Lucy and I cross Franklin Street at Alder, from the post office to The Purity. We walk north on Franklin. Up ahead, a large woman with tightly curled gray hair and black-framed glasses gets out of a blue van. She moves to stand on the sidewalk and looks in our direction. She’s obviously waiting for some puppy lovin’.
As we grow closer, I notice her expression differs from that of most people who see Lucy for the first time—she does not smile and giggle at the goofy dog with the brown eye patch. There’s a deep crease between her eyes. She gnaws her lower lip.
“That your dog?” There’s a muscle to her tone that would have frightened me in my younger years.
“Yes ma’am.” I smile. “Would you like to pet her?”
She squints and gives me the once-over. “Just saw a missing dog poster. Looks exactly like the dog on the poster.”
“She’s not. She’s mine.” I continue to smile.
She raises one eyebrow. “Where’d you get her?”
“The Humane Society.”
Lucy does all she knows to entice this woman to pet her—fanatic tail wagging, piddling on the sidewalk and wiggling into a sit. She throws herself on her back to offer a submissive tummy, mopping up piddle with her fur.
“What’s her name?”
Lucy looks up at me.
“Good thing for you that she knows her name.” The woman takes a few steps away before stopping and turning around. “You live in town?”
“Yes I do.”
“Give your dog bottled water. City tap water is polluted.” The woman points west towards the former Georgia Pacific mill site. “Because of all those years of toxic waste they dumped into the land, there’s a high incidence of cancer among dogs in this town. Don’t risk it. Give her bottled water.”
“I will.” (No I won’t.)
“You should drink bottled water, too. A lot of people in this town get cancer from drinking tap water.”
I give her a thumb’s up and coax Lucy away.
“You’re sure that’s your dog?”