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Harry and Nuni

By Harry Burrus

Nuni in Swahili (mountain dialect) means Golden Star—well, almost. Not the patois of our Picachos hills. A light golden color, as if aged in ex-bourbon casks, covers her back and sides. Her chest and the inside of her legs are a Dairy Queen creamy white. She’s a young, vibrant three and a half-year-old lab mix. Her kohl-outlined eyes, worn traditionally by Egyptian queens for thousands of years, are highlighted by two black exclamation marks.

I dig her admirable qualities. I like how she views, studies, and assesses new volunteers. She knows more about them than they know about her. What does she want? What’s good for her? Many volunteers are apprehensive about the dog they are about to walk and understandably so. Fortunately, Nuni’s open to possibilities—a trait not shared by all dogs—and will grant new volunteers an opportunity to accompany her on a walk.

She’s not a blank slate on her stroll. She’s aware of people, cars, pickups, and motorcycle as they whiz by. She doesn’t give chase. She accepts them. She will give a shout out to dogs she hasn’t befriended, signaling she’s there. The loud bark or growl shows she’s no poker face. Nuni is protective and loyal. She wants to be there for you—and is.

She’s a playful girl. Interactive. Back in casita 22, I like it when she does a Mr. Bojangles dance for me, jumping high and when she comes down her paws tap the concrete, like flint against steel, sending fireflies all around. She’s good at making eye contact. When her food comes, she gives me a look as if saying excuse me, but I need to do this and proceeds to dine.

To reap the benefits and to enjoy the personality traits, some of them quirky, of the SPA dogs tends to take a little time. Too often a person wants a Duchamp readymade, immediately expecting the dog is everything they want it to be from the get-go. It’s a two-way street, an input and output kind of thing. When one comes often to volunteer, walks dogs, sits with them, even dogs that initially aren’t accepting will gradually open and offer a cornucopia of intriguing features.

Come and visit Nuni at the SPA, Los Pinos 7, 415 152 6124, Monday–Saturday, 11–2pm. Walk her. Get to know her. Give her a chance to dance for you. If you do, you will have the good fortune to have earned a wonderful friend.


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