Sometimes the best therapy for mental distress is manual labor, so this afternoon I decided to rake Amy and Larry's yard. The wind had calmed from yesterday, so I didn't have to worry about my efforts being destroyed by stiff breezes, but I did have to work uphill at the beginning because there's only one gateway out of their fenced backyard, and the enclosed hill that slopes down on both sides of the house was covered with bushels of dead leaves. It felt wonderful to be out in the fresh air, using my long-disused muscles, hauling crunchy cartfuls of delicate tree-scraps around to the growing pile at the curb.
Two hours in to my raking, I was stacking dried bamboo and fallen limbs next to the chain link fence when I suddenly realized I was being watched.
On the neighbor's patio next door stood an ancient black Labrador. Not only was its muzzle white with age, the tips of its paws had greyed too. Its calm eyes were turned toward me, and its eyebrows were dancing up and down inquisitively as it gently sniffed the air. I could tell that it was "seeing" me with its nose, and curiously considering my activities, as one eyebrow went up, then the other, indicative of a mute canine internal dialogue.
I returned to my raking when the dog began staring at its owners' back door expectantly. A moment later there was a unusual sound, like the honk of one of those old jalopy squeeze-bulb horns. Just the dog, reminding its owners that the shadows were starting to lengthen outside, and it wanted to come into the warm.
Larry told me tonight that the neighbors work for the State Department, and the dog has been with them for years living in Europe and elsewhere in the United States. Truly a venerable beast in its autumn years.