The faint snuffling sound gave me pause. I stopped, turned off my MP3 player and listened. But all I heard was the distant drone of traffic and the light pattering of a sprinkler hitting the pavement.
Puzzled, I resumed my walk. A quarter mile into my daily stroll, my thoughts were full of deadlines, dinner and dogs.
Dogs? That’s what I’d heard! The snuffling sound a dog makes while exploring the wonderful world of fire hydrants, trees, light posts and my ankles.
Sure enough, as I slowed my stride, I felt hot breath and a cold nose in the vicinity of my ankle. I looked down to see a medium-size charcoal gray dog with a white stripe down his overly-curious snout.
“Well, hey there, buddy,” I said. “Where do you belong?”
He gazed up at me with soulful brown eyes. His pink tongue lolled from his mouth, his perky ears seemingly immune to the cacophony of barking his presence had instigated.
While they grudgingly tolerate my daily intrusion into their ’hood, the rest of the dogs on the block were not pleased by the presence of this furry stranger hanging around my ankles.
The black lab across the street began barking furiously. A yappy little terrier threw herself against a fence in a fierce frenzy of warning.
My new friend sported a nice-looking collar with tags jingling around his neck, so he obviously belonged to someone. “Go home!” I said, sharply, and pointed in a vague direction anywhere away from me. “Go home, now!”
He obliging trotted a few feet in front of me, then stopped and looked expectantly up at me. Scanning the area, I didn’t see anyone looking for a missing dog. I don’t know much about dogs, and though he seemed friendly, I didn’t relish the thought of reaching toward his powerful jaws to read his tags.
“Go home!” I said again, and resumed my walk at a somewhat brisker pace.
My new friend found that pace to his liking and he loped alongside, pausing only to sniff, snuffle and do what dogs do on walks.
I crossed the street. He crossed with me. I sped up. He sped up. Apparently, this dog thought I needed supervising. Drivers slowed and shook their heads as they passed us and I wanted to yell, “He’s not my dog! I know there’s a leash law!”
Rounding a corner, we approached a guy watering his lawn. As Arfie (by this time I’d taken to calling him after a poor dog that had been much in the news) trotted across the grass, I said, “He’s not my dog. He’s been following me for a half mile!”
Startled, the fellow addressed Arfie. “GO HOME!” he hollered. Taking advantage of the distraction I hustled across the street. Seconds later my shadow was breathing on my ankles again, this time a bit wet from the neighbor’s hose.
My cellphone rang. “What are you doing?” a friend asked.
“Walking my dog,” I replied.
She got a kick out of that and asked what he looked like. I described Arfie and told her I thought he was probably a boxer.
By this time, I’d gotten a bit attached to him, and when he crossed the street without looking, I clicked my tongue. He quickly hustled back to my side. In fact, when he ventured too far into people’s lawns or flower beds, he always obeyed my tongue clicks and returned to my ankle vicinity. I can tell you from experience this does not work with cats.
I actually enjoyed the company on my usually solitary walk. Arfie was a good listener and seemed fascinated by my commentary.
I decided to circle back to where he’d joined me in the hopes that he’d return home. Sure enough, when we approached the block where he’d found me, he dashed ahead up to a front porch and sat down.
That’s when I saw the animal control truck approaching. Someone must have called them about Arfie, I thought.
The driver pulled over and gestured behind me. “Is that your dog?” she asked.
I followed her pointing finger and sure enough, there was Arfie a few feet behind me. “No,” I replied. “But I just took him on a 4-mile walk.”
She got out of the truck and approached Arfie, who promptly took cover behind a bush. “What kind of dog is he?” I asked.
The animal control officer sighed, “Oh, he’s a pit bull,” she said.
A chill of alarm flickered down my spine. “A pit bull?” I gasped. “I just walked a pit bull?”
She nodded, circling closer to him. “How did he behave on your walk?”
Gulping, I said, “He was good as gold – sweet and obedient.”
She shook her head. “Really? He’s been reported as a very aggressive pit bull.”
And that’s when I resumed my walk at a much faster pace. OK, maybe I even jogged a bit. I left the animal control officer in the dust as I headed home with an accelerated heart rate that had nothing to do with my daily exercise.
When I posted about my dog-walking adventure on Facebook, reaction was split into two camps: the “Thank God you’re OK, you could’ve been mauled” group and the “Oh, no, I hope they didn’t take Arfie to the pound because pit bulls are so sweet” group.
As for me, I just hoped Arfie was safely reunited with his owners, and honestly I was relieved he didn’t follow me all the way home.
I don’t know how I would have explained his arrival to my cats.