It's sunny and 76 F. Spring isn't just around the corner -- spring is here.
To celebrate, the basenjis and I took the big loop around Chartiers Creek, crossing over on Linden Avenue, then crossing back on Wind Gap Bridge, passing through the Pittsburgh neighborhoods of Esplen, Sheraden, Corliss, Chartiers City, and Windgap on the way.
As we made our way down Bradley Street, we passed a woman pushing a baby stroller, taking advantage of this beautiful day, much as we were, to walk to downtown McKees Rocks. You'd think that a pair of hunting dogs would be able to outpace a woman with a baby stroller, but you'd be forgetting about the basenjis' need to stop and investigate every piece of litter on the sidewalk to make certain that it's not edible. The woman with the stroller passed us on Island Avenue, and we never caught up with her.
As we were passing above the livid green waters of Chartiers Creek on Linden Avenue, a man ahead of us paused to reach over the concrete barrier separating the sidewalk from the street to retrieve a small, inflated purple rubber ball. As we joined the man at the intersection of Linden, Stanhope, and Stafford, the basenjis noticed a security guard with a German shepherd beyond a chain link fence on the far side of Stafford, and eventually I did too. After all of us crossed the street, the man threw the purple ball over the fence to the security guard, who thanked him and began (well, resumed) playing fetch with the dog.
We were walking down Hammond Street in Sheraden when a man standing on the porch of his house with his family asked The Question: "What kind of dogs are those?" He had never heard of basenjis, but he thought they were very good-looking dogs (a common reaction), and the rest of his family (wife and three girls) very much wanted to meet them. Well, I'm always happy to let people enjoy the company of the basenjis, so I joined them on their porch and let them pet the dogs. The two older girls wanted to hold the dogs' leashes, and I let them do so. After a time, though, the basenjis were ready to be on their way, and we all said goodbye.
A block away, at the intersection of Hammond and Glenmawr, there were more children who also asked me to stop and let them meet the basenjis, and again I was happy to do so. A woman standing nearby asked how old the dogs were, and I went over to talk to her, explaining that Klea was 8 and Woo was 7.
"Is that months?"
"No, years," I said.
"Wow! They don't look it," she said, and indeed they don't. Among other things, the nice long walks help keep them fit.
We had reached Chartiers Avenue and were passing by Fire Station 31 at the intersection of Chartiers and Citadel Street. One of the firemen was relaxing in a chair, smoking a cigar, and he asked me The Other Question: "Are those basenjis?" I admitted that they were, and we went over to say hello, but the basenjis aren't fond of tobacco smoke, so they come within petting distance of the fireman.
Just west of Windgap Avenue, as it rises to cross Chartiers Creek via the Wind Gap Bridge, there's a house on Edmore Street with a chain link fence-enclosed kennel. The kennel holds a German shepherd dog who started barking as soon as the basenjis came in view on the bridge, over a hundred feet away, and continued barking as long as they were visible.
Back in McKees Rocks, we were walking down Chartiers Avenue when we passed a couple going by on the other side of the street. The woman asked The Question, and the two crossed the street to say hello to the dogs and talk about how good they looked. Frankly, I never get tired of hearing that.