There’s a gentleman who lives in the apartments next door. I say gentleman not only because it’s the most polite way to refer to a person of the male gender, but also because my neighbor has never been anything but a gentleman. He never forgets a “please,” or a “thank you,” and even though I’m probably about half his age, he calls me, “Ma’am.” His first name is a common one, but I’ll change it anyway: We’ll call him Jim.
Jim has a disability. I’m not sure, exactly, which diagnosis he carries. He’s in his forties, so chances are as a child he was given some catch-all label like “mildly brain damaged,” or, though I hate to type this out, “retarded.” He speaks very slowly and walks with an unusual gait. Jim has a little bit of an accent similar to that which comes with Down’s Syndrome, but not quite the same. He converses using short words, and I find that he understands me best if I do the same. Jim has a job and takes the bus to work. He likes my dog, and my dog likes him quite a lot.
The first time I met Jim, he was on his way to the bus stop. My dog and I were in my front yard. I’d seen Jim around before, and waved to him a couple times, but we’d never had a conversation. But this time, my dog saw him too. Augustin– who knows where the boundaries of the yard are and obeys them– rushed straight into the street to greet Jim. I retrieved the dog with many apologies, rushed him inside for a time-out, and had a brief conversation with Jim. Since then, Augustin has behaved himself in the front yard, but he still greets Jim every chance he gets.
Anyone my dog likes is automatically on my good side. I’ve noticed the pooch has fairly good judgment. For example, he recently barked at the teenagers carrying beer who walked by the house at night, but not at a nurse walking home with her daughter. But this post isn’t about my dog’s common sense. It’s about my good neighbor, Jim, who always has time to compliment me on my dog’s behavior.
He asks, as Augustin gleefully whines and licks his hand before rolling over for a belly rub, “How do you get him to be so friendly? I know some people make their dogs real mean, but he’s not mean at all. He’s so friendly.”
I explain that Augustin has always been that way, and point out as a stranger approaches, that Augustin stiffens and barks. “He knows the difference between friends and strangers, but he only barks at people if it is after dark.” This impresses Jim, and causes him to erupt into another string of compliments.
That’s my good neighbor, Jim, and that’s all I’ll say about him in this post. In my next post, we’ll talk about Jim again; but I have a point to make, and it doesn’t have a place in this post. This post is about Jim, who is my neighbor, and a gentleman.