Two big black dogs with bushy tails. Both gregarious, and subject to roaming sans companion. Often mistaken one for the other by undiscerning humans.
One is the strong silent type: tall, dark, and handsome, he sometimes smells like the fish he just rolled in. The other is chatty and barky and smells like a rose.
One Malamute mix = Emmett.
One Newfoundland mix = Sasha.
“Emmett’s here,” says Martha on the phone, “he just came over from Willow’s.”
I look out the window: he’s in the yard. “I don’t think so,” I reply, but Martha’s insistent until I manage to get in, “I’m looking at him.”
When I first moved to Lybarger Street and was getting the lay of the land with Emmett, two neighbors, strangers, on separate occasions, lectured me vehemently on the leash laws. “Oh, now he’s on a leash,” sneered – yes, sneered! – an immaculately coiffed older woman walking past us down the hill.
I was taken aback; I’d never seen her before. “Where do you live,” I asked tiredly. It had been a hard move.
“Why?” she demanded to know.
As non-threateningly as possible, I said, “So we can avoid your street.” And we did, for several years, manage to avoid her block, even though it was just around the corner from our house and on the way to the grocery store.
It wasn’t until years after we met Sasha, who lived two streets over and half a block up, that I finally put it all together, the mistaken identities. I realized that (1) Sasha had a bad reputation in some circles, and (2) if you’ve seen one big black dog, you’ve seen ‘em all, apparently. Perhaps humans look alike to canines, too.
Dinah, however, Sasha’s human, was enthusiastic about Emmett’s presence in the ‘hood. Playdates ensued as soon as I got over her extremely warm welcome. It had been awhile since someone was happy to see me. Emmett, though, considered them family fairly quickly. If he wasn’t in our yard, he was usually in Sasha’s. Dinah and I had each other on speed dial.
Over the years, Emmett and Sasha had many sleepovers, depending on which human had to go out of town. Dinah began introducing Emmett as Sasha’s boyfriend. Then they were engaged. And then, one day, Dinah decided they were married. A secret, dog-only affair, evidently. I made a crockpot of bison stew for the newlyweds.
The humans’ work schedules were slightly different. I went to my job in Tumwater earlier, so I walked Emmett over to Sasha’s in the morning. Dinah brought them back to my yard on the way to her job in Lacey, so when I came home in the afternoon, I was hailed by the best housemates I’ve ever had. Talk about welcoming! “Hi honies, I’m home!”
One year, I went to France with my mother, but only after I cleared it with Dinah. “Are you up for two weeks of Emmett?” I asked.
“Oh yeah,” she replied confidently, “it’ll be fun!”
While I was gone, she was kind enough to respond to my worried, hurried emails from Montgeron. “Emmett’s fine! We just got back from Burfoot Park! Although Sasha misses your chicken broth.”
(Emmett and I ate the same things, mainly: fish, fowl, rabbit, bison, potatoes, carrots, apples. The crockpot was full most days, and was a big hit with Sasha; I usually spooned a meaty broth over their dry food. Eventually, Sasha nicknamed me the Chicken Lady.)
When the airport shuttle dropped me at the top of the drive after 15 days away, I couldn’t get down to the gate fast enough. Such a reception! Bouncing, jumping, grinning – and that was just me!
They’re gone now, both Emmett and Sasha, or, rather, they’ve left their bodies behind. A true gentleman, Emmett went first. A year later, almost to the day, Sasha relieved herself of her cancerous frame, too.
Two big black dogs with bushy tails, one quiet, one barky, playing in the snow.
Both contagious with joy.