We lived on the end of the row while I was doing my vicarage (internship) in Baltimore, so we actually had a yard in-between us and the church. It wasn’t a big yard, but was fenced in so the dogs could be out there.
We also lived right across the street from an elementary school. I was told that over six hundred children lived in the nine-square blocks about the school. I don’t doubt that estimate. There were always kids coming and going, running and laughing.
And knocking at our door. You see, we had the dogs. We brought the yellow Lab, Gabriel, with us. We brought home a chocolate Lab, Rachel, a few months after we arrived in the city. They were great companions at home, on walks and when I went for runs. They were great watchdogs, too. Right after we arrived, a repairman came to the house to fix a lock. Gabriel had him pinned against the wall with a snarl I had never seen before.
And the neighborhood kids loved them. It was not unusual to hear a knock at the door and find 18-20 kids on the front step asking, “Can we play with your dogs?” We would let them out in the side yard and the dogs would chase the herd of kids to one end of the yard, and then the kids would chase the kids to the other end. The smaller children would ride the dogs around the yard like ponies. The kids would throw balls and sticks, and then try to wrestle them away from the dogs.
I’m not sure who loved it more – the kids or the dogs. Finally the kids would tire or have to go home, and the dogs would collapse, exhausted and happy, panting with their tongues rolled out on the floor.
We were there over thirty years ago, yet I can still vividly remember the sound of gunfire from a passing car, the all night conversations and music passing by our window, and those excited little voices asking, “Can we play with your dogs?”