Life in the Courtyard …

The view above is from my balcony overlooking the courtyard formed by four adjacent buildings in my apartment complex. It’s normally a fairly quiet and serene place, interrupted by the daily (and nightly) comings and goings of neighbors and their dogs, because it is, in fact, kind of the doggy toilet.

It’s okay. Everyone is good about picking up their dog’s poop in the handy complex-provided green plastic bags and depositing it in the garbage cans, which are–thankfully–away from my vantage point, sight- and sniff-wise. I sit out on my balcony and read a lot … so much so that I view that space as an extra room on my apartment and only once or twice have I ever stopped and wondered, “What’s that smell?” and realized, It was, in fact, doggie pee.

I sometimes feel like I’m one of the only apartment-dwellers in the complex who doesn’t have a dog. I’m not exactly a dog person, to be honest. I’m more of a cat person and had them for years, but sadly I found out I’m allergic to them. (That explains how I developed asthma so late in life.) While I was “fine” for many years scooping out litter boxes with my handy-dandy pooper-scooper, I never enjoyed it and the thought of picking up a freshly-manufactured doggy doo-doo even with the protection of a thin shield of plastic between me hand and said dooky kind of churns my stomach. A smart, independent, “go away human,” cat would be much more my speed, pet-wise. There is a little cat who lives in one of the apartments on the ground floor of the building opposite me. For a while I thought he (or she) was a feral cat, since this complex has had a problem with them in the past, especially in the parking garage. (I still see tiny cat paw prints on my windshield from time to time). One day I walked by the corner apartment and saw him sitting forlornly behind the glass sliding door to his patio, waiting patiently to be let loose on the world. He—let’s call him “he” for now, okay? Gender specificity is a little easier to type—is very playful, bounding back and forth between buildings, chasing insects and the occasional smaller bird, and just having a good old time. I was incredibly relieved to see him safely imprisoned inside, since he’s too cute to be running wild all the time.

But this little grey and white kitty isn’t the only courtyard show. No, not by far. Each weekend, I’m treated to an opera-like performance. There’s an older man who has a cute little Yorkie and he brings it out, usually on Sundays, to water it. That’s right … water it. He gets out a garden hose, turns on the water and the dog runs in and out of the stream, trying to bite the water, barking out its merry little heart.

Sounds cute, doesn’t it? It is … the first time you see it. But for such a tiny little dog, he has a giant bark, one that literally sounds like that word: BARK, BARK, BARK, BARK, BARK. After about 10 minutes or so of the water chase, the man takes his little fur-baby and towels him off on one of the benches seen in the above photo. Then he proceeds to roll up the hose, disconnect it from the faucet and put it away. And every time—EVERY. FUCKING. TIME—the dog takes this moment to plan its Great Escape and gets out of Dodge. Yep, this little dog goes on walkabout, causing its owner to roam around the complex loudly clapping his hands and calling the dog’s name in a usually futile effort to find him. Oh, he eventually does after much looking; the dog always shows up. But I can never figure out why he doesn’t put it on a leash once the dog is done cavorting in the water and toweled down, so, you know, he doesn’t have to use NORAD or send up a flare to find it each and every time. Add to that his annoyingly loud voice, which features a bit of a Southern twang, calling the dog’s name repeatedly and you have something that’s almost worthy of summer stock theater. We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto, if I can borrow that hoary old movie cliche.

I occasionally have friends over (occasionally I have friends) and we sit on the balcony and I provide a quiet, running play-by-play of this weekly scene, one I have become so inured to that it’s almost comical. They get a kick out of it; I suppose I do, too, but it’s real simple: Dude, put your fucking dog on a leash (like just about everyone else does, even the guy who wears the “Hilary Clinton killed my friends” T-shirt) and you won’t have to play hide and seek every weekend and risk it getting smooshed in the parking lot next door behind the building. This dog is a real escape artist … I would have named him Houdini.

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