I envy people who have total command of their dogs. I’ve owned in my time three of them outright. Although I shouldn’t count the first one whom we got early in our marriage. He —they’ve all been males—lasted a very brief time. It was our first apartment on a corner across from Gage Park High School. We lived in one of the first floor units. A sweet elderly couple, the Denemarks, warmly welcomed us when we moved in. They had lived in the other unit on the first floor for decades and had grown old with the building.
My dad’s cousin was our landlord, the absentee variety. Despite our kinship—which was technical at best, he treated us like any other tenant. Except he allowed us to have a dog.
It was a nondescript breed we bought at a dog pound. Small, brown and white, and, by all outward appearances, pleasant and a bit lively. It barked a lot like many young dogs tend to do.
We assumed everyone in the universe, or at least in our building, would love it. Unconditionally.
But in the Denemark universe, dogs were a nuisance. Of course we had no idea of this at the time.
We would take the dog out on a leash when necessary so he could relieve himself conveniently on the parkway grass along the sidewalk next to the building. It seemed like a harmless inoffensive thing to do.
But the Denemarks disagreed. Emphatically. Which we soon discovered.
They had lived so long in my relative’s building that they, in a somewhat delusional way, thought it was theirs.
Let me interject why we assumed it was the Denemark’s ire that we provoked.
In the short time we lived in the apartment, we subscribed to magazines that always seemed to arrive a little late. We realized after a while that the Denemarks would read them first before they left them in the hallway. Earmarked pages and coffee stains led us to this conclusion.
The Denemarks, for this reason, began to fall in our esteem. They lost what had been our absolute trust. They were not what they seemed. But we pretended whenever we bumped into them that nothing had changed . We pardoned them for co-opting our magazines. Age has its prerogatives, we felt.
But things quickly turned ugly.
One morning, upon leaving our apartment we nearly stepped on what appeared to be the droppings of a small dog. Like our own. They neatly rested on the cover of a Time magazine. The latest edition. The one we hadn’t gotten yet.At this point we began to rethink the wisdom of having a dog.
And in a few short days we no longer did.