When we walk around our neighbourhood during the day, Jack and I have a regular route. We walk up to the high school, then down toward the park and then loop around back to the far end of our own street and then it’s a straight line to home again. This route is Jack’s choice because it gives him the best chance of getting a few love pats along the way. The walk takes us past his teenaged fan club and the home of his best dog friend, Leo. It also allows me to avoid problems because I know where all the other dogs live along the route. Most dogs are friendly and get along well with Jack, but there are one or two exceptions. There’s a Jack Russell at the end of our block who strains at his leash snarling and barking at Jack madly. We only know him as “Shut-up you bastard,” but I’m sure he has another name. I’d stop to ask except he won’t stop barking long enough to speak to his person, a frail elderly man who likes to holler. There’s also Izzy, a pug, who wants to challenge Jack. Jack picked him up once and spat him out again, without injury I should add, but it only made Izzy more determined to get Jack. So now, we always cross the street to avoid him. Izzy has a great person named Linda who Jack and I both like, but she understands that Izzy has issues and always controls him from her side of the street. Recently, though, neighbours a few blocks down have gotten a new dog, and it barks at us every day no matter what time we go by. It’s always at the window, I imagine because his people work and he is watching for them. The new dog not only barks, but he jumps around a lot, occasionally banging into the window. Jack says he wants to be friends and tells me that we should knock on their door one evening to meet him when his people are at home. I think we should wait until spring, when the new dog is more settled and we can meet casually outdoors. I tell Jack that not everyone wants a voyager at their door with an 85-pound hairy goofball, asking if their dog can come out to play. Jack says he can’t understand why, and furrow’s his brow at me. Sheesh, alright, Bubba! Maybe I’ll go alone to take them a few Christmas cookies and check the situation out. If they’re agreeable, perhaps I’ll take Jack for a playdate. I think the new dog does look like a fun sort of fellow, just look at that smile, and its barking and antics do seem more playful than aggressive. Who knows, maybe Leo has some competition for the title of Jack’s Best Friend?