As ragged and dirty as the day is long
Four legs and a crooked tail
And a look bespeaking many beatings.
His smell is musty, the fur is matted.
No collar, no tags, a mongrel for sure.
The head is down and tail between the legs
But no teeth laid bare in fearsome warning.
I gauge the moment carefully
Calling up all past canine encounters.
Most were amicable and a few were not.
I’ve had many encounters before
And pride myself on being a judge
Of mood or temper or disposition.
I weigh the odds and read the moment.
Now I confess to being a “dog” person.
They sense me and I sense them.
I look into the eyes to measure the intent.
If that gaze is full of ice and steel
Then this is one encounter best avoided.
Instead these brown and rheumy eyes
Look up pleading for food or a gentle hand.
My approach is measured,
Mimicking the actions of submission.
Head lowered, eyes downcast, open palms up
No sudden moves, a gentle low-pitched murmur
Show no aggression, show no fear.
I can feel the ice begin to melt.
Ten thousand years of instinct
Are submerged in this moment of approach.
The roles are now established.
Just another contact like all the rest
But this is the first between
You and me.
We named him FELLA.