September 9, 2014

Mornings With Jake

I'm finally able to say that 2013 was a very dark time for me - little employment, the loss of a cat and a friend to suicide....and quite honestly, I was becoming the kind of isolated, nasty person that I had always loathed. Thankfully, my recent days have been much, much better....

....and it all started during the polar vortex with a dog taking a dump in front of my building.

Now, just to let you know - I live behind a storefront, and I'm friendly with the neighborhood businesses. (Working for a business development agency in the past has that effect). But back in January, venturing out into subpolar temperatures to take out the garbage, I met Jake - he belongs to a friend who works at one of the neighboring businesses.

It started out as, well, a nice diversion - seeing a big, beautiful Doberman walk out, and he gradually became friendly with me. (Admittedly, I am more of a cat person than a dog person). Jake was very personable - not the kind of temperament you would expect from a Doberman. He is, as his owner puts it, "a gentleman and a scholar".

But something happened as time went on - gradually, I began shifting my schedule around, doing some writing/job search activities earlier in the morning, just so I could catch Jake heading outside for his morning walk....which usually consisted of hunting squirrels.

(And by "hunting squirrels", I mean "chasing squirrels until they scampered up a tree, and then barking wildly at the squirrel". No squirrels are ever harmed....although I was introduced to this phenomenon to an early morning sighting).

I have also found my mood lifted - admittedly, there are times when I miss Dax dearly. (Yes, a cat is in my future, but I need to get an income. Cat food isn't free, you know). But Jake has been a delight - I don't mind sharing custody (because technically, he's not my dog), but he's become a great way for me to explore the neighborhood.

It also should give some notice to my north side friends as well - historically, the north side has always looked down on the south side, seeing it as nothing but "slums and prairies" with all the racial and economic implications you would expect. (Personally, I think they're just jealous of our ample parking, slightly less crappy baseball team, and numbered streets to help them navigate). But it's a great reminder that despite a city administration looking to make the city more "elite"....there's something of a nice, working-class feel to our neighborhood.

Right now, there are changes in my neighborhood - a store that was open for fifty-eight years recently closed. Another one, open for almost forty-five, is closing. There's a lot more economic development that needs to happen on the south side...and I'm glad to be a part of it. Much of it is for selfish reasons - a friend is running for alderman in another ward, and I'm glad to be reacquainting myself with my home turf.

But much of it is that a neighbor's dog helped me realize that there was a world outside my apartment. And that's something I will always be grateful for.

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