If I ever had any idea of holing up here in my little bungalow by the ocean and becoming a recluse, I rescued the wrong dog.
When I first met him, a fluffy little ball of black fur that had been plucked off the streets of New Orleans along with his mom and siblings, he was cautious with all new people and terrified of men. I attributed it to his being born in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and all the havoc that created. Puppies are imprinted early in life and I’m sure that a scene of devastation peopled mostly by men trying to salvage what they could from the disaster was not the calm quiet environment most puppies are born into. It’s a wonder his mother was able to scavenge food enough to keep her little family alive and thriving until they were rescued.
Before long, however, he made friends with my son and my dad and they became two of his favorite people, but still, men he did not know were all suspect, as well as some women. Kids he's always been fine with. (He not only lets them pat and hug him, but dressing him up and trying to ride him are fine too. He responds by trying to lick their faces off.) He was slow to make new friends pretty much the whole time we lived in Maine, but then we moved to Saint Augustine, Florida. Not only is the climate warmer here, but so are the people. Perhaps it shouldn’t have surprised me that Duff made a complete turnaround.
I should perhaps explain for those who’ve not seen my cozy little bungalow by the sea, that we live on the corner of Old A1A that runs right along the edge of the water and a side street that dead-ends at the ocean. Summerhaven is a miniscule barrier island – if you blink as you go over the bridge coming onto this island, you will discover yourself on the next bridge taking you off of it when you open your eyes again. It’s a fun, friendly and very unique little island and everyone goes by my house on their way to the beach.
That’s when Duff’s social personality kicks in. He barks at a couple of the dogs that pass by, but for most of them, he dashes madly back and forth on the deck just inside the fence in some kind of mock game of chase. But humans are different. He hurries to the gate at the end of the deck and pops up to put his paws on the gate to say HI! And many of them stop to give him a pat. If they are friends, he absolutely must come in the house to find a toy to show them. Not that he’s going to give it to them, but apparently in his mind showing is good enough and if they reach for it, it becomes a game of keep-away – one of his favorites. He’s been like this for most of the time we’ve lived here.
But in the last year, he’s decided that this social thing needs to include me. Even when I am hard at work on a book, my mind focused on the computer screen and my fingers flying over the keyboard, he dashes in to whine at me to alert me that we have company. If I ignore him, he begins thrusting his nose under my wrist very effectively putting an end to any progress on the book. So, of course, I give in and get up to go out to greet whatever friend has stopped by to say hi.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love my neighbors and I enjoy spending time chatting for a minute or five or even longer. I just need Duff to remind me of that fact sometimes.