The Purple of Life

She told me to hold on to the purple in my life.

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Location: Chicago, United States

I'm a 37-year-old editor and city dweller, wife and mother, moderately liberal and radically optimistic. I would fill my perfect day with a cup of coffee and the Op Ed section, a flea market and the playground, a run along Lake Michigan, a walk through the neighborhood with my son and my greyhound, a Cuban dinner and a bottle of red with my husband, and an evening flight to some European city. I wouldn't be picky about which one.

March 8, 2006

Dog-walking tales; or, why it’s not so bad that we don’t have a yard

There’s a group of four or five little Mexican girls, maybe nine or ten years old, who live down the street from us in a small apartment complex. Sometimes they’re playing outside when I’m walking Moose, and they always run over to him and gather around excitedly: “Hi Moose! Hi Moose! Oh, I love you, Moose! Can I pet him?? Can I walk him??”

So I let them each take a small section of the leash, and then we all shuffle down the street, a slowly moving mass of girls with one skinny black greyhound in the middle. As we walk, they pet him, scratch his ears, giggle over how skinny he is: “I can feel his bones!” Every once in awhile, I tell Moose encouragingly that he’s being such a good and patient boy, and it’s funny to see him look up toward the sound of my voice, as if he’s relieved that in the midst of the hubbub, I’m still there. He really is remarkably patient. Although I’ll continue to say no when one of the girls invariably asks if she can “ride him like a pony.”


One evening we passed a lanky mailman wheeling his cart down the sidewalk. He was young and African American, maybe in his mid-twenties. He skirted us widely but grinned as he did so. “I wouldn’t even try to outrun that dog,” he declared.


We’re cutting through a darkened playlot around 6:45 p.m. when we come across a middle-aged white man and his black Lab/retriever mix. The dog is running loose, weaving this way and that and sniffing bushes. She bounds up to Moose to say hello. The man follows and introduces his dog as “Treevey.” Treevey is wearing a sort of square, Velcro-fastened covering on her back that labels her a “Therapy Dog.” I ask the man about it.

“We work at the home there on the corner for mentally ill people,” he says, gesturing at the square, shabby building just north of us. “And the people there just love her. We go every week. One time we couldn’t go for two weeks in a row, and one of the residents asked for a photo of Treevey so he could look at her while she was gone.”

Moose tires of Treevey’s excitement—he usually prefers humans to dogs—and approaches the man instead, tilting his long, pointy head up for a pet. His tail is flapping. The man caresses Moose’s ears. “I love greyhounds,” he says. “They have such a kind, gentle soul.”

We leave the park together. Treevey remains unleashed. When we reach the busy intersection, the man tells Treevey to stay, and she stops at the curb. He walks out into the middle of the street, looks both ways, and then turns back to her: “Cross.” She trots neatly across the street to join him. Moose looks up at me. The only English he reliably understands includes his name, “Are you hungry?” “Wanna go for a walk?” and “Do you want dinner?” I have a feeling he isn't interested in learning any new commands.

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