The time of day really doesn’t matter. The dog walkers are always there. I can look out my living room window at almost any given hour and spy one of my neighbors walking by with a dog in tow. Or maybe, the dog will be towing them. The point is, I live in a pretty serious dog-walking neighborhood and dog-walkers are nothing if not a dedicated bunch. I should know. I live with one.
I like having a dog around as much as anybody, but I don’t pretend to understand what makes walking them so much fun. To me, it’s a job that must be done to avoid a surprise on the carpet first thing in the morning. (There’s nothing like stepping in a suspicious wet spot upon waking to give you a huge jolt that makes coffee optional.).
Because I consider it to be such a chore, I appreciate the fact that my wife has staked out dog-walking as her territory. For the past 16 years, she’s walked our dogs morning, noon and night. O.K., maybe not noon, but definitely morning and night.
She’d happily make a career out of dog-walking if someone would just pay her. To her, walking a dog is more than just offering a bathroom break. It’s her way of either getting ready for the day or unwinding from it. It’s also her opportunity to socialize with all the neighbors – canine and otherwise.
She generally insists on doing the walking by herself, and the walks can last for what seems like hours. I hesitate to call this behavior obsessive because I’d get in trouble for doing that in such a public manner. So I’ll let you decide.
I could describe any number of instances when I’ve questioned whether taking a dog out was a good idea, including during snow storms and warnings of impending twisters. The most questionable, however, came the day my wife went into labor with our daughter.
She called me at work to tell me it was time to go to the hospital. We decided to meet at home so we could go together. When I got there, though, she started questioning whether our daughter was really ready to greet us. So what’s a dog walker to do when in doubt?
It’s obvious, isn’t it?
We had two dogs back then and before I knew it the four of us were out on the streets. Of course, my wife didn’t think I needed to go, but I had visions of a curbside birth. So while she held both leashes and marched our dogs through the neighborhood (there was no waddling for my dog-walker wife), I went along and timed the contractions. I was worried the whole time because they were only a couple of minutes apart. But when I nervously suggested that perhaps it would be a good idea to get the dogs home and head for the hospital, my wife would only say “just a little farther.” The dog-walker instincts had kicked in.
It took significant pain for her to finally admit that maybe we should turn around. It was a good thing, too. We got to the hospital with very little time to spare. While I was mildly panicked, my wife thought the timing was perfect.
As you can see, life is more interesting around my house when there’s a dog around. When there’s not, things are not as they should be. It’s sort of like a puzzle piece that’s gone missing. Try as you might, the puzzle will never be completely put together unless you find the missing piece.
I bring all this up because two pieces of our family’s puzzle are no longer with us. We’ve lost both of our dogs. The first passed away a couple of years ago, the second earlier this month. It was hard to lose the first. She was with us for a long time. But the second was with us for even longer and his passing marks the end of an era for our family.
My wife hardly knows what to do with the time she used to spend walking and bonding with our dogs. So when our now nine-year-old daughter suggested they start walking our cat she decided to give it a go. I’m not sure how much longer the cat is going to put up with this. It can’t be very satisfying for either her or my wife. And, at this point, I’m not sure who will be more relieved – the cat or my wife — when a new dog comes to live with us.