Harpo in Nashville, TN
„Let’s do it the dumbest possible way“ is written all over the rainbow colored t-shirt of the black kid who is approaching me and Harpo. We are in the little entrance hall of a Walmart in Nashville, Tennessee, waiting for Ulla who went inside shopping for shampoo. That is clearly not the brightest idea because the usual Walmart Supercenter is huge and regardless what you are looking for you never seem to come out of these stores in less than an hour. I’m sitting to the left of the automatic sliding doors on a ride for children. There are no benches or chairs to sit down on like in other Walmarts up north. It is a little inconvenient but the air conditioning makes up for it. Outside it is 92F so it is better to be here instead of outside for Harpo and me as well.
Let’s do it the dumbest possible way? Wait a minute, that sounds familiar, I think and
before I can ask him if this is the latest credo of the administration he asks me “Does he bite? He looks like a puppy, how old is he? Does he know tricks?” Harpo is wagging his tail.
Mostly it’s women and girls who just can’t pass him without coming over and saying Hello.
“He is such a nice puppy.” I let that pass because I am getting tired of explaining that he is almost three and not a puppy any more and that he is maybe a little small but lean instead of fat which still does not make him a puppy.
“My granny has one of these, well almost. She is black instead of brown and about double the size.”
“He’s so cute.”
“What’s his name? Harpo? Like Harpo Marx? – Awesome.”
“He’s just gorgeous.”
Harpo is doing his little spiel, is all smiles – if that makes any sense for a dog – and lets his tail talk. He acts like he usually isn’t treated well by us and makes a real show of it
I’m not nervous, but I watch the situation closely. This is the first time that we get to see and meet black people in a noticeable number and the reaction of dogs isn’t always reliably predictable. With squirrels for examples Harpo derails totally but now he is okay. It’s a little like in the old country song “you never can tell”.
A story comes to my mind a friend told me some time ago. He had to move I believe from California to one of the northern states. At the time he had a dog which he didn’t want to take with him and so he gave it to a friend. A week later he got a call from this friend who complained about the dog.
“You know what this dog does? „, he asked him, he barks at black people, fiercely and menacingly loud. What did you do with him?”
„Nothing“, my friend said „he’s always been that way. He’s a German Shorthair. What do you expect from him, being German?
Not so Harpo. He treats all of his admirers alike, doesn’t bark at neither white nor black, is friendly with everybody and apparently has a very good time. And everybody else with him.