Watching the Dog

I was walking downtown. Up ahead, there was a little dog, maybe a foot long, hopping along beside his owner, a young woman. I was spacing out, watching the dog, either in the moment or detached from it, I’m not sure which. (Most likely, the latter.) The dog was carrying a tennis ball in his mouth. Somewhere along the way, he dropped the ball and it rolled under his legs. Actually, the clearance between him and the ground was shorter than the diameter of the tennis ball, so his front legs were lifted off the ground – he rolled over it. He stopped short, backed up, and the ball rolled out between his front legs. He picked it back up and resumed his hopping pace. I caught up with him while he was working things out, and was now walking just behind him and his owner. The spell had been broken and I had almost reached my destination, so I turned toward the entrance, glancing over at the dog one more time.

The dog’s owner had stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and was leaning down over the dog. She removed her free hand from its pocket and reached for the tennis ball. She pulled the tennis ball out of the dog’s mouth, and a red metal cylinder, half the length of the dog, slipped out of her pocket and tumbled onto the sidewalk. I made an audible oop sound at this. The dog owner pocketed the tennis ball. Then she quickly picked up the cylinder and — with one eye on me, I felt — stuffed it back into her pocket with the ball. The cylinder was a can of mace.

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