Dog Sitting in Scotland

June, 2017

As I was walking Tegan, the dog I cared for in a small town outside of Edinburgh, I came upon a group of seven young men who looked like they were up to no good. In fact, one of them was breaking a lawn chair to pieces right there at the edge of the walk along the river, stomping it to bits. I planned to walk quickly by.


Dogs, however, love everyone without preconceived notions, and Tegan hustled the potential petters for attention, refusing to walk on.


As the boys lavished attention on the friendly lab, we chatted. They picked up right away on the fact that I am American. It wasn’t hard. I had to say "what?" three times to the first one who spoke to me--he was trying to tell me he had a golden lab too, in a broad Scottish accent. I haven’t yet figured out this accent. Some people I understand, some I have to listen carefully. But others—I am totally lost.


The teens asked me what I was doing in Scotland. “Do you want to live here?” one asked. They were divided on whether they thought I should. One saying it is a hole and I should leave quickly and another seeming reluctant to agree to such a characterization. I told them that I was on my way to move to Egypt, and to my surprise, one young man had visited Cairo--"It's nice", he said.


Then the most friendly one—I saw the decision on his face before he spoke--asked me if I wanted to taste real Scottish alcohol. He pulled a pint of buckthorn berry wine out of the pocket of his gray hoodie. Those who know me at all know that I haven't had alcohol in many, many, many years. More than 20. But I figured the offer was actually one of camaraderie and one should never refuse an offer of friendship, right? I told them I didn't drink, but I reached for the pint, and as I hesitated, the others assured me that I needed to experience the true Scottish pasttime. Which apparently is drinking.


I drank. The boys hooted and high-fived me, and declining further offers, I went on my way, laughing and a little mystified that these kids wanted to bond with a woman who is most assuredly much older than their mommies.