By Scott Jacobs

I have on my block a fine collection of neighbors, the most well-liked being Ed Pennington, who has endeared himself to us all this winter by buying  a new snowblower to clear the sidewalk from one end of the block to the other.

Ed’s efforts in good weather and bad make the final chapter of my last book Never Leave Your Block a moot point. I once thought you can judge your neighbors by the uneven way they shovel the sidewalk in front of their houses. Ed so loves his new snowblower he clears an even path regardless of race, creed, or whether he likes you or not.

Ed’s 40th Birthday Party

When Ed turned 40 last weekend, all the neighbors turned out to celebrate. I thought an appropriate gift might be a libation of his choice. (“He’s a gin soak,” his wife advised.) So I arrived with a bottle of Bombay Sapphire only to discover that all the other neighbors also think Ed has to be under the influence to go out in this godforsaken weather to clear their walk. My bottle was one of 30 stacked on a table as birthday presents.

It was another snowy night in Chicago, but Ed’s house was full of good cheer. We live only a few doors down the street, so my wife and I decided we’d “tag team” the party––sending one, leaving the other at home to babysit our 6-year-old, then switching off in the middle.

In the interval while our son slept and we were both away, we trusted that our new dog, an Australian shepherd my son has somehow decided to call Majesty, would safeguard him from intruders during the hand-off.

Her Majesty and I

Her Majesty and I were just coming off an uneasy weekend. She’s only been in our house for two weeks. She is, technically, still a puppy, only seven months old. But it’s hard to think of her as a puppy when she eats like a horse, poops like an elephant, and growls at me every time I approach to pet her.

I was left to care for her while my wife and son went off sledding with his cousins. To get her to go outside for a walk, I had to chase her around and corner her to put on a choke-collar leash. At night, while I was sleeping, I left the rope leash on her to make it easier to corral her in the morning––and she gnawed it off.

No Problem with Women

My wife and Majesty have hit it off big time. My wife nestles and cuddles her, and her Majesty licks her face. My wife buys her toys at PetSmart – the latest is a glow-in-the-dark dog collar attachment– and her Majesty’s response is more kisses and cuddles: like thanks for the diamond necklace.

But when my son and I approach, her Majesty only growls. She runs under the table, up the stairs, from one end of the house to the other, even when I’m holding dog treats. Frankly, I’m beginning to think she ‘s a dog dyke, if there is such a thing.

A Get-to-Know-You Weekend

I tried over the weekend to make friends with her Majesty.  After the usual sniff-the-hand introductions––and I got an arm around her neck––I fed her more treats and petted her under the ear. I took her for walks, saying “good girl” every time she didn’t run away. I sang her songs, lifted her on the bed to sleep with me at night, and cleaned up her poop on the carpet the next morning without saying a bad word––or strangling her.

Welcome Home

My stint at Ed’s party was brief. When my wife arrived after putting our son to bed, I returned home to take my turn. I unlocked the front door and her Majesty was waiting.

When she saw it was me––not my wife––she growled. When I held out my hand of friendship, she raced away into the bathroom. I worried that maybe in my wife’s absence her Majesty might have eaten my son. But he was sleeping soundly. I came back downstairs and found her Majesty growling at the foot of the steps.

“Thank you for not eating my child,” I said. She sat stoically as I petted her. Then she looked me in the eye and licked my hand.

Maybe there’s hope.

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