I was much too early for an appointment, so I parked my car on a road through a park at the edge of the city. No one else was around. It was light out but still chilly; the spring sun hadn’t risen far enough to shine on the road.
At first I tried to read a newspaper, but I started dozing off. It wasn’t even 7 a.m.
A movement in the undergrowth across the road caught my eye. Two dogs emerged. First was a larger mutt. He looked around a moment and permitted the other one to come out. That is, he made no sound or motion to warn his smaller friend to stay hidden.
Both dogs had filthy, matted fur. But the smaller mutt, some kind of mix including terrier, had patches of bare skin. One floppy ear was half torn off.
He reminded me of the pack of pariah dogs in a West African city. If I came home late at night, they would be on a huge trash pile in my neighborhood, foraging for anything edible. Many were mangy and bore signs of attack by other dogs or by humans. I would pick up a rock or scrap of wood as I neared them – the trash pile was across the street from my apartment – but I would keep as much distance as possible, and they never made a move to attack.
These two walked directly along the road. My lack of movement must have assured the larger mutt that no humans were present or awake. As he walked, he scanned the road and the trees and bushes. He would stop every half minute to be sure his friend was only a few feet behind him. The terrier mix acted more like the pampered pets I’d known. He sniffed the ground for information and wasn’t alert to the danger the other knew might come from any direction.
I shifted in the car seat for a better view. The larger dog saw. He quickly moved to a patch of undergrowth, waited till the smaller one noticed. The larger dog let the smaller one precede him into the safety of the bushes.
They had disappeared.
I had never seen anything like this, except maybe in Disney True-Life Adventures in the 1950s. But Walt wouldn’t have okayed footage of the mangy smaller dog, and a narrator would have given them cute names and made clear the anthropomorphic parallels.
He wouldn’t have compared them to Lennie and George in Of Mice and Men, but I couldn’t help thinking of the Steinbeck characters and their relationship, with its grim outcome.
Other cars were driving through now. The sun was lighting much of the park.
An older, larger wolf takes care of the young in its pack. Was that the stimulus for their bond? If two pet dogs were abandoned by their owner at the same time, would they stick together? Had I seen something unique or typical?
I drove out of the park to find a diner for my breakfast.