On a Sunday afternoon, earlier this winter, William and I were walking on Fourth Street. We had just crossed Cherry Alley, heading north, when a beat-up car roared through the alley behind us. When the car paused at Fourth Street, the driver called out through an open window, "Is that a zombie dog?"
I'm used to people asking if William is part wolf, but "zombie dog" was something unexpected. I considered asking the man what he meant by the comment but decided instead to ignore it. William and I kept walking along Fourth Street toward Warren. When we turned left at the corner, the car made a left turn onto Warren and stopped in front of the Register-Star building. It occurred to me that the driver might be following us, and the thought made me uneasy. As we approached the entrance to the parking lot next to the First Presbyterian Church, the car turned in front of us, blocking the sidewalk. The driver held a camera phone out of the window and told me he wanted to take a picture of "that old dog" so he could send it to the Humane Society.
I was flabbergasted. Could it be that this annoying man in a beat-up car was suggesting that William, because of his advanced age, was abused and I was an abuser? I pulled William close to me, told the man to leave us alone, and walked away with as much indignation as I could muster. We continued down Warren Street without being pursued, but the unpleasantness of the encounter stayed with me. For weeks afterward, I was on the lookout for that beat-up car, and the experience came back to me whenever we were in the vicinity of Fourth Street and Cherry Alley.
Then recently, while walking on that block of Fourth Street, William and I ran into Denise from the Red Dot, in almost the same spot we had been when we encountered the unpleasant man who asked if William was a zombie dog. Denise told me how beautiful William was and how terrific he looked for a dog about to celebrate his fifteenth birthday. Denise didn't know it, but she broke the curse. I no longer think about the zombie dog comment when we pass that spot.