the wishbone squad.

You can't talk about my next-door neighbor Gail without talking about her dogs. I imagine that the animal shelter has her number on file - whenever they get a particularly hopeless case, they call her up and ask if she can fit in just one more. That's sort of a joke, but I found out that it's kinda true. After we got Remix, she was delighted that we had gone to the county animal shelter for our pet needs. Then she advised us to get our next dog at the tiny and underfunded Harnett County Animal Shelter, where they are closed on Wednesdays for the purpose of euthanizing every single animal that came in that week. She sometimes goes and looks on the web site, you know, just to see who won't be alive on Thursday. I'm not sure how she decides when to save one, since it clearly is not based on any sort of sane vacancy limits.

Gail is a sucker. But there are worse things you can be a sucker for than a stray dog. Her animals seem to be cared-for, and I know they're loved, so it doesn't bother me that I live next to a crazy animal lady. She also has a bunny and some chickens. And a horse, which she boards at a local stable. I have heard that there are cats as well. It's a little bit like living next to the actual pound.

We like to speculate about how many dogs she has. There are at least nine, divided into front yard dogs and back yard dogs. I can't tell if the yard division was invented for the purpose of separating big dogs from little dogs, or just so people won't be able to tell just how many of them there are. When Gail comes home from her nursing job, she lets them all out in a giant noisy burst of canine exuberance. They do a few laps in their yards just to waste energy, then there is a lot of investigative sniffing. Finally, they patrol. Passing each other in their various routes, it almost seems organized.

There are two Jack Russell Terriers which seem to lead the crowd. For that reason, I have named the whole bunch the Wishbone Squad. You can almost here a little theme song in your head when they come running up. Dun-da-da-DUN! Woe to the burglar who ever tries to take Gail's treasures. I give him five minutes before he would run screaming from the place, perhaps with a Jack Russell Terrier still clamped on his posterior.

The dogs, being dogs, bark. The worst offenders are the JRTs (front yard), a shaggy something-or-other (back yard), and a beautiful hound (back yard), which does not bark so much as bay. It's a beautiful sound, if you're inclined to appreciate hound sounds. Not all of the dogs bark, and some of them are barkier than others, but when they are provoked, the result could be classified as a ruckus. This is turn starts up the other neighborhood dogs, and pretty soon you got a ruckus in surround sound.

You know, Remix didn't bark for so long after we got her, that we we afraid that she had been de-barked (which is illegal in some areas, just like pitbulls). But no, she is just a dog of few words. When her time outside coincides with that of the Wishbone Squad, they find her to be something worth barking about. Sometimes she completely ignores them, but other times she bolts over to the fence to stand there, nose to chain-link, and never make a sound. It must drive Gail mad. We think it's awesome, just because she looks like she is calmly staring them down. But then we go and fetch her, because we don't want the other people in the neighborhood to be mad at Gail.

Gail is very self-conscious about her dogs and the noise they make. Every time I talk to her, the first things she does is to she apologize for them. Someday, I hope that she will learn to believe me when I say that I really don't mind. Apparently there is tension between her and the guy that lives on her other side. Last night, Remix and I walked with her and one of hers (a stubby-legged little mutt that was sweet in every way), and she vented to me about what a jerk that guy is. I am sympathetic to her, but I would have been surprised if someone didn't complain. When I say that Gail is a crazy animal lady, I mean that in the nicest way possible, not as a slur, but as a description which is objectively true. But I recognize that a lot of people wouldn't feel that way, particularly if they lived next door.

I wonder if Gail and her motley mutts wouldn't be happier if she bought a chunk of land outside of town with more room to run and fewer neighbors. Of course, if Gail had more room, she'd probably just get more dogs. Then she might be happier still.

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