A month ago, I acquired a flatmate. Her name is Laura, and she hails from the chilly state of Alaska, where she spent her free time doing typical Alaskan things like curling, hanging out at bonfires, hunting caribou (I may have invented that one) and watching the Northern Lights. No biggie. Laura has brought a refreshing joie de vivre to the flat, along with her guitar, frozen kale, and thrifty money-saving ideas like mixing detergent with water so we don’t blow through it so quickly.
Since her arrival, we have already had a number of adventures, including losing her key to the elevator shaft the same way I lost mine, coming home from a live band at the local bar at 3:00AM with McDonalds, and hosting True American.
But a few nights ago, we had an even more exciting adventure. We were leaving the flat to head to the pub, and debating whether or not to take the elevator. We’ve been hit with power outages at least three times a night this past month, and getting stuck in an elevator is no one’s idea of an ideal way to spend an hour. Erring on the safe side, we took the stairs.
Turning the corner, we both jumped.
“Oh my God. A dog.” she said.
Beneath us on the stairs, a white baladi dog stood looking up at us whimpering, its tail wagging furiously. It wasn’t very big, but it looked fairly battle-scarred and it seemed odd that it was in the apartment building.
“I don’t know if we should go down,” she told me. “It probably can’t get out of the building and it might be afraid.”
We decided the best option would be to make noises at it and shoo it back down the stairs. Remembering the many times Shar and I had driven past a dog wandering the road (and the 30 minutes we spent trailing one en route to Yosemite, trying to give it water), I called down to it:
“Go home!” I cried. “My friend says dogs understand that and know where home is,” I explained. The dog trotted down the steps to the lobby, where it stood whining at the locked door.
“I don’t want to walk past it,” Laura said, as we huddled in the stairwell. “It’s got nowhere to go. It’s panicking.”
“What do we do?”
“I’m calling Ramadan,” she said, phoning our boab. I scanned my phone, searching for the Dog Whistler app that Chris had installed for whatever reason. (He later told me he used it to annoy the street dogs.)
“Should I use this dog whistle thing? Do you think that will make it attack?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think we should risk it.”
Suddenly, the stairway lights went out. Frantically, I groped along the wall for the switch and turned them back on. The dog was right in front of us.
Terrified, we stumbled back up the stairs while shooing it back down.
At this point, two things happened. First, a young Korean boy left his apartment and started to come downstairs, where he found Laura and I cowering against the railing, looking down. Second, the dog began to growl.
“Don’t go down there,” Laura whispered to the boy. “There’s a dog there.”
Growling, the dog started for the stairs again, coming toward us. Struggling not to run, we slowly backed up toward the first floor landing.
Nowhere near our floor, we did the only thing we could. We turned to the Korean boy.
“Do you live on this floor? Can we come into your apartment?”
Without much of a response, he turned and knocked on his door. In minutes, we were standing awkwardly on the welcome mat of his apartment, explaining to the little boy’s mother why we had followed him into the flat.
“There’s, uh, there’s a dog in the building.”
And then the power cut.
The boy’s sister arrived in the living room, followed by the father with a flashlight. We shuffled nervously at the door. I wondered if I should take my shoes off.
After grabbing a water bottle, the father and his son led us out of the flat. The father splashed water on the dog, which had been pacing outside the door, and it darted down the stairs. Laura and I anxiously followed behind as the father shouted in Korean to his son, who translated for us.
“He says be careful, the stairs are wet.”
“He says it’s safe now. The dog is gone.”
And so, we finally made it out of our building and into the dark, lampless street where the dog lurked somewhere nearby, possibly still high on the scent of our fear.
Now when I see the Korean boy, he says hello to me, and probably thinks back to the night he led two adults down a dark staircase after they had requested he bring them into his home.
But hey, it’s definitely a more creative way to meet the neighbors than bringing a jello mold.