The dog’s eyes are unfocused. Standing outside the cafe, she looks up hopefully each time the door opens. She is chocolate colored so I take to thinking of her as “Chocolate.” Her leash is tied to a cable that secures a newspaper box to a traffic sign post. Just out of her reach, a fire hydrant sits ignored. She paces back and forth a bit nervously, sitting once or twice for a moment but then standing back up and walking around. She walks and stands with her legs a little splayed out like a puppy, as if she is unsteady and has to work against tipping over by mistake.
Although she is scruffy the way older dogs get sometimes, she is still very beautiful. She has sad eyes. Chocolate is also so very obviously mellow that almost everyone who passes by stops to pet her. She accepts the petting with a minimum of interest and no wagging of any kind. She angles her head up under each petting hand to get a sniff in, impulsively. Chocolate is distracted. Around her neck is an old fragment of a knit scarf, tied in a knot. Probably it was knit by her owner. It is the kind of thing a cat would never put up with. The scarf is discolored with age and clumpy like a dreadlock and I wonder if it bothers her. No doubt she would enjoy a good scratching under it. A passing man with a toy-like pug runs into someone he knows and pauses right by the newspaper box for a conversation. As the people begin to chat, the pug and Chocolate greet each other nose to nose for some preliminary sniffing. She is still distracted and maybe not interested and begins smelling the man’s shoe instead. Meanwhile, the pug circles around back to sniff Chocolate’s other end. Then, completely unaware of their spontaneous coordination, the trio solemnly execute a slapstick gag. The man backs up, forcing Chocolate back, and as a result, the pug. They all move ponderously in reverse like linked train cars backing slowly around a curve. Once or twice the pug seems to get more of a snoutful than he wants. And then it is over. The man is still involved in his conversation. Chocolate is still distracted. The pug sniffs intently but eventually loses interest himself. A minute later, his conversation over, the man seems to notice Chocolate for the first time. He pets her goodbye and pulls the pug along after him. For Chocolate, the minutes continue to drag.