Not long after we adopted our dog, someone around the corner adopted a German Shepherd. He seemed to live outside but we thought that might be his preference. I tried not to impose my own attitudes about dog ownership on someone who was not quite an Out East original (the street is infill development built 20 years ago) but had clearly been in our neighborhood before it was desirable. I had had deeply beloved outside dogs growing up. My parents adopted a lab puppy off the neighbor's sister when I was in college and he and his mom and littermates got to roam acres of land between all the houses, a full and varied social life.
Still, this was in a city and also around the time our dog had started sleeping in our bed, so I always kept an eye out for the German Shepherd on my way to work.
He was almost always there, no matter the temperature, ready to bark when anyone walked by. He took his job seriously. One time he wasn't alone; one of his humans was out doing yard work, shushed him, and we heard him call him Bruno.
As the neighborhood learned that there was a large German Shepherd behind a chainlink fence on that corner and people started anticipating being barked at, merely barking must have lost some of its novelty. Bruno started sneaking up on people and barking at them.
I know it was the end of 2019, in the last few weeks of the year, because I know it was after we'd gotten our NIPT bloodwork back and had the 20-week anatomy scan. Maybe it was some of the anxiety lifted off of us.
It was well after dark, on an after-work dog walk. As we were walking that way, we saw Bruno creeping from behind his house to the fence to scare us. Stephen and I made eye contact. I'm not sure what possessed us to do this, but we both started tiptoeing up as best we could with our own dog in tow, jumped up, and startled Bruno.
He yelped and ran back behind his house. We laughed but immediately felt bad.
For weeks after, he wouldn't bark when we walked by. Eventually he settled on a goodbye bark after we'd passed. I know he kept barking at everyone else because a friend of ours moved in a few blocks further down and also walked a dog past that fence.
Once we were doing regular daycare commutes a year later, we noticed we hadn't seen Bruno in a while. We thought there was at least one fewer car in the driveway, but we couldn't be sure.
In the time since, Stephen has sometimes seen him, briefly, in that backyard around the holidays. Maybe it was an adult child's dog, we thought.
Today we took the kid and the dog on a short walk in the drizzle. We let our dog choose the route at the four-way stop and he chose west. Walks right now are not the most meditative or the most conversational, as I'm trying to keep the kid from getting hurt. Halfway down the block, Stephen stopped and said, "Psst. Samantha." Then he nodded at Bruno's house.
And there was Bruno, behind the fence with a tennis ball in his mouth, staring at us and wagging his tail.