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Unless you’re a fan of winter, you’ll be happy to know Calvin is our dog and is not a groundhog. He’s a good dog. He’s a funny dog. But he’s not a watchdog and, thankfully, he’s not a groundhog or we’d have six extra weeks of winter every year.
Below is a nowhere-near-exhaustive list of things that scare my dog, Calvin:
- His shadow
- My shadow
- Our cat
- Any insect that flies
- Most insects that don’t fly
- People in uniform
- People out of uniform
- Snow men
- Inflatable Christmas decorations
- Our cat’s shadow
So, lots of shadows scare the pup. He seems okay with tree shadows as long as the wind isn’t blowing and the shadows don’t move.
My solution is to walk him between midnight and one a.m. No shadows show up. So is he Mr. Happy-Go-Doggy whistling down the street? No, he is not. He creates things to scare him. Like the unknown. Only a goldfish would make a worse watchdog.
[“Calvin turns and barks at the man after he’s ten feet past us. He is one tough dog.”]
Some nights during our walk, he’ll sit on the sidewalk and refuse to move forward convinced, I’m convinced, there’s a shadow lurking down the road. As if something wicked this way comes when, in fact, nothing is coming.
So the other night, this happened.
It’s around 12:45 a.m. and we’re two or three blocks from our front door. It’s unseasonably nice for January, so I’m out in my black referee jacket and jeans. What I’m saying is, it’s dark out and I’m dark. I’m working through some details of a new story in my head, not paying much attention.
The leash goes taut. Not because Calvin is champing at the bit to pull me forward. Like Max in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Calvin is behind me, and trying to keep us from barreling down Mount Crumpet Avenue. (Okay, Taylor Avenue, I’m just being Seussian to keep you from getting too scared.)
I give the leash a mild tug. He prances two steps, sits on his haunches again. Refuses to budge. “C’mon, dude, dog up,” I say. The street is dark where he sits, but I’m nearer an approaching street light. Ahead, a stop sign and a large oak flank the sidewalk. My back to the corner. I urge Calvin to continue. A gentle tug on the leash. A heavy sigh. A plea. He sits. Stares.
Then I see it. The shadow. Stretching out beyond me on the sidewalk. I spin. The guy is five feet in front of me. Approaching fast. Hands in his pockets.
“Evening,” he says. A nod. He’s by me in a blink.
“Nice night,” I say to his back, my voice cracking. My telltale heart pounding.
He passes by Calvin who now decides he’ll hurry and join me. Then, Calvin turns and barks at the man after he’s ten feet past us. He is one tough dog. I shush him, watch the man’s shadow fade in the darkness and don’t care if six more weeks of winter are on the way. I pledge to walk Calvin immediately after dinner the next night.