We were walking around the block. It was hot.
When we got even with Halle's former residence, I noticed that the woman across the street had a new puppy. She had had an old Rottweiler that was rather particular about her friends. The Rotty hadn't been aggressive with Ray, but she used to keep a close eye on him as we would traverse the block on the other side of the street. I had heard through the neighborhood grapevine that the old dog had recently died.
The puppy, an indeterminate mix with a short, smooth, fawn-colored coat was channeling the previous doggy resident and keeping a close eye on Ray, but her tail was tucked between her legs.
"Hi," I yelled to the woman, "Is your puppy friendly? Can Ray come and meet her?"
I had never met the woman before but I knew that she knew about Ray from Halle's grandma, Deborah.
"She's very timid," the woman yelled back, "She's afraid of everything, but you can come over if you want."
At the sound of her voice, Ray had stopped and looked in the woman's direction, his tail wagging. He was looking forward to making a new acquaintance.
As we crossed the street, the puppy, with tail still tucked between her legs, skittered behind her owner at the maximum length her leash would allow.
"Hi, Ray," said the woman giving Ray a friendly pat.
The puppy paced nervously behind her owner while Ray happily greeted his new friend.
"Ray, there's a dog in front of you," I told the oblivious hound.
Ray's head tilted to one side as he 'looked' in the puppy's direction then strained at his leash to get a sniff of whatever-it-was.
The puppy paced nervously.
"Ray, SIT," I commanded.
Not wanting to do it but being a good boy, Ray sat. The puppy took a cautious step closer.
"Ray, FLOP," I said, having little expectation that he would actually do so.
Ray stood. The puppy anxiously moved back.
Ray walked a few steps into the yard and flopped flat.
"Oh, Ray, you are such a good dog," I said, impressed that Ray was calmly submitting to being sniffed by the little girl pup.
Mentally, I was incredulously comparing Ray's behavior around the nervous little puppy with the way he acts when he's around Jasper, the Australian Cattle Dog pup. It was difficult to reconcile the two Rays. I found myself thinking of the movie "The Mask" with Jim Carey; one minute he's a nice, schlubby guy, then he puts on a mask and becomes a frenetic cartoon character. The same thing happens to Ray when Jasper is around.
The puppy was sniffing different parts of Rays body and head, stepping on him every now-and-again, then quickly scooting out of the way in alarm. Ray was inert through it all.
The little dog's owner and I chatted a bit, watching the dog show. Looking a bit more relaxed but still alert, the pup lay down within a couple inches of one of Ray's big paws. Then, when the big dog remained unmoving, she relaxed further, stretching out flat between Ray's feet, inadvertently touching his belly in the process.
Startled at the unexpected contact, Ray leapt to his feet. The puppy bolted, then turned, came closer, and started barking at Ray. Unexpectedly, her tail was wagging. She liked the new game.
I laughed and pulled at Ray's leash.
"C'mon Ray, let's go home," I said to my dog.
Ray obligingly came with me. The little dog, her fear forgotten, strained at her leash to follow her new-found playmate.