My dog, Zed, is kind of weird when it comes to what he chooses to be afraid of or freaked out by. A cone in the middle of the sidewalk is incredibly scary and I frequently have to pick him up and carry him around the cone. Garbage bags blowing in the wind are also very frightening, though if he makes it up to the bag, he makes sure to pee on it, so it knows who’s boss. Darting into oncoming traffic to eat a used Kleenex, however, is not scary for him. Freaky mumbling drunks on Colorado Blvd. are just new friends to him.Knowing this now, you can see why I tend to take my dog’s little freak outs while we’re on a walk rather lightly.
I like to walk my dog around in this cute little park 4-5 blocks from my house. It’s a clean, well-kept park with only slightly not enough lighting for walking at night, but I never feel threatened there since it’s across from a hospital and people tend to be out walking their dogs at all hours. Also, there are tennis courts. For some reason, I find tennis courts make everything seem MUCH less threatening. No clue why.
Frequently, when we walk in this park at night, Zed looks over his shoulder and seems skittish. I frequently look around to try and see what he is staring at, but I have never been able to see anything foreboding and threatening other than a fox.
Until last night.
As usual, we had rounding the park loop and were coming up on the last quadrant before I cross the street to head back home and Zed stops dead in his tracks. At first I thought he was checking out another dog’s leavings, but when I glanced back, he was rigid and staring at the park’s picnic area. I squinted and stared into the dark areas, searching for a silhouette of something, anything that could be freaking him out, but I couldn’t see anything that would cause alarm.
I started to move forward. Zed stayed frozen. I looked again, but still couldn’t see anything, so I continued moving forward and dragging my dog along with me. Finally I stopped again and went to stoop down to comfort him and he started power walking in the opposite direction I wanted to go.
Finally, after he just would not calm down, I figured it was the fox or something and so I scooped up my 40 pound (which, by the way, is still light enough to carry, but not small enough that I didn’t look like a total jackass carrying my dog) pup and started carrying him past the point that was freaking him out.
Then about 20 paces in, I too discovered what was scaring the shit out of my dog, because it scared the shit out of me too.
Zed had not been staring at the picnic area, but the giant juniper bushes right before the picnic section of the park. The reason he had been doing this was because a hobo has fashioned a small “room” underneath the thick branches of the bushes to sleep in at night. It just so happened that this hobo was home last night and right as I walked past, he shifted around all of his belongings that were being kept in loud, plastic tarps.
When he did this, Zed started trying to run away while still in my arms and I peed my pants a little and picked up my pace considerably, all the while making sure that the juniper hobo was not following us to kill us because I had broken some unwritten hobo code and come too close to his property.
Needless to say, Zed and I were a lot more weary of our surroundings for the remainder of the walk last night and he remained jumpy a full hour after we got back. Poor little guy.
This morning, we followed the same route, only this time the sun had just started to come up and I decided to risk a slightly closer peek (when I say slightly, I mean like only a few inches closer) now that it was apparent from Zed’s demeanor that the hobo was not currently at home.
What I saw was pretty cool actually. The hobo has hollowed out a pretty goodly sized space within the juniper branches and has a sleeping bag and blankets laid out with a few tarps covering it. I have to say, that I would imagine this is pretty prime hobo real estate second only to those outdoor city heat grates that they have downtown. Plus, sleeping in between all that aromatic juniper must leave him smelling a titch better than the other hobos. Most smell like booze. This one smells like booze and Christmas. Or just Christmas depending on what kind of home life you had as a child.
I have to admit, a little part of me started thinking about how nice it must be to sleep out doors and have the smell of juniper permeate everything as you are slowly lulled to sleep by the chirping of crickets.
Then I snapped out of it realizing that this hobo probably poops like 10 feet away in a different section of the bush, it’s also zero degrees at night and I am feeling uncomfortable walking my dog in 20 degree weather.
Also, juniper bushes make me break out in hives.