It has occurred to me recently that some of my greatest epiphanies have come while there is a leash in my hand. Perhaps we should have named the dog Buddha instead of Reeses. She does have the stomach for it. Maybe it’s not the dog that supplies the magic. Maybe it’s the fresh air, as bitter as it may be, or the company of my ten year old, or the vitamin D infusion supplied by the sun. Who am I kidding? It’s the dog. Because, really, just look at her.
1. Squirrels are like chocolate.
Reeses has seen hundreds of squirrels, although I am quite convinced she thinks there is just one and it is following her around the neighborhood taunting her at every turn. Every time she sees a squirrel she stands at high alert and then lurches for it, taking me along for the ride. She has to have that squirrel. I used to get aggravated with her. After all, it’s the 85th squirrel we’ve seen this week. What’s with all of the excitement? Then I started to think about the many times I have seen chocolate and the lunging, lurching, and longing involved in these sightings suddenly became very familiar. Now I cut her some slack, because, squirrels are like chocolate, but probably not as tasty.
2. Old men are wise.
I have a dog walking friend. Okay, he’s probably not my friend, but I pass him fairly often when dog walking. This eighty something year old man has two dogs that are infinitely better behaved than mine. When we pass one another, we briefly exchange greetings and dog talk. Last week, during one of these encounters, he waved me aside and showed me the spiked ice grabbers he had attached to his boots. He demonstrated how they worked, told me where to get them, and swore he wouldn’t walk his dogs in the winter without them. I smiled and thanked him and continued on my way thinking about how my sense of balance was decades younger than his. Exactly one week later, probably to the second, I approached one of the busy intersections near school. There were three cars and one bus (probably full of my children’s friends) stopped at the four way stop when I stepped into the street, slipped on some of that black ice you always hear about, and slow motion fell to the ground. The cars and bus waited to watch me get up from the ground, pick up the dropped leash, wave off their concern with a smile and an “It’s all good,” and finish crossing the street. My leg is still a little sore and I’m pretty sure I can see the old man shaking his head from here.
3. Some people are jackasses.
This actually happened a while ago, but it has stuck with me. It was back when we still had two dogs (insert tears) and I was walking them across yet another busy intersection. Allow me to set the scene for you. It was a sunny spring day. The snow was gone and it was warm enough for a light jacket. The dogs and I are enjoying a lovely walk along our town’s quaint Main Street. Sounds delightful, right? Well, springtime weather translates to more than budding flowers and fresh breezes. It also means squirrels are out in force. Did I mention our old dog was a chaser? Anyway, we are walking along a very busy Main Street when a squirrel passes our path and the dogs go crazy. They wrap their leashes around my legs and trip me up, knocking me to the ground and leaving me to limp the two blocks towards home. Hold on, we’re not to the good part yet.
Before reaching home we cross the aforementioned intersection. I’m a little flummoxed at this point and don’t look for the little walky man on the crosswalk traffic light. I do, however see the red light and the cars stopped, so I allowed the dogs to pull me across, limping along on the brink of tears. Apparently the lane turning right had a green arrow. I was alerted to my transgression by a blaring horn, but at that point I was already committed and the arrow had turned red. When I stepped up onto the sidewalk, I turn back to give the woman a wave in an effort to amend my wrongdoing. She rolled her window down and proceeded to spend the next 30 seconds chewing me out about causing her to miss her opportunity to turn right. About ten seconds into her rant, the traffic was clear and she could have made a right on red. I just stood there dumbfounded. I looked at her, hanging out of her window shaking her fist with her face blazing red and her son in the passenger seat, and all I could say was “Really?Are you really screaming at me, a limping pedestrian (who, by the way, always has the right away) who’s just out walking her dogs?” I walked on,shaken, but very thankful that I did not live inside that woman’s head.
Yes, some people are jackasses, but really, I knew that already. The real lesson was about patience and calmness. I am someone who, probably not unlike that woman, hates to run late. I feel my patience deteriorate and my blood pressure rise when I am rushing to be on time. The lesson was to never, ever allow it to get the best of me. The lesson was, take a deep breath, take stock of the situation, maintain calm control, and maybe pet a dog to make you feel better.
4. You never know what excitement could be around the next corner.
Every day, we walk out the back door and turn the corner up the driveway. Reeese lunges ahead, eager to get to the sidewalk so that she can see what awaits her there.
Every day, we turn the corner onto our street on our approach back home. Reeses can hardly wait to look towards our house to see if anything has changed while we were gone, to smell if any other critters have marked our yard as theirs.
Every day, I let Reeses off of the leash a couple of houses down from ours. She sprints to the grate covering the sewer in the ditch at the front of our yard, then runs to the bushes beside the front porch to give them a whiff, then flies down the driveway towards the gate into her back yard anxious to see if there is a squirrel lurking in the trees.
Every stinking day she is excited by the same things, because you never know what could be around that corner.
I want to bottle that kind of excitement and drink it with my morning coffee. It’s easy to be delighted by an upcoming vacation or geared up about Christmas morning, but how many of us wag our tails over walking our kids to school every morning?
This morning, I put on my long underwear, coat, hat, and gloves. I leashed up the dog and went out the back door, yelling over my shoulder to Cheerio, “I’ll meet you out front.” Reeses rounded the corner of the house, as she always does, dragging me behind. Cheerio was standing on the front porch reaching her gloved hand for an icicle hanging from the gutter. We were running a little late and I started to say “Hurry up.” Her arms were not quite long enough and her prize was out of reach. She gave up and walked down the steps knowing that we had to be on our way. I handed her the leash and jumped up on the porch and used my 5’10″ powers to grasp onto the wishes of a child. As I handed it to her, she looked a bit surprised. But, hey, what can I say?
I’ve learned a few lessons on these walks with my dog.