Hamtramck alley walks mean getting in touch with your inner dog. I know a lot of dogs that, granted, are more interested in my dog than in me, but I'm nevertheless granted the privilege of head-pets in exchange for ogling my aloof old broad of a Terrier.
The dog pictured is a Puggle, a fact I know because my dad acquired one the same month this guy showed up in a formerly dogless backyard on our route. Pug and Beagle, mixed and stirred. Neither of the Puggles I know seem especially comfortable with their particular arrangement of body parts. Look at this guy's face---he always looks like that. Worried. Confused. Slightly embarrassed.
My dad's Puggle deals with his breed-identity issues by clinging psychologically to his inner Pug. Flying through the air, over couches and onto your head, he grins stupidly and without regard for his ballooning thirty pounds. Hamtramck Puggle is decidedly more Beagle-oriented, but with all the insecurity and heartache of the Frankenstein monster. A teenage girl once showed him off, and we laughed at his cute puppiness. But he's always alone now, perched awkwardly on the top porch step, leaning against the backdoor. I call out greetings and feed him the lie that my dog wants to say hi, come on over to the gate, but he won't until we've passed. Checks p-mail from my dog with a little wag and watches us walk away.
I know the names of only two dogs on our walk. Tony is one of these dogs. When his people went to Disneyworld, I met the neighbor caring form him. Tony has severe problems with self-esteem and aggression; I know guys like him, chained up their whole lives when they just want to chase a ball. Against instructions, the caregiver let Tony have run of the yard. Now he lives in that neighbor's yard, chainless. But still barky --that's hard to shake once it's settled into the bones. He means well, he's just scared. So many backyard dogs are.
Not my favorite dog, though. He's this huge Alaskan Malamute living in a concrete-floored pen who grins at me over the fence and lets me pet him forever. It's worth the stink. I don't know how he can be so happy when he's never in the house; I would be lonely. But he's mellow and waggy and smiles while I pull softball-sized wads of fur off him in the Spring. His sunny disposition can't be from the nice doghouse, toys, and regular meals alone, because I know a dog two streets over with the same set-up and so much anxiety he's dug a landscape of Io proportion.
The other dog I know by name is Lucky, owned by a twelve-year-old boy so invested in Hamtramck politics that he's known as The Little Mayor. I've seen him on TV, speaking passionately at council meetings. The day I met him and his Lucky he struck up the confident conversation of a 54-year-old man and asked me if I was single.
Then there's the brilliant old German Shepard who started really slowing down last summer after a lifetime of service in home protection and affection. In August, an eager young Shepard joined the old guy the yard. The young one is still there.
And the crazy jumping dogs who freak us out with their altitude-gaining abilities. The Chihuahuas rarely out, but who make up in yipping for lost time when they are. The Sunday-morning-only German Shepard who pops out at us from nowhere, woofing and jumping around in his own giant piles of doo. The happy Beagle and his happy old man who walk our path, neither of them speaking English, only smiles.
Lots of dogs. Each unique. Just like everywhere. Just like Hamtramck.