What was that? I saw something dart across the road under the shadow of the street light. Odd. The dogs paid no attention; they kept walking and sniffing the ground.

Punkita made cooing noises . I’m never sure what they mean, but I try to mimic the sound. Ooooh, oooh, oooh, oooh, oooh, oooh, oooh. Softly, barely audible to me, maybe sharing her fears with Joey, or warning him about something out of place in the neighborhood.

I open my lips and try it. Uuoooof, uoooof- to see if she looks up at me, if she thinks I’m a dog too. Cross over, I say as we approach the intersection, looking both ways. This has become a habit, even at this time of morning, making sure the paper person was in the other part of the community, not swerving back and forth looking for street numbers on the houses, and perhaps missing the sight of me and the two pups, crossing over.

Safe I said quietly, good dogs. Pulled up the stairs, I once again saw the black shape running ahead of us on the East side of the street. I stopped and did a double take, straining my eyes in the darkness. What was that? It was too big and too fast to be a rat, but too small to be a coyote. The dogs were uninterested or unaware. Was I seeing things? I depended on them to alert me if there were animals running loose, or people approaching from behind or from alongside the houses in the dark.

They continued dragging me up the street, making the normal detours away from a “big dog” house towards a “little dog” house- based on their remembrance of the volume and depth of the barking from the unseen canines on previous tours.

The sun was beginning to rise, a garage door opened three doors up, and a Honda pulled out right in front of us, the woman still half asleep and not realizing that anyone would be approaching, much less walking their pets this early.
The dogs looked up expectantly, grinning, leaping in the air on the end of their leashes- ready to run right inside this stranger’s garage or house or see if a treat was waiting for them.

It is quiet here in the early morning. I enjoy the little games we play with each other - which route the walk will take today, and whether or not I’d pull the leash tight and make them march beside me, or if I’d let them romp as they pleased within the limits of my strength, and let them circle around me, tying me up with their leashes.

Did I just imagine the shape in the darkness?

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