Of all the lockdowns, in all the millennia , in all the world he walked into ours.
We live in a row of houses, each with postage stamp gardens, backing onto the forest. Lockdown necessitated long lazy days, with windows thrown wide open so that as some of us worked from home, others just happened to be in paddling pools in the garden.
And as I worked, I listened to the little family two houses along, whose dog has a name to ponder on.
Jump back nine months; as Riley and I returned from a forest romp, rather than curve deftly into our open front door, Riley chose on this occasion to do an audacious banana curve out onto the green in front of our house. The reason for this soon became clear; it is harder to find a dog shorter than Riley. But, here stood one. A caramel-coloured, long haired dachshund, with eyes like Angelina Jolie and hair akin to Farah Fawcett-Majors. I walked up to contemplate this unusual four-legged resident.
‘Hello,’ I said, ‘are you lost?’
As Riley stared unblinkingly (in fact, slightly unsettlingly) at the little dog, the door of the nearest house flung open. ‘Han Solo!’ she called. Han Solo turned, and without a backwards glance, trotted into the house.
Riley and I were left with our jaws foolishly open, contemplating the concept of the small dog named Han Solo. Certainly he had that star quality. He was an ‘it’ dog. And we had not even thought to ask for an autograph. We turned, and trailed into our house.
With lockdown, Han Solo’s celebrity increased. We would listen to the two young daughters playing in the paddling pool, as Han Solo patrolled. Every now and then, Han Solo would bark at some passing crow, or a neighbouring dog. And when he did, there would be a chorus from the two little girls; ‘Han Solo! Han Solo!’ Han Solo would be silent for a short term, until the next intruder.
Our days were punctuated by the sounds of children playing and the refrain; ‘Han Solo!’
In June, I was pottering alone in my garden. The youngest daughter of the Han Solo family was also in her’s. Conversations by two year olds tend to open in a limited number of ways.
‘Hello,’ she said.
‘Hello,’ I replied.
After a short pause; ‘what are you doing?’
‘I’m looking after the flowers in my garden,’ I replied. There ensued a short conversation about the flowers in her garden, and then, a companionable silence.
‘Where’s your dog?’ She asked.
I explained that Riley was inside, sleeping. Then boldly, I ventured ‘where’s…Han Solo?’
It was like pressing a button. ‘He’s inside! I’ll go and get him.’
Seconds later Han the man walks out and stands at the fence. His ‘you’re worth it’ hair blows a little in the breeze, and he stares at me levelly.
‘Hello, Han Solo.’
Han Solo does not move, and continues his level gaze. Telepathically, he says ‘hey.’
And then, the moment is broken. Somebody calls the little girl, Han goes to investigate, and I realise I’m flooding the geranium patch with the hose. As swiftly as the moment came, it had gone.
Dogs with presence like Han? They’re hard to find. But you couldn’t find a better lockdown leitmotif than Han Solo.