It couldn’t have been more than about two feet tall when I saw it walk around the corner the first time. I was walking alone as seemed to be enshrined to me lately. Living in the city, it wasn’t unusual to cross paths with strays and the dog certainly appeared so. The mottled black fur at least bore the hallmark of an animal whose home had long ceased being protected from elemental forces. Plus, he possessed no collar, tag, or anything else to show it was owned by anyone but itself. What immediately struck me more than anything else was the unnatural calm of the animal. Here, for all intents and purposes, was a creature that knew me only as an impediment to shelter. Yet he showed neither aggressiveness nor deference upon my sudden arrival. It merely sat on haunches, waiting for me to determine the approach.
I circled around to the right, making sure to stay far enough away in case some unknown provocation set it off. Rather than scurry to find shelter or a meal after I passed, it rose and began following me. It kept pace, staying at the periphery as I walked the few blocks remaining to my house. As I ascended the staircase, I was convinced I’d have a furry nose butting against my back legs. But as I opened the door to step inside, I turned to find the animal merely circle around a few times before plopping squarely in the middle of the short walkway that led to the front door. I went over to the fridge, finding a small amount of scrap burger meat that I would at least give the dog something to feed its belly with. But when I came back to the open front door to lay the dish upon the stoop, it was gone. I searched up and down the block, but any trace of it had vanished into the ether.
Yet the next morning, as I closed the door and turned to make my way down the front steps, I saw the dog in the exact same place it had been the previous afternoon. I reached out my hand to assure myself I wasn’t being plagued by some sort of mirage. Yet here it was as if it had never left. It again made no attempt to reach out a paw or even a muzzle at my approach. Rather, it sat there as if goading me on to touch it. Upon contact, I was surprised at how solid the dog felt. He had to be a stray and yet he didn’t appear so now. It also seemed as if it had found a way to groom itself, the black fur meeting some sort of styling implement in the hours since its initial appearance. The hair felt like silk to the touch, and only upon looking at my watch did I realized ten minutes had passed. I would be late if I dallied further. Once more, it followed behind as I walked the few blocks down towards the bodega that currently employed me, an English major guaranteeing the right to pay tribute on the back of minimum wage labor. I stood just inside the doorway and waited for it to follow. But it again merely sat down by the front entrance, paws placed underneath its head. It repeated the pattern as I left later that day, only this time going up as far as the porch before settling down. It made no attempt to enter, even after I left the door open a spell to entice it to come inside.
The next morning dawned gray and a bit chilly, a fog having rolled in off the nearby lake to coat the surroundings in a thin yet impenetrable shell of mystery. I had nowhere to be that day and no one to be with. I walked to the front door and peered out the keyhole, figuring the dog had left for warmer quarters during the night. Yet there he lay in the exact spot, not having moved a muscle. Incredibly, the dog had grown overnight, resembling a German Shepard and not the Terrier it had initially appeared as. Its fur was neat, practically dog show-esque in presentation. It could not have been the same dog and yet it must, the coal-black eyes unmistakable.
I flung open the front door and without thinking gently lifted the creature up, setting it back down in the hallway. This time, it leaped to its feet and sidled by, rubbing its face into me as it did so. I felt compelled to run my hands against its fur. I marveled again at how silky smooth it felt to the touch. It grew further excited at the attention and soon bowled me over onto my back, tongue licking at my face. I put my hands up in mock defense, but I knew I was irrecoverably won over. There came a knock at the door but I ignored it, too caught up in the antics of the dog to care. The knocks persisted for a time but they only faded into the background as my attentions were paid elsewhere. They had their chance before. It was just the dog and I now, no doubt soon to be the best of friends.