To start, please, imagine a long string of expletives muttered under my breath as I stomp back home leading a screeching J, and maneuvering a rather large, heavy, and full wheeled trash can.
OK, so here goes the Michael Corleone paraphrasing: Just when I thought we could go out again, I have to pull him back again.
There we were, two happy pedestrians taking the trash on a for-now sunny day, and out of nowhere came the famous “he’s on a shock collar” German Shepherd. The loud, sharp squeal and the sudden tensing of muscles (even though the dog was about 100 yards away) made me turn, mutter and paraphrase with enough alacrity to belie my chronic joint pain and difficulty in moving.
The change in direction and acceleration had to be achieved while checking for vehicles (those two STOP signs and one speed limit are doing nothing to help matters with the shitty driving around here,) and guiding J towards our garage while soothing his nerves.
We waited a few minutes. I took this time to text the landlord and tell him what was going on. He responded to me with the same concern and interest that he responded to all you lovely readers when you texted him on the same subject. (HUH? I didn’t text your landlord, crazy middle-aged mother of J who is on The Spectrum…oh…wait…I SEE!!!! Ha ha ha…I get it…he didn’t reply because we didn’t text him…get it, get it…go on with your soapbox performance for today.)
J had been happy. Seriously happy! He was wearing his new Panama hat, the sun was shining, the breeze was warm and lovely. Suddenly we were back in the garage and he kept shuffling his feet, looking anxiously at the street where the dog had been.
We ventured out once more. In J’s hand was our gas bill, crumpled. He ironed it out hurriedly on top of the trash can lid so I wouldn’t be upset. I told him that didn’t matter. We just checked for the stamp, that it hadn’t been torn, and I returned it to him so he could put in the mailbox.
We looked around, saw no dogs, and back we went. Of course, by this point J is just super vigilant. Any bark from a distance, garage door opening, sudden step makes him look over his shoulder. We deposit the trash in the dumpster, look before crossing and head to the mail room.
As we go along I remind J that I have his back. I will do whatever it takes to help him if he’s anxious. I will wait, or I will walk faster. I will take out our dreaded iPhone and (with my too-big fingers and thumbs) shoot off an angry text at the parties in charge of the rules being followed. I will stand between him and dogs, cars, wild horses…you name it.
I feel his arm and shoulder begin to relax, and we stop at the corner to check for traffic. “Look left. No cars. Look right…” His shoulder and arm tense and he grips me…there is not ONE dog…there are now TWO. What are these people doing? Lying in wait? Did the first guy call and say to his buddy “hey, the freaks are out…bring your German Shepherd out, too?” I take a deep breath, tell J to walk and not look.
He walks. He tries not to look. He fails miserably. We speed up and make it back to our garage (with J frantically hitting the remote’s button so that it starts to open, closes, starts to open again, and I ask him to take a deep breath and relax because we’re on the concrete of our driveway, and that’s a sanctuary.)
J’s heart is racing. He looks at me as the garage door closes and we finally find ourselves separated from the world of dogs. I tell him it’s time for Wii, and he nods. He takes off his Panama hat, and hangs it in the hallway. He gets his step stool, and he turns on all the necessary equipment while I change my shoes.
By the time The Monkees are halfway through I’m a Believer, J has relaxed. He smiles at me, says HAPPY, and then I LOVE YOU. I smile, say HAPPY and I LOVE YOU, TOO. I add “I have your back, buddy…I will protect you.” He lets go of the step stool and, still running, hugs me. We are actually running while hugging, and this makes us both laugh…
It is, in the great scheme of things, a rather fantastic moment. J laughs heartily as I lip-sync to Huey Lewis and The News‘ Do You Believe in Love? (I’m always The News…doing all the eeehoooohs and such…)
As we make lunch I ponder what people think this is like for him. I know the property manager told me (with much fanfare) that she used to volunteer with kids who have Autism. I also know that she, too, has let her dog rove around leash-less. I know she addresses people not picking up after their dogs, but I also know she never tells them that the lease states dogs have to be on leashes. I know, heaven help me, that I come across as an annoying whiner who thinks her kid’s rights override the rights of the other tenants. I can hear her saying “the lady in unit such-and-such complained that…” If the issue had been addressed as “the terms of your lease state that…” this wouldn’t be such an issue; because it is “the lady that lives in unit such-and-such” it becomes sour grapes from a hag who gets disability checks for her son.
I decide to let it go. Well, not really. I decide that I have documented it, and I will use this when it’s time to break our lease to move away. Not in a combative manner, but in a “hey, there’s this that I have expressed concerns about, and hasn’t been addressed” manner.
The moment that was bad is gone. The moment that sucked is over.
It doesn’t mean it wasn’t bad for J, or that it won’t suck when it happens again.