Dogs of the East End, pt. 2

I mentioned that Astro and I would be attending Lord Byron’s 14th birthday party soon. Here’s Byron, with the card he sent Astro last week.

His penmanship is legible but crude. You’d think a dog that old would have learned cursive by now.

We’re just back from the party. Byron’s mom laid out bacon and chicken treats for the dogs, breakfast treats for the humans, and amazing take-home gifts – meat treats, Greenies, and a squeak toy for them; homemade jam, eggs from her chickens, and kale from her garden for us. She is easily the greatest party host ever.

Astro, on the other hand, continued his streak of unfortunate party behavior. He begged indiscriminately, hogged Byron’s stuffed-squirrel gifts, and humped a service dog.

Astro, with Byron’s stuffed squirrels

After the unpleasant interaction with the man on the balcony (see part 1), that alley became off-limits to the dogs and me, which is too bad, because it was one of our favorites.

Several dogs live along the alley, and I felt sorry for one of them. He was confined to an unshaded, peeling, second-story deck of a back building. Below him, next door, were two handsome Siberian Huskies who had the run of their larger-than-average yard. The deck dog went nuts when he saw us coming. As we walked under him, he would run to the deck’s other railing and bark some more. I would look back at him from two houses away and he was always still there, no longer barking, just looking. I imagined it was the highlight of his day. I always made sure to wish him good morning.

Galvestonians are good at recovering from disasters. The most recent example of this is how East Enders responded after the storm surge from Hurricane Ike in 2008 killed dozens of mature oak trees. Rather than cut them down, the locals decided to save what they could and turn their trunks into tree sculptures. Wander the neighborhood today and you’ll find the Tin Man and Toto, a grandmother reading a book to her grandchildren (this one’s next to a school), mermaids, dolphins, birds, alligators, the two-finger peace symbol, whatever took their fancy. One family decided to honor their Great Dane. His wardrobe changes with the seasons. Here he is in his St. Patrick’s Day garb. Soon it’ll be baseball season, so he’ll again put on his Astros jersey.

One thing that rankles me is the underutilization of all the marvelous front porches in Galveston. On a typical morning, we’ll walk past over 100 porches and not see man or beast on one. People might be too domesticated to sit outside, but you’d think they could let their dogs enjoy them.

Once a week we leave the neighborhood to take a walk on the beach. We used to let the dogs run loose there, which, come to find out, is illegal. The first time we did this, I threw a floatable toy as far I could into the waves to watch Astro and Bowie race to retrieve it. That’s when Astro learned that dog paddling requires both hind legs. After a minute of swimming in circles, he made it back to shallow water, where he’s remained ever since.

Bowie, as old as Byron, finds walking a chore but still loves to swim. I continue to let her off the leash to retrieve toys in the waves because she returns them to me without fail. If I did this long enough, letting her swim into the waves and swim back, her head disappearing under each wave before she surfaces again, gasping for air, she would surely die of heart failure, which is why I don’t. But what a way to go.