Ups and downs, ins and outs, curve balls and random collisions. Who said Life was going to be easy? As I sort it out, here's a collection of my essays, newspaper columns and mental meanderings about family, friendship, ecology, politics and a world that goes bump in its fright.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Bouncing Out of the Chute in the Two-Dog Rodeo

Every morning and every evening these days, I play a challenging game anyone can play (but few would want to).

The alarm clock awakens me before dawn, but it's the expectation of two dogs that actually get my feet on the floor. If I didn't walk them, I could sleep in a little longer, but Bob Dog, the elder statesman of DogWorld, would look at me that way. Amazingly peppy, he's physically sound for such a senior gentleman, partly because of the morning walks we've been taking, except for illness (mine -- Bob is never sick) or sucky weather, for almost all of his 15+ years. We even walked in Wyoming in the winter, and believe me, that's some commitment.

For Bob, I could do no less. It's part of the charter of our friendship. I give him food, water, a warm place to sleep and two walks a day and he gives me all of him, with no reserves and no judgment. Bob is love.

Newer to the equation is the ebullient, sassy, irrepressible Miss Grace. Rescued from a flood and a bad beginning in New Mexico, Miss Gracie is being fostered at my house until I can find the just-right home for her. At four months, she's way more energetic than Bob or I have patience for -- and as for the cat, just forget about that. Sable Cat has taken up residence on my bed and says she'll come down when we get rid of that thing.

Gracie is only in my home temporarily and I could, theoretically, leave her in the back yard while Bob and I take a spin. She's not mine, after all. But Gracie is in her formative months and if she doesn't get trained in being a companionable dog now, who knows what might become of her? I didn't ask for the Gracie assignment, but it came my way and I wouldn't be me if I had just turned the other way.

So, we walk.

Actually, walk is not quite the correct verb, but I'm not sure there is one. From the moment the leashes come out, the bouncing begins. Boing, boing, boing, Bob is bouncing stiffly on his mildly arthritic front legs while I hitch him up, and Gracie is so excited, she's just a little blur careening all around us until she sees me bending down with her leash. She's learned quickly that the game doesn't continue unless she gets the leash on, so now she comes and stands as quietly as she can muster -- which isn't very -- by my side until she, too, is hitched up.

Then, out the front door, down the steps they go and over each other and under and around and over again. Within two minutes, one dog has gone left, the other has gone right, Gracie has seen a squirrel and lunged toward the tree and Bob just wants a moment's privacy, thank you very much. The leashes get tangled, I duck and pirouette and plunge, and occasionally swear in a stage whisper and try simply to hang onto both leashes and also a tiny bit of my dignity.

Eventually, someone poops and a plastic bag of warm dog dirt adds to the challenge. Surely there's a judge somewhere giving me extra points for the difficulty of that maneuver.

But also, somewhere along the way, the leashes untangle, the dogs start trotting in tandem, and I begin to notice the morning stretching and yawning all around me. The streetlights shine muzzily through the fine mist that spritzes my face, the train whistle hoots in the distance and there's nothing in the air that could be mistaken for anything but autumn.

The real dance is the one with my own reactions. If I resist the dogs' energy, they wear me out. If I start thinking the walk should be anything other than exactly what it is, I get upset. If I mentally start tapping my foot and moving on to the next item on my schedule, I end up tripping on either a dog, a loose brick in the sidewalk, or my own impatience.

But if I stay present and if I keep myself interested in the dogs and the moment we find ourselves in -- observing the dynamic of their interactions, the enthusiasm with which they smell abosolutely everything, the delight with which Gracie pounces on the shadow of her own ears, the familiar tick-tick-tick of Bob's nails on the sidewalk -- I stop feeling like a stranger in this world and begin to feel a part of every molecule of it.

The moment passes, the bouncing begins again and soon I'm swearing sotto voce as I try to unwrap the green leash from around my ankle and get the stickers out of Bob's paw and Gracie away from the sticker patch and not drop the warm baggie before we get to the trash bin a few feet away.

Briefly, though, there's been a little pocket of peace on this earth and I've been right in the middle of it, basking in my First Prize win in the Two-Dog Rodeo.


Blogger Neil said...

Awesome post. Incredible imagery. You made me feel as if I were there in the morning mist.

I've been checking in on your blog for the last few months and hoping for one of your awesomely eloquent pieces. Thanks for fulfilling my hopes. You are a great writer please share more!

Feel free to peruse my blog over at Neil's Blog

9:35 PM


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