Jack has not learned Spanish other than saying a few words like hola, como estas, and bien. He gets by with gestures and facial expressions when he shops, pointing to what he wants to buy, and relies on me to navigate in Spanish for whatever else needs to be done. Except one day his method failed him and left him in a tizzy when something important happened and I wasn’t there to translate. There is a Mexican guy we have seen come out of the house across the street many days with a big dog and a little one. Since Reggie barks like crazy when she sees a big dog, Jack usually tries to divert her attention by standing behind a parked car so she won’t see the other dogs and feel the need to start a conversation. She yaps with a most annnoyingly shrill sound, the only annoying habit we cant seem to break her of doing. One day I was in our house getting dressed for my dental appointment when Jack took Reggie out to do her business. Soon he came racing back inside, yelling frantically for me to come quickly. “In a minute,” I said, putting on my blouse. When I had it buttoned and my pants pulled on, I went outside and found Jack standing in the middle of the street looking ashen. Reggie was nowhere in sight.
“Where is she?” I demanded, starting to feel panicky. “Well, you know that guy from across the street with the two dogs? Since Reggie’s so much more social these days and has done well on play dates, maybe we could introduce our dogs to each other and they could play. I motioned to him with my hands what I wanted to do, since I can’t speak Spanish. He nodded like he understood and came and took the leash from me. I thought he was going to hold her and let his dogs start getting to know her that way. “Name,” he asked in ‘’English. “Reggie,” I told him. “Girl or boy?” “Girl” I said. But that’s all the English he knows. I thought he understood from my hand motions that I wanted them to meet each other and play, but before I knew what was happening, he took her leash and started walking away really quickly down the street with all three dogs. At first I thought ok, he’ll walk a bit and let them meet that way and then come back with them. But then he turned the corner and disappeared with Reggie and his two. I didn’t know what the hell to do! I was just standing here in the street looking stunned and some lady came along who speaks English. She saw me standing there and asked if I was looking for a cab and I said ‘No, I’m looking for my dog!’ And I explained what had just happened, that some man who lives in the house across the street took Reggie and disappeared.”
“Oh,” she said, “that guy doesn’t live in that house, that’s Salvador, the dog walker. He has a key to that house and every day he comes and picks up the two dogs for the elderly English lady that lives there and takes her dogs for a 45 minute walk.” Salvador must not have understood Jack’s gestures and thought he wanted Salvador to walk Reggie along with the other two. But Jack didn’t seem entirely reassured by the woman’s explanation. Maybe he was waiting for me to explode, but I said nothing. Poor guy was upset enough and I didn’t need to make matters worse. So the two of us stood in the street waiting, hoping Salvador would bring Reggie back to us and not sell her before he did. After an agonizing half hour of pacing up and down Alameda, we saw a man rounding the corner at the end of the street with three dogs on leashes trotting along with him at a good clip. Reggie looked like she’d been used to doing that all her life, she was walking so nicely,. Seeing us halfway up the street, Salvador unclipped Reggie’s leash and she made a bee-line for us, all excited to tell us about her adventure and the new friends she’d made. We felt like parents of a teen-ager who had been out after curfew, worrying sick when our kid got home safe and sound, having had the time of her life.
Salvador walked over to us and I asked him in Spanish how Reggie did on the walk. “Perfecto,” he said. And then he introduced himself and explained that he walks dogs all over the city, and has been doing that for 26 years. “ It’s the only job I’ve ever had,” he said proudly. “That will be 100 pesos.” I have never been so glad to fork over $5.00 in all my life.
“That’s a hell of a way to find a dog-walker,” Jack said, breathing normally for the first time since Reggie disappeared.
“Yes, but this is a good example of why you need to learn to speak Spanish!”