy, snarly like puffs of distemper, up and down the street, collecting gossip and former friends wherever she went. And Jim Livingstone, who strode up and down the street, shoes perfectly polished and nary a hint of lint on his Munsingwear polo shirt, with Gretchen the standard breed poodle walking primly at his side. Somehow he always seemed to avoid the deposits mid-sidewalk left by Diesel from one street over!

Gil took the longer view, sadly placing the empty Sleeman’s bottle on the deck railing and reaching for a Podium Red. “Think of the people here without pets,” he said through a curl of smoke. “Most of thems are not the happiest people in the world!”

Gil had cats – four of them – which scattered whenever he or anyone else entered the room. He was also a large man, perhaps 6 feet 3 inches and well over 300 pounds. And slightly clumsy of foot. Gil liked his pets that way, purring when he was asleep and the hell out of the way when he wasn’t.

The dog who didn’t think of himself as a dog gave me a one eyebrow up look as I unhooked his collar from the baby crib rail.

“What about Mrs. Wincesome on Brownley?”, Gil stated, waving his Podium in a westward arc that singed the tail of the dog who didn’t consider himself a dog.

“All those years, not one pet, not a dog or a cat or even one of them squawky parrot-things! And all that time a face like a prune suppository.” Gil chuckled at his own humour. “Then right after Alf Wincesome flips the tractor on himself she ups and buys a Schnauzer!” The dog who didn’t think of himself as a dog flattened against the deck as the Podium flicked past his ear to land – still burning – dangerously close to the oil tank.

I nodded as I got up to look for a garden hose or at least a pail of sand.

“Now look at her,” said Gil, “Hardly ever home, she and the Schnauzer gally-vanting all over Hell’s half acre – garage sales, church suppers, movies in Hanover – why I even ran into her in the lingerie department at Walmart!”

Gil was single so I didn’t ask.

“Schnauzers are like that, eh! Smart dogs them, but yappy! Friendly though…” Gil added quickly, “Seems to have done wonders for Mrs. Wincesome!”

I looked up from watering the oil tank and nodded, “Another beer Gil?”

It was several days later that I happened to be in the Value Mart pricing out purple peppers. Amazing things those pepper – sweet and smokey – I have been using them quite a lot lately. The definitely not ordinary son dislikes them intensely – the extra-ordinary son inhales them between Facebook statuses so I am not quite sure if he likes them or not.

But I digress…

As I was leaving the Value Mart I happened upon Mrs. Wincesome and her Schnauzer. “Good Morning Millie!” I waved from across the parking lot, “How’s Jock doing today?”, I asked pointing at the Schnauzer.

“He is doing GREAT!” Mrs. Wincesome yelled back over top of a rather decrepit F150 trying to either park itself or commune with a long line of shopping carts waiting for the lot boy.

I stepped around the F150 and gave her the thumbs up as I hunted for my keys.

Mrs. Wincesome motioned for me to hold up, so I stopped, one foot inside the Toyota and my left Rockport gingerly sidestepping a crumpled Timmy’s Double-Double.

“Do you know Gilbert Chickweed?” she asked in a whisper not six inches from my chin.

“Ahh, well, yes I do…” I replied, somewhat perplexed.

“He’s following me,” she said with a conspiratorial look, nodding past my shoulder at the Hydro One truck on the street.

I looked past her at the truck, noting a large pile of cigarette butts beneath the cherry picker half hidden behind a pole. A curl of smoke spiralled around the top of the pole like a murder of crows. I pursed my lips.

“I keep running into him in the oddest places,” she continued, “places you would NEVER expect a man to be…”

“Hmmm…” I replied, looking over my glasses towards the truck.

“After Alf died he suggested I get a cat!” she snorted, “That’s why I bought Jock – imagine me with a cat! – now I keep running into him in the oddest places – if he isn’t hiding!”

I shook my head and shrugged my shoulders, there really wasn’t much I could say.

Millie nodded her agreement, “I just thought YOU should know…” she tossed back over her shoulder as she strong-armed Jock back to her car.

I was halfway home, just north of where the Belmore road angles across Highway 4 and scratching a wee patch of bark on my wrist when it hit me.

People do indeed resemble their pets.