by Dell Franklin
Lulu is a black boxer/Labrador mix who lives around the corner two blocks down and sometimes gets out and prowls our street and ignores me when I call out her name from my deck. I surmise she’s not quite sure I’m the guy who used to live one door over and across the street before I moved here a few years back, but I feel she should at least acknowledge Wilbur because when we walk past her fence on her street she goes to the gate and barks at him like she means business, and Wilbur immediately pulls me to this gate so they can indulge in a heated, vicious, tail-wagging bark-off before I can pull Wilbur, who outweighs Lulu by a good 40 pounds, away.
When Lulu sniffs out our street, never moving closer than two doors down from my deck, she totally ignores Wilbur barking at her in a manner indicating he wants to rip her apart limb from limb.
On a morning some time ago, I was walking Wilbur down the street where we caught hell for my allowing Wilbur to pee on a row of new plants in front of a recently built house by a newcomer to our neighborhood. As Wilbur lifted his leg and watered several of these plants, which are actually little trees, a blind went up and we were chastised like criminals caught in the wrong back yard. Since then I have tried to pull Wilbur’s 90 pounds of powerful bulk away from those plants on a bad knee with some success, because I know this man and his wife are on a constant lookout for our violations of their shrubbery.
On this street I keep Wilbur leashed, which I don’t like to do because his walks are the highlights of his days and he treasures these nuggets of playful and agenda-driven freedom. Of late I’ve taken Wilbur to the bluffs north of town where he can run loose and sniff and pee and shit as he pleases on anything he wants, as long as he doesn’t chase skunks.
Anyway, the other Saturday night, around ten, I walked Wilbur past the home where we’d gotten severely chastised, feeling that at night the owner would not be anticipating dogs peeing on his plants, and when I peered into the open window, to my surprise, the man and wife and a young couple I took for a daughter and son in law, sat at a table facing each other and holding hands and praying, the good book in the hands of the father, the room dimly lit by a single candle, and no sign of the usual TV one saw in almost every house in town this time of night.
I felt this was as good a time as any to encourage Wilbur to pee on the plants, and he did, with gusto, while I lurked behind a parked car to view the new neighbors continue their prayer meeting. I have no problem with this. I felt their humble lowering of heads while the father read was perhaps something miscreants like Wilbur and myself might at some point in our existences need, just for the hell of it, as our intentions were surely not benevolent or respectful or godly, especially when compared to these fine, family oriented people attempting to do the right thing and become good neighbors—except for their intolerance of my dog.
Anyway, the following Sunday morning the father was out tending to the shrubbery when I came down the same street with Wilbur on his leash. The family live on the corner, a couple houses down and across the street from where I once lived, and on this morning Lulu was out, standing in the middle of the street, staring at us, bristling to become engaged with Wilbur. Wilbur became so excited at the prospect of playing grab-ass with Lulu that he pulled hard and cried. I felt it would be unfair to deprive him of one of his favorite pastimes and unleashed him, and the two dogs immediately began moving in a circle of sniffing each others asses, and then Lulu lay on her back in a submissive posture while Wilbur pounced on her and began doing what male dogs do when they feel it is their right to deliver rough affection to a female.
I peered up and saw the man stiffen at such outlandishness. I nodded toward him in a friendly manner but he did not nod back, seemed clearly worried as Lulu nipped Wilbur on the neck, jumped up, and took off on a dead run toward the man holding a spade. Wilbur lumbered after her. Just as Lulu neared the man, and he began to move back, she took a sharp turn and headed into an empty field across the street, and Wilbur continued to give chase. At this point I limped after them on my bad knee and made a pretense of corralling them, which I knew was futile as Lulu tore across the street and led Wilbur on a series of quick starts and stops and broken-field running, again tearing past the man.
He grew increasingly nervous, even rattled, as I apologized profusely for losing control of my pet and igniting this chaos. As Lulu led Wilbur toward the man again, he jumped back, sort of hurried after them as they headed for the row of plants beside his new house, and then he yelled, as if stabbed by a huge sharp knife, and indeed looked wounded, “They peed on my house! They peed on my house!” I scurried over just as they finished and continued their chase, past the man, who turned red, and I yelled at Wilbur, calling him a bad dog and tried to chase down the two animals, but there was no use as I spotted the wife at the window, not happy.
The dogs continued their chase, but this time, to my credit, as they began again heading toward the man’s house, I headed them off and sort of herded them up the street toward where Lulu lives with Dennis and his wife, four doors down. Dennis, my old neighbor and some time drinking companion at Schooner’s Wharf, is a landscaper and as easy going a person as exists in this laid-back small beach town, and when Wilbur chased Lulu into his yard I explained with some guilt the shenanigans Wilbur and Lulu had just perpetrated against our new neighbor.
Dennis, who was loading equipment onto his work truck, just chuckled, for in the past, when his gate was open, Wilbur has chased Lulu into the house, where he is not above peeing on potted plants and furniture. His wife quickly closed the door and I managed to get hold of Wilbur in the yard and leash him, and it was no easy feat pulling him up the street in his state of excitement as he repeatedly turned to look back, where Lulu stood at the gate, totally calm, as if nothing untoward had happened in our quiet neighborhood on a perfect Sunday morning.
Since then, taking the high road, I have changed Wilbur’s morning circuit to completely avoid these new members of our neighborhood, as there are plenty of places to pee without causing a disturbance. §
Dell Franklin writes from his home in Cayucos, Calif., where he lives with his rescue dog, Wilbur. He’s the author of The Ball Player’s Son, a memoir about his father, Murray Franklin, and the early days of big league baseball. Visit his website: dellfranklin.com