Keep your eye on that dog

A dog's-eye view of an ordinary neighborhood in Portland. Max is calm. George is up to something.
Crosscut archive image.

The Churchillian look of the English bulldog

A dog's-eye view of an ordinary neighborhood in Portland. Max is calm. George is up to something.

A brown Cairn terrier, looking like a larger version of Toto in The Wizard of Oz, is the most frequent canine passerby I see from my chair at the wide front living-room window. He's got the deluded confidence of his breed: a small, furred drill sergeant with chest out, legs pumping, eyes ahead.

There's a household of some size connected to the Cairn. Three generations walk him, from a polite young boy who nods when anyone passes, to a Grandma-vintage woman in a crisp Burberry trench coat. The most frequent walker these days is a cranky looking, suit-wearing man who has yet to come to terms with the fact that his own long legs can't keep up with the stubby ones of the determined dog steaming ahead of him.

Then there's Max, a black Labrador retriever. He's well known throughout the neighborhood as the patient soul who sits outside the corner coffee shop each morning, untethered and unflappable. Max is never on a leash. He's patient with strangers who insist on petting him, but he's humoring them. He looks away while they talk to him. Max heels alongside his bearded, middle-aged walking partner, who all winter wears an ancient black-and-red checked wool jacket and all summer wears a zip-up hooded sweatshirt of indeterminate color.

Unlike most Labs, Max is not trying to keep up with a lot of different things at the same time. Enticing piles of dog shit, blowing bits of paper, passing bikers and cars — nothing tempts him. He focuses all his energy on the patch of sidewalk immediately in front of him, padding along at the same slow pace, tail unmoving at half-mast, wagging only when the man next to him looks his way.

George, the English bulldog across the street, doesn't get walked, just let out for hurried bathroom breaks, during which his owner chatters nonstop, alternately praising and ordering him to do his business.

The perpetually furrowed, Churchillian face of a bulldog is nearly unreadable, but there is no mistaking this particular dog's thoughts. As his owner natters on, he has the exact expression worn by a teenager who has just realized that his parents are hopelessly, endlessly, stupid.

He's no genius, of course, but I think it's possible that George is slowly, carefully, putting together a plan for a coup of sorts. As I watch him from the window, I almost always see George panning the yard, turning in a slow circle for a bit of stealthy reconnoitering. He's got something in mind.

I hope I'm here when he makes his move.


Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors