Today my mother came by to help me fix up my foliage. I've kept it all wet and I've even done some weeding, but there's no substitute for a green-thumb matriarch with a bag full of mulch.
On a beautiful day and under a beautiful sky we worked at separate tasks, drinking and not really speaking. She did the heavy lifting, being only about five feet tall but actually having a functional shoulder. I did the first REAL weeding I've ever done in my life, digging out the grass that's sapping the life from my burgeoning maple trees and my bleeding hearts. It's amazing how tenacious grass can be, it spreads a thick network of tiny roots through the soil. It's almost a shame to pull up such a capable weed.
After my mother left and I was standing on my patio admiring her work, the dog arrived, a huge bouncy orange creature who barked playfully at the children next door. It had come running into their back yard, followed closely by Pearl, a neighbour I'd only previously seen dancing during an impromptu long weekend celebration on our mutual fire route.
Pearl was talking to the small children, and I found myself drawn to the dog. "Can I pet him?" I asked, and suddenly I realized that dogs are "people bridges" who entice reserved people into talking with each other.
Through this dog I met not just Pearl, but also the kids next door and their mother...I don't think their mother is my biggest fan as of yet, but I'm convinced that it's 99% due to the usual problems with neighbours: we haven't spoken yet. I waved at her across the yard and she smiled genuinely and waved back, and wished I hadn't had that second drink with my mom.
Sensing that the children wanted to talk to me a bit, I turned to one of them and said "When I first saw this dog I thought it was yours."
"No," he sighed sadly. "We don't have anything...except for a baby named Jackson."
So I think that people who move into a new neighbourhood should be able to RENT dogs, so we can stand around and wait for somebody to say "How old is he? Can I pet him? What's his name? How big will he get?" followed shortly by "Hi, my name is..."