The curmudgeon that lives across the street -- the old man who washes his car in the rain and wipes down his trees with rags -- hardly ever talks to me. We'll both be outside checking our mail at the same time and he won't even say hi. Or in a store, he'll just walk on by and ignore my attempts at greeting.
But if we are out walking our dogs he becomes the friendliest guy in the world. He pets Cha, slaps him on the side and tells him what a good boy he is. He owns this giant boxer that I really like but am slightly wary to go up to and slap on the ribs and inquire about his day. I usually ask if it's okay and then stick the back of my hand up for him to sniff. Cha always looks as if he's about to pee himself while this is all going on. He's never seen such an enormous dog and, well, in Japan I must admit I haven't either.
The dog's name is Baron and my neighbor walks him three times a day for nearly an hour each time. Baron always looks so happy and excited to be out there. With the absence of yards I've always thought how lucky he is to have such an owner. I won't tell you how most dogs live around here.
When we got back from America last time I immediately noticed Baron wasn't being walked. I purposefully went out on certain times with Cha to see if we would come across them. Nothing. Then I thought, OMG, he died! I was crushed, but when I asked the old man he just said, "No, Baron's at home."
Then one day I ran into the old man's wife and I asked her. I've never spoken two words to her before but she looked approachable. She said that he had some sort of stroke and his legs are all messed up. She said her husband spends most of the day taking care of him, making him special socks, giving him massages, and cleaning up his messes. It broke my heart.
But still, I couldn't just go over to their house with some sort of rawhide and say I wanted to see their dog. (Just not done here.) I have been taking water color classes, so instead I made a postcard with a picture of (my very bad version of) Baron on the front, wishing him to get well soon. On the back I signed it Cha Cha Maru and drew a really crappy picture of our dog. Late one night I slipped it into their mailbox.
The next day I saw the old man outside, no hellos, no nothing. Maybe he hadn't seen it yet. Next day. Nothing. Three days later and I had all but forgotten about it when I found this in our mailbox.
The front says, To Cha Cha Maru, Thanks for the well wishes!
The back says, I'm an old dog and my legs don't work right anymore.
I can't run around in the fields anymore. Please run around in the fields
enough for both of us. From Baron.