Quickly I stepped to my right to improve my sight line around the corner, and breathed a sigh of relief. The sidewalk was empty. Yet Gracie was standing stock still, all alone in the middle of the waiting area, staring at a lamp post and ever so gently wagging her tail.
Hmm,.That was a little weird.
As I came closer, I realized I was missing a key bit of information. Standing on the far side of the lamp post, hidden till now from my view, was an older teenage boy. He was slim as a wisp, though even from a distance I could tell he was obviously more mature that the typical harmlessly rowdy mid-teen; he had the sullen sulk of a full-on 18 year old senior. Dressed in black from head to toe, he wore a heavy puffer jacket on a warm spring day. His hood was pulled up and his face shrouded in shadows; he topped off the look with a pair of dark glasses. He leaned slack against the lamp pole, looking just as withdrawn and antisocial as an angsty teen can possibly look.
And there stood my big red shaggy dog, right up in this bad boy's bubble, calmly gazing at him in obvious delight and wagging that cheerful red tail.
I scurried up, looping up the extra length of rope as I prepared to apologize. But before I could speak, the young man broke the silence.
His clear tenor voice sparkled with delight. "I saw your dog come around the corner on that long rope but I didn't see you at the other end. I thought she was all alone. She's so nice."
Gracie continued to stand and wag, close enough for him to reach out and pet her, though he did not.
"Thanks," I said. "You caught me by surprise."
He smiled. Then I smiled.
And Gracie gave him one last friendly glance, then turned and headed off down the sidewalk, in search of her next new friend.