I’ve never believed the canard that people are no longer neighborly. People are no more or less inclined to help others than they were 100 years ago. A likelier explanation is that people are far more mobile and we no longer live in the same communities for generations, so we’re less likely to know our neighbors. (And don’t get me started on the assertion that “things used to be better.” Sure, if you weren’t female, homosexual, Jewish, a person of color, or a fan of indoor plumbing, things used to be better. And even then…)
Earlier this week, our dog, Selkie, climbed the fence. Again. She hasn’t done this in about a year, so we weren’t expecting it. She started escaping when we were having work done on our house. She was in the backyard, and the carpenters were throwing debris from the third floor to the dumpster in the driveway. She’s wildly skittish, and this scared the pants off of her. So, propelled by some supercanine power, she got over the 3-foot picket fence and tried to find a less noisy home. Fortunately the folks at the organ tuning and repair company around the corner snagged her and brought her home. (Yes, there is an organ company in the middle of my residential neighborhood. Messrs. Czelusniak et Dugal, Inc., to be exact.) This became a habit until we wised up.
I thought she had forgotten how to get out, so we’d let down our guard. (We don’t know exactly how she does it—we’ve never seen her in action. She’s stealthy.) Earlier this week, Ted and his babysitter were playing with water in the yard, and apparently water is terrifying. Without either of them noticing, she took off.
Cut to the railroad tracks near downtown. A woman running on the bike path spotted Selkie on the tracks, which are separated from the bike path by a fence. She didn’t know Selkie (or us), but guessed that this wasn’t a good thing. First she tried to get to the dog by climbing the fence, but it is topped with barbed wire, so that wasn’t an option. So she called her boyfriend in their house on the other side of the fence. He successfully nabbed her, they found the address and phone number on her collar, left a message for us, and then walked her home. Ted and the babysitter, still playing outside, hadn’t even noticed that she’d gone.
Later, after I was done imagining all of the horrible things that could have happened to her (hit by a car or a train, taken by doggie white slavers), I called Selkie’s rescuers to thank them. Neither of us could pick out the other in a line up, but they went out of their way to bring our pup home. I’m certain that most people in my neighborhood—mostly strangers—would do the same.