Last Tour on the Watch
Every day past the school
I carried the sack,
Penny sniffed, Penny looked
And, we kept careful track
But, only trash filled the sack.
She watched me get fitter.
Sometimes begged for a treat.
No crime except litter
Ever found on our street.
Until one day, we did find one!
Chandler PD Dogwalker Watch
Soon after we moved to Chandler in the Spring of 2017, my 10-year-old border collie decided we should meet people. Not that she ever really liked to meet people but I had the leash and she wanted to be outside, no matter the heat. So, walking a couple of miles became our mutually beneficial twice daily hobby and routine in the new neighborhood. As a senior leisure activity, I could imagine worse. The Chandler Police Department offered just the thing. Training for “Dogwalker Watch” was opening up as it periodically did. Penny and I participated in a class. It’s about a two-hour class, so didn’t require a lot of investment either. I already had the leash. She was awarded the signal blue ascot and we were off to fight the bad guys with my cell phone camera and her big white teeth.
We met a lot of elementary school children. Some of the children were afraid of Penny, a trepidation she shared. Some of the children wanted to reach out and pet the dog until she haplessly growled with her tail wagging. Go figure. We met other dog walkers. We met joggers and bicyclists. We met a few unruly 8-9th graders (I think) mostly on the evening walks. I often wondered why kids aren’t as sassy on their way to school as they are on their way to hang out “nowhere” and do “nothing” in the gloaming.
The seasons changed. Of course, the changes in Arizona are very small and mostly heat related, but we were being observant after all. The Dogwalker Watch Program is kind of like Neighborhood Watch in that the people most familiar with the sidewalks, bike paths, footpaths, decorative greenways and tiny parks regularly observe what is going on and if need be, report mischief or worse to the local police patrols. The watch simply extends the observation deck. There is no confrontation, there is no more risk than one might usually encounter with shoelaces, uneven pavement, and active animals. Now that cell phones are permanent appendices, it’s not even very difficult to explain what one saw as it is so easy to snap a photo.
But, the truth is my neighborhood is pretty quiet and there was little to nothing to report except the occasional malfunctioning water sprinkler, street lamp outage, amateur graffiti or lost pet.
The case of the empty mailer
One Sunday morning, Penny and I happened upon a particularly large piece of cardboard trash, an empty mailing carton of standard description (brown cardboard, packing tape, air-filled pouches for cushion. The strewn debris field was about that which one would expect of a small delivery from UPS, USPS, FED EX, Amazon or any number of others. Nothing really remarkable. I confess, my initial thoughts were not of piracy. I was annoyed that someone was just that thoughtless about throwing the trash on the ground when trash cans are conveniently placed along the path.
Looking at it more closely, whoa now, a mailing label remained and the address was not far. Penny thought we should just take their trash back to them. We found the home alright, but no one was home despite the garage door left open. So, we left their tattered, shattered box by the open garage door and muttered about it on the way home.
Now comes the good part. Temperatures that week were unseasonably warm, reaching 108 degrees. That meant our evening walks had to be postponed until after sundown. I hadn’t found those little slippers some pet places sell now to protect the paws from the cement and asphalt that gets so hot that, yes, eggs can fry. Wednesday evening, Penny and I walked on the more sheltered end of the greenway path, where more trees provide shade during the day. This meant we headed the opposite direction, about half a mile, from where we’d found the trash but it is the tiniest bit cooler on that side. Penny alerted and sniffed at something tucked between the oleander bushes. I pulled her back as oleander can be toxic to dogs. But, then I saw the soft gleam of white plastic tubes and small jars. Someone had apparently halfheartedly hidden or dumped a nice stash of cosmetics. I remember thinking it might have been shoplifted from one of the retail stores nearby. Perhaps some absurd plan to surprise a mom since Mother’s Day was fast approaching. But, I did not recognize the brand of cosmetic and neither did Penny. She woofed but otherwise seemed uninterested after her initial alert.
The cell phone camera came in handy. I snapped a few photos of the stash Penny had found and the location number on the adjacent light pole. Doggone useful these new smart cell phones. A brief online search informed me that these particular cosmetic supplies were quite valuable. High-value cosmetics, you ask? Well, I guess there is a market for everything these days. This array was retail valued at more than I’d spend in a year, maybe five. Maybe I wouldn’t even know what to do with such products.
Clues fall into place and the mystery is solved
Overnight, as revelations will, it came to me that the torn shipping carton and the cast off cosmetics might be related. Penny and I sprinted off the next morning to test our new theory. This time when I rang the bell, it was answered by the lady of the house despite the early hour. I explained who we were and apologized for ringing so early. I asked if she had been the victim of porch pirates, those thieves that prey on packages delivered to your front door. They don’t care what they take, they might not even know what they take. They see a delivery and see that it isn’t picked up right away and then……they make off with it. My unhappy neighbor said that yes, she was very frustrated and told me she had reported the loss to the police. I introduced myself as one of her neighbors and asked her to identify what was missing. I told her I was the one who had brought back the remains of her box. I believed I may have found the contents on the opposite end of the greenway. Well, yes. She identified exactly the brand and number of cosmetics before I opened my sack. I was very pleased that Penny could be helpful in the recovery.
She was a considerably happier woman as her products were returned although I don’t think sitting out in the heat did them any good. She promised to inform the police that she now had her merchandise back. While it would have been even more satisfying to catch the porch pirate, I’m glad my neighbor’s purchase could be returned.
And, I’m really glad Penny, on Dogwalker Watch, had a part to play in that.
Sadly, it was pretty much her last tour of duty. She died the following Sunday.