12 December 2008

The Walk

Work is very boring. It’s the holiday season, people are taking time off work, and in general there just isn’t a lot to do for those of us who show up. With so many people out today I just stayed the entire day at my desk to cover phones. By the end of the day, a long walk in the brisk December evening is the only thing on my mind.

Most nights I try to take both dogs for a walk around the neighborhood, a short walk. Dolly doesn’t have the stamina for those long walks we used to take. When Leonard was alive, our constitutional was almost a mile long most days, always in the same formation: Len leading the way on the outside, Dolly at his left flank, me holding the leashes behind. We would take the same route, at the same time of the day, cross streets at the same spot, all the same stops, every day. It was our routine.

When I moved to this house, it was just Dolly and me for a very long time. For our walks we would travel all the way around the block, and further. Anymore the days of long rambles are done for Doll. My Girl is up around 11 years now. I don’t know for sure how many years old this sweetheart rescue dog is, but she has been with me 10 years and her estimated age was about 1 when we adopted her. These days, Michiko takes the both of them for a VERY leisurely stroll down the street and back in the mornings, stopping to smell the roses along the way, before they spend the rest of the afternoon lounging pamperedly on her sun room floor. Our evening walks are always the same route, out the driveway, left onto Ridgemont Drive to east on Waverly Street, turn around at Irene Street and the big Pine Tree, then retrace our route home on the other side of the street. It’s the same walk every time. It’s our routine.

But today I need a longer walk. I am crumpled from sitting all day, there were too many Holiday Snacks sitting out, and I feel grumpy. I am pretty sure Sonny can take a long walk, he’s young and runs like the wind in the back yard, he’s in good shape, I think to myself, he can go with me on my long and restorative walk tonight.

But, how do I get out of the house without Dolly knowing we are going on a walkie, and that she’s not coming with us? The answer to that is: cookies. Here Dolly, take this cookie and go back into the living room to lie down by the Christmas tree. I pretend I am going out alone.

I stealthily fetch Sonny’s collar and leash from the hook going down the stairs, careful to let no chain jangle. It’s lucky he is already in the yard, Dollly won’t see him leaving to go out the door with me. I don’t want to hurt her feelings.

I close the door behind us and we sally forth, Sonny and I, in the almost dark twilight of Thursday night, two weeks before Christmas.

We walk along our usual route. Sonny is his old self. He marks his same spots. He sniffs his same Stop Signs. He checks under his familiar shrubs. We stop at the curbs when cars drive by. He looks at the Holiday lights on the houses in short interest, then looks away dismissively. Crazy Humans.

Our promenade takes us past the normal turn around point. Sonny glances back at me. Do you know where you are going?

We turn a corner he has never turned before. Sonny is unsure on which side of the street he should progress. Whoa. This is different.

We proceed down a new avenue he has never navigated. Sonny now has no interest in smells or dog walk things. He looks like he has no idea where home could be. His ears are down, his tail is low. And he glances nervously behind at me with every new sound on this strange block. Are you sure you know where you are going?

We round an unlighted spooky bend and head downhill on a more populated and lit up street. I am enjoying the sights of the Christmas lights. I like to look inside the houses with the living room lights on, at other people’s Christmas traditions, what do they put on their Christmas mantels? How many stockings are hung by the fire?

Sonny grows nervous. He is out of his element and his pace becomes unsure. This is not his routine.

We start back up the hill on the next street, and the march becomes harder. The air is clean and my toes are starting to tingle, a good time for some exertion.

I notice his trepid pace, I have been noticing his reluctance all along. I know where we are, I say to him, we are heading for home. I reach down to reassure him with a pat by his tail that everything is fine. At my touch he jumps out of his skin like a nervous rabbit! Sonny is seriously disoriented. Where the heck is home?

We reach the top of the hill and we are getting closer to home. Things start to look familiar to him, he is in his morning dog walk with Michiko area. I walk behind him, watching his reactions. His ears perk up and he begins to perambulate more confidently. Oh yes, this is more like it.

I decide to say nothing more and see if he can take us home. He walks us the last block to our driveway and turns in, glancing back at me triumphantly.

I knew where I was going, all along.


At December 19, 2008 at 9:18 PM , Blogger Kate said...

i love that dog. geez, i wonder why i hate change and love a schedule... your routines for your pets are much like your parenting ones!! :) i do love me a good schedule.


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