As I walked the dogs this morning I had to wonder if I’m doing Zoe any favors walking her. She is 12 years old now, and her walking is more trudging along, not the heads-up, ready for anything girl I used to walk. Back in the day, as we’d leave our yard we’d head up the middle of the street with me holding the retractible leash over my head, and she would take the leash out to it’s full length and run circles around me as I walked. The excitement had her blowing off some steam at the beginning of the walk since I was too slow for her. She would also run to the end of the long leash to make birds fly, and if she spotted a squirrel on the ground she would stop in perfect pointer-pose, still as a statue, and try to pounce. That it was futile didn’t seem to occur to her, and she didn’t let the fact that the squirrels didn’t bother to climb very high up the telephone poles bother her either. I always wondered what she would do if she caught one, because I remain convinced that the chasing was the entire point.
Back in Baltimore I’d walk her one block to Riverside Park after work. I’d unclip her leash as soon as we hit the sidewalk that surrounded the huge park, even though the little hill I was about to climb hid any view of who or what was in the park at that moment. She, of course, would run up the hill and disappear immediately, and I’d crest the hill in time to see her approach the pack of dogs that were already there, and then veer to the outside and cause the other dogs to follow in a huge circle, all running as fast as they could. She was a popular dog at the park. I was told that other dog parents hurried over to the park when they noticed Zoe was there because their dogs were guaranteed a good run. This despite the fact that it wasn’t uncommon for someone to come to me and announce that they were ready to go home, but Zoe had their frisbee/ball/ dog toy of some kind, and then I’d look like an idiot trying to catch her to retrieve the item.
Life was stressful for me then as we were closing our office and arranging our move to Florida, but I’d forget my worries as I watched her run. I thought of how good that stretch in her back must feel after waiting all day for this big moment. Even though the park was so close to our office I didn’t seem to run into dental patients there, so I let go of all thoughts of the problems of the day as I watched her. Once life in Florida became a reality my blood pressure medication was cut by more than half, so it may not be an exaggeration to say that she saved my life back then.
These days there is much excitement as I pick up the leash, but now her walk is more of a trudge, and her huffing and puffing begin almost right away. She takes note of squirrels and bunnies, but doesn’t bother attempting to chase them. We do what I used to think of as the short walk, probably about a mile, and she collapses onto the cool tile floor when we get back, and soon I hear her snoring softly.
There have been many good dogs in my life, and Zoe has earned her place as one of them. Yes, she has earned her Milk Bones, she is a good girl.