Walking the Dog

Books have been written, movies have been made about the relationship between dogs and their human caretakers. I’m not about to do that right now. Suffice to say I have a dog that is walked two to three times a day.

I didn’t have a dog when I was a child. My mother thought (correctly) that a mobile pet would ruin the carpet and the upholstery. So I had tropical fish, a few of which would inexplicably jump out of the water and be found, dried to a mummified crispness, on the living room carpet.

For a while my brother and I had hamsters. They smelled bad and made noise when they ran on their squeaky exercise wheel. They were delightfully cute and would poop or pee anywhere, without much provocation. One summer when we went to camp, we gave our hamsters to my cousin Seth to look after until we came back. When the dog days of August arrived, Seth told us that our hamsters no longer existed, because they “ate each other.”

I’ve never been able to figure out how that happened. Seth has grown into a good, forthright guy and, more importantly, as an adult (and son of a lawyer), I’ve learned that you never want to ask a question whose answer you’d rather not here.

My son wanted a cat, so we got one and I learned the peculiar mix of arrogant selfishness and abject love that cats bring.

My wife had two dogs that died–one in her arms. We walked past a pet shop one day and she looked in on the puppies. A few days later, we had one, a westy (West Highland Terrier) that she named Daisy.

I won’t write about the housebreaking period, or when she chomped on my glasses, buried my wife’s cell phone in the backyard and other awkward transitions. One day I’ll write about how having a dog makes you a part of the community of dog lovers, even if your dogs don’t get along.

But I will say I have a hat that I wear when I walk her. It’s a gold trilby made of woven paper, with a blue sweatband. It dates from that brief time when wearing a brimmed hat meant you were hip. My wife bought it for me, and it’s become my “I don’t care” hat. I put it on and I don’t care how I’m dressed, what people think of me, all the rejections I’ve had (I’ve had acceptances, too, probably far more when I consider thousands of published newspaper and magazine articles, but the rejections still plague me), what’s wrong with contemporary education, the cultural clamor of the aggressively stupid and other annoyances. I step outside, when the weather is nice, indifferent or brutal, and Daisy and I go for a walk.

Sometimes that walk can be rushed–it’s the morning and we have things to do, or the evening when I’m tired. In the colder months, the walk can be in darkness: Daisy is tugging on the leash, wanting to sniff this place and that, and my head is filled with a million things, when the faint glow of the dawn breaks over the eastern sky.

No matter where you are, no matter why you woke up early or couldn’t sleep, please notice the dawn. It means so much, regardless of what hat you wear.






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