Having endured a day with temperatures well in excess of one hundred degrees; my hound and I were enjoying a well anticipated walk in the park. The sun had just set and the heat was slowly giving way to a slightly cool breeze coming off of the mountains. It was still quite warm, but at least it was bearable!
We were paused under a large tree, sharing a bottle of icy cold water; when Xena took notice of a young man across the street. Her ears were perked up, her tail was fully extended, and the nose was pointed in her desired direction. If there is one trait I admire in my dog it is her steadfast persistence. Did I happen to mention that it is also one of her least enviable traits? The next thing I knew, ninety pounds of hunting dog was pulling me towards the object of her new-found curiosity.
Giving me a look of mild disgust, Xena reluctantly obeyed my command for her to sit. The tail was wagging slightly and her gaze was still fixed on the man across the street. I have always encouraged my dog’s elevated sense of sociability; but with a small measure of restraint. Before we went anywhere, I was going to size up her would-be friend!
I try not to form impressions about people based on outward appearances, but observation can be a trusted ally. The house and lawn across the street were both well-kept. The man, perhaps in his mid-twenties looked friendly enough. He was dressed in shorts that almost came down to his ankles and a tank top depicting his professional wrestling hero. The Colorado Rockies baseball cap perched on his head also earned him a few bonus points in my scorecard. I could tell by the look on his face that he was also eager to make a new canine friend!
The asphalt radiated its heat through the bottom of my sandals. I could only imagine how hot it felt on the pads of Xena’s paws. We hurried across the street seeking the comfort of standing on some cool grass. It was then that I saw it! Dog and owner came to a screeching halt at the street curb. The man standing directly across from us was wearing a law enforcement ankle cuff!
Apparently the electronic device, tethered around this man’s lower leg, made no difference to Xena. She was already tugging at her leash, ready to make yet another new acquaintance. I released the tension on the lead and allowed her to move forward, assuring the man that she was extremely friendly. He dropped down to one knee and began stroking the back of the dog’s neck. Xena had once again managed to discover her version of hound dog heaven!
Second only to persistence is my dog’s heightened sense of curiosity. She was quickly sniffing the mans hands, shorts, and legs. I shuddered as she zeroed in on the ankle cuff. A sense of awkwardness overcame me. I had really hoped to avoid the electronic sentry altogether; and in fact, had been making a point of not even looking at it. Now there was no other alternative as I realized the cuff was going to become a topic of conversation!
Over the course of the next few minutes, the young man explained that he was under house arrest for three weeks. He had managed to drink too much one evening and along with several friends had been caught with a can of spray paint in his hand. That in itself would not have been too terrible, had he not also just finished painting graffiti on the side of a city building! He had paid restitution and was now serving his sentence at home.
We chit chatted a little longer about the heat, how pristine the park was, and the genealogy of my dog. Given that Plott Hound and Catahoula Leopard Dog mixtures are rare in this part of the country, most of the conversation focused on the latter topic. Xena enjoyed her time with her new friend and it was not long before we crossed the blistering street anew to seek sanctuary in the park.
My hesitation in approaching the young man across the street had been unwarranted. I had made a faulty assumption based upon the ankle cuff he was wearing. He had simply made a mistake, was now paying the price, and hopefully would learn a lesson. As we rounded a tall pine tree, I wondered how many of us wear ankle cuffs every day. These devices are intended to monitor our activity and modify our behavior. They limit us and report any unapproved activity we may undertake.
Who has put an ankle cuff on you recently? What limits your ability to be the person you truly desire to be? Do you have to answer to some anonymous keeper who monitors everything you do? The saddest part is that most of us put the ankle cuff on ourselves. We fear venturing out beyond what we have been told we are capable of. We revel in the comfort of being controlled by the limitations we have sentenced ourselves to.
As for me, the battery in my ankle cuff died a long time ago. Funny thing though; I cannot seem to find a replacement battery anywhere!