I saw the woman marching with her Great Dane for the first time back in 2004.
We had just moved into our home, and on an afternoon walk with Emmett I spotted her on the sidewalk on the other side of the street. They were hard to miss, those two- she, tall and strong and purposeful, attended by a small grey horse who upon closer inspection turned out to be a beautiful harlequin Great Dane. She nodded at me, and I nodded back before the dog dragged her past and on down the street.
I saw them every afternoon on the same stretch of road, her arms pumping with the effort of keeping up with the dog. He trotted along happily, pulling her up the hill. We always nodded to each other, two dog owners greeting one another in acknowledgement of one of those great dog owning traditions, the evening stroll.
After Emmett died, I stopped going for a while, but I would see her out there as I drove by on the way home from work, woman and dog, without fail, every evening. When I started again with Brody, she smiled and nodded on her way past. No words, but I felt the unspoken sentiment: good to see you back.
I haven’t seen her for a while, mostly, I assumed, since I have been getting home late from work and my timing no longer coincides with hers.
I saw her yesterday on my way home. She walked a little more slowly than usual, head down. Keeping her company her was nothing but shadows.
Perhaps he is ill, I thought to myself, and continued to drive.
Today, as I passed, I saw her again. She was staring at the ground, thoughts drowned by whatever was playing on her ipod. I recognized the set of her shoulders. I would not be seeing her walk with her dog again.
I wanted to stop the car, roll down my window, and just say, “I’m sorry.” I didn’t, because if I were out on a walk with my earbuds in and a stranger did that I would probably pepper spray them, but perhaps she could sense my sadness as I drove by.
All I can do is wait and hope one day Brody and I pass her on the road, her with a small mule-sized dog or maybe a Yorkie or something, so I can nod to her and smile. I look forward to it.