Bob had his nose to the ground, roaming in sloppy circles to find the spot. I looked over, and found the man squatting to face his dog and performing sign language. Bob noticed as well and he trotted over to greet the little brown Pug-like canine. I followed Bob as he greeted the other dog in the way dogs do, direct and to the point, and the man looked up and smiled.
His mustache was wispier than Billy’s and he had a chin-only goatee, but his face, circular and cherubic, was very similar to the Guyster’s. He didn’t have the thicket of salt and pepper hair I continue to feel when I close my eyes although his eyes were soft and kind.
“How old is he?” he asked in a perfect sounding voice although he signed it while he spoke. His articulation surprised me.
“Thirteen,” I said, looking directly at him.
“He looks good,” he smiled as his fingers made out the words. He looked back down at his little dog.
“Yeah, he’s a trooper,” I said, catching myself speaking to him without his eyes on my lips. He looked up and I repeated the statement. He smiled again. I wanted to ask when he lost his hearing as I assumed it was recent, given his diction. I decided my question would have been rude and asked him the name of his dog instead.
“Cassie. I’ve had her for about six months. She’s certified as a helper and she’s working out really well.” He paused and went back to petting his helper. I thought she wasn’t a very pretty little girl but in my grander scheme, all dogs are beautiful. He continued, “I had another one who died when she was sixteen,” he said, looking directly at me and his eyes were slightly wet.
“You must have been heartbroken,” I said and took the opportunity, while I had his attention to tell him Bob and I had just moved here from Los Angeles.
“I lived in West Hollywood,” he said and went about naming three or four streets on which he lived.
“Venice,” I said, pointing to myself, and I was struck by how well tuned his voice was yet he signed everything, perhaps reflexively. His delivery was far softer than Billy’s with a hint of a lisp, and he was slightly feminine when he stood and faced me. We spoke a little of Los Angeles and how difficult it was to find an apartment in DC that accepted dogs. I pointed to my building that can be seen from the park.
“Oh. The Post,” he said. He went on to tell me one of the managers knew sign language when he went to look for an apartment there. He explained he has a waver for dogs because she’s his little helper and he would soon be moving back to his old apartment directly across from the park.
Our conversation wound down and we said goodbye, shaking hands and trading names. We retreated to opposite sides of N Street and made our way home.
“Didn’t he look a little like Daddy?” I asked Bob in the elevator but Bob’s nose was pressed against the crack in the elevator doors, waiting to exit. “Yeah, you’re right. Maybe not.”