I live in a relatively quiet neighborhood close to downtown in a sleepy little city whose City Manager has the stated goal of making the city a retirement community. Not a lot goes on most days. My front yard is on one of those tree-lined streets, and my backyard is on an alley that gives access to garages and back yards. Kids play in the alley, cars slow down, and cats track softly over car windshields, unnoticed except on days when it rains and the tracks are muddy. Quite a few people find it pleasant to walk their friends, dogs, spouses, and children along the alley in the early mornings and late afternoons. It’s the “nod and say good morning” kind of alley.
Well, this good morning on my way to work I put my bag in the passenger side of my car in my open garage and take the three steps from the front door to the back bumper, see the person walking, and stop halfway into my ?nod and say good morning.?
A woman whom I do not know is walking down the alley with a cute white and tan spaniel on a leash. She is enjoying the morning and doesn’t see me. In the time it takes for a nod to cancel, she stops beside my charming green utilities company trash can and holds the leash while her spaniel finds itself a spot. In this spot, where I would more than likely be standing if I went to take out the trash, the spaniel proceeds to do what dogs do.
The woman holds the leash patiently and continues to enjoy the summer morning serenity of my backyard, where just a drizzle of rain accents the quiet. I take a couple of steps toward her — it’s not, believe me, a large yard. She is less than 20 feet from me, patiently holding the dog’s leash while he makes a pile in my yard.
“Excuse me,” I say. “Do you know that this is my yard?”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she says, startled. She waits for the dog to finish.
Feeling a need for a better response, I stand there and hold eye contact considering what to say. What she had done was, after all, illegal and not neighborly. Well, I guess it?s illegal. There’s a leash law. But the dog was on a leash, if you want to get particular.
“If you have a bag, I’ll clean it up,” she offers.
What does she mean, “If I have a bag”?
I tell her, “I am on my way to work. I do not have a bag.”
“I’ll come back and clean it up,” she says, pulling the dog away.
Either the rain washed it away (unlikely) or she came back and cleaned it up before I got home from work. But all day long I tried to remember the precise phrasing of that old kindergarten rule about what you do when nobody is looking.