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We all walk our dogs. That's how I got to know Mary Mapes and her husband, Mark Wrolstad. Her mother died. She inherited a sweet old Labrador retriever. My 140-pound Weimaraner didn't like her Lab. That kind of thing.

Even though our acquaintance was very slight, it was strange to have even a passing familiarity with the human being at the center of "Rathergate." The first thing was that she and her husband disappeared from dog-walking. I was accustomed to seeing them, chatting with her, keeping an eye on the Morning News guy for any sign of pet abuse. But they evaporated.

And then she reappeared on my TV set and in my newspapers and magazines--again and again, this spectral hollow-eyed version of herself, always looking just askance from cameras as if somehow disembodied. A floating skull. In real life she's an attractive, lively woman, but on television she always looked like Banquo's Ghost getting booted out of the banquet.

Scary. And just two blocks away.

You know, sometimes I have doubts about my sensitivities. Looking back, I think I was mainly worried about the dogs. How the heck were they going to get walked?

In her living room the other day, she talked to me about what it was like to be Mary Mapes when the political hurricane made landfall in the neighborhood.

"People on the Internet put up my home address," she said. "They put up property tax information. They started calling people I had worked with at previous jobs in Seattle. People would write, 'I just drove past her house. She has dogs. It looks like no one's home.'

"We were sitting right in this room. I was probably in this chair. I looked out, and I saw this big red pickup pull up. You know, one of those Texas big-boy pickups. The window came down, and a big guy leaned out with a camera. Ching, ching, ching, taking pictures. Mark ran out. 'Hey, can I help you?' The guy sped away.

"There also were on the Internet--I found this out eventually, I wasn't even looking at it, because it was so upsetting--there were [mentions] of me having a red dot on my head, having a laser scope on my head. Which is what? Like a gun sight on my head? And if someone can lean out to shoot a picture, can they lean out and shoot me? Can they shoot into my window? What the heck is going on here?

"There was so much political hatred in the air at the time that it scared me. It scared me."

I asked her why she stopped walking her dogs.

"I used to begin every day prior to this, put on my headset, and I would walk two or three miles in the neighborhood."

She was able to enjoy three great pleasures at the same time--the dogs, the neighborhood and the news on her headset.

"When this happened, that stopped abruptly because, A, I didn't have the energy for it. B, I didn't want to hear the news because too often I was part of it, and it wasn't good. And C, I felt ashamed and hurt and embarrassed and overwhelmed.

"It was like there had been a death in my family, and it had been a very humiliating death in some ways, tragic and yet shameful."

So I asked when she started back walking the dogs.

"This all started September 8," she said. "I was fired January 10. I did a certain catatonic walk, but I wouldn't go by myself. I had Mark there to cover for me if I was unable to communicate."

So I asked when she started walking the dogs by herself.

"I would say I started walking by myself again maybe in February. Really, I had to get my confidence back."

Once she got back out there with the dogs, she said the neighborhood was a source of solace and strength.

"People were real good," she said. "Real loving."

One family sent her and her husband a gift certificate for dinner at The Grape.

"People called and said, 'How are you doing?' People sent over pumpkins and hay bales and put them in my front yard, because every year I like to do chrysanthemums and pumpkins and that stuff. I was so completely drained and felt so worthless, I couldn't do that. Friends brought over lotions and potions and soft products. It was so nice.

"They sent cards. 'Keep your chin up.' And people reminded me--and this was exactly what I needed to hear--'No one you love is sick. No one you care about is hurt. You haven't lost a family member. Everybody you love still loves you.'

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze