Walking the dog on Second Avenue, I struck up a conversation with a man working in one of the warehouse businesses there. Asked about the dog, I told him he came up here from a shelter in Georgia, and that his age was uncertain - maybe three or four. The man was a Georgian too - the Republic not the state - and he told me that in his home country, where he grew up, dogs were kept outside. They were working animals, and knew no luxuries. He had lived on a farm, high in the mountains, and one night, when he was a child, the family was awoken by a terrible howling. It was three in the morning; such a noise at this hour was quite out of the ordinary. His grandmother went downstairs and opened the door to find their dog waiting on the doorstep. He walked inside and stood quietly by the hearth. By now the other family members, too curious to sleep, had come downstairs too. The dog greeted them, one by one, licking their hands and rubbing his nose into their bodies, inviting caresses. The round complete, he settled on the rug in front of the fire and curled himself into a tight bundle. Five minutes later he had breathed his last.
This was a strange, sad, romantic tale for nine in the morning on Second Avenue. After the telling, the man, flat capped and sturdy in stature, somewhere in his fifties or sixties, continued to talk on the subject of dogs: their innate recognition of good or evil, their tender hearts, their sensing of the spirit world. I might have been in the mountains.
On Sixth, the animal talk was prosaic. A thirty-something woman to her male companion:
"Well. I guess we won't have to cat-sit Olivia Newton John again."