Intruders

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Have you been to our house? Though Walter cannot see above the bottoms of the window frames, I’m slightly taller and can protect our residence for the both of us. And, I do a good job of it. My bark is serious and scary, despite the fact that I’m the sort of dog that is afraid of an inflated balloon. It’s all about perception, and dogs and children intruding into our space perk up upon hearing me and shuffle more quickly through our domain as a result.

Often, I perch on our friends’ bed or the guest bed to monitor who is on the road behind the house. I literally do this all day long. I’m always alert, I promise. I gruff, blow and cry when someone is on the road. However, when they cross over the invisible line into our yard, such as the neighborhood beagle or chihuahua that always meander into our space, I bark. And, my bark is loud.

When the time is right, the genes of my Great Pyrenees ancestors filter their way through my mutt-like goofiness, buggy eyes, crimped ears and smaller size only to burst out through my lungs with a deep, glorious bark. This bark puts other dogs to shame. Close your eyes and you can visualize the sound coming not from my mouth but that of a giant beast protecting his flock of sheep from wolves on the mountaintops of lands far, far away.

In addition to the neighborhood’s four-legged transients browsing through our domain, there are kids in our yard on occasion. Our man friend has a particular opinion of these young people that live across the road behind our house, that are seen skirting the edge of our yard almost every day. “Those kids are loud and up to no good. They should have respect for our yard.” I agree, and speak my mind about it from the window.

It’s funny, because it’s clear when our man friend speaks of children on our lawn, he makes himself out to be a suburbanite. Per his rules, lines are drawn, respect is requested and the quality of grass is important. Our lady friend always replies, “Oh, let them be. They have business to do. They are children of the country, with no boundaries.”

Oddly enough, though her upbringing was a far, far cry from the country, she feels a connection with these so called delinquents. When these kids wander through our lawn, she inevitably pauses, gets a glint in her eye, looks to the sky and recounts her childhood and its similarities. Hear our lady friend talk and sometimes it seems like she was raised amidst skyscrapers and seas of cars and people, having grown up in the city of Chicago, but find, if you look closely, similar circumstances to these country kids.

For her, tag was called “Chase” and one single game lasted for hours. With a total group of ten or so, kids split off while the designated “it” child counted to one hundred. No more than six years old, upon the start of the game she blasted through the neighborhood and hid in apartment entryways, back porches four stories up, between parked cars in parking lots, amidst garbage cans and anywhere else that seemed reasonable and allowed for long periods of sitting.

Typically, one game resulted in one or two other children being found (and then chased down, thus the name of the game) and the new group banding together to walk the area in defeat to call out the rest of the crew in effort for them to simply abandon their hiding places. “We give up, come out!” They yelled this for hours. One square city block involved so many hiding places that winning a game of Chase was legendary.

The funniest thing, and what I cannot understand, is that there was never a barking dog, never an adult that said “Hey, get off of our lawn!” and never a curious kid in a yard that questioned why her and her friends were intruding upon their domain. How could it be acceptable to hunker down in the tiled entryway of an apartment, among the piles of old newspapers and junk mail, undisturbed for long periods of time and uninterrupted by the building’s residents?

As our lady friend says in explanation, “That’s the city for you.” Everyone is anonymous. Fear of strange backyards or the occasional non-barking dog was nonexistent. Though the population was exceptional, the life of a child taking advantage of a summer day meant not much interaction, oddly.

The best hiding places involved the ones where you could talk loudly to your Chase cohort, not worrying about anyone hearing you while you chatted to let the time go by. The world was your hiding place. Nothing was owned by one person. Strangers, if rarely seen, acted as if you were just a kid doing what kids do.

So, that said, while I bark when I see that particular red-haired boy that traipses through our yard without care, our lady friend pats my back and quiets my concern with the soft words “Don’t give him up, Stan. He might be off to find a good hiding place.” There is comfort she feels knowing that the childhood in this tiny town might just be somewhat akin to her own childhood past in the big city.

Like Walter, it’s as if she cannot see above the window frames. Or, she does not much care. Instead, she relishes in seeing kids wandering, wishes that she can find one in our basement window wells one day or wonders if one will be hiding in our open garage. Unlike the suburbs, the meanderings of children should be care free, without boundaries involving trespassing and, always, not resulting in much gruff from dogs like me.

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