Friday, February 28, 2014

Walking the Walk

In the realm of pet ownership, there are dog walkers.

And there are dog-pottyers.

Dog walkers are out there every day -- often multiple times per day -- exercising their dogs and allowing them to attend to bathroom issues.

Dog pottyers either have fenced-in yards or other means of sending the dog out to attend to nature's call and then return inside. Exercise is handled via other means.

I don't judge. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages.

But me? I'm a dog walker.

The habit may actually be genetic: My Dad was a devoted dog walker. He and his Basset Hound, Murphy, used a time-tested route through the neighborhood, and Murph was so accustomed to it, he would not vary it. Not one step. Which my grandmother found out when she tried to shorten it one day, and Murph protested by plopping on the sidewalk and refusing to budge.

Dad had to go rescue her after she failed to return about an hour after her departure (this was in the pre-cellphone dark ages).

So when we got Wesley, our Black Lab, he and I walked. Mornings. Evenings. For more than 10 years.

And when Parker came along in Wesley's wake, I maintained the same routine.

It's just the way I handle dog ownership. I've said more than once that if we had a fenced yard and I let Parker out, hopeful that he would do what he needed to do, he'd merely stand there and stare at the glass.

"Dad... Dad? Hey, Dad! What am I doing out here while you're in there?!?"

For the most part, I don't mind these walks at all. In the mornings, it's a terrific chance for me to just.... think. Quietly walk. Sift through some of the issues of the day prior. Brainstorm. Pray. Spend some time in peace. I do an awful lot of "writing" during these walks. Thinking up blog topics for example. Or rolling around ideas for work projects. They're a great time to fashion headlines, I've found.

This winter, however, walking Parker is a challenge.

For one, we've lost almost all our sidewalks to snowpack. That means he and I are in the streets, a dangerous place to be when the sun's not even up (No worries, though: He wears a lighted collar and I carry a high-powered flashlight). Or when we do manage to find a cleared sidewalk, I'll encounter the "snowblown path to nowhere," which is a homeowner who will clear his/her own walk, but not one square inch of snow off a neighbor's walk. So the path leads to a solid wall of nowhereville. Leaving me to tromp through the drifts and get back in the street.

Bad form, Mr. Snowblow. Can't you at least clear to a nearby driveway, where pedestrians and dog walkers can exit to the street without climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro?

My nadir was about three weeks ago, when the morning was dark and dreary and a cold rain was soaking the roadways. Within seconds, my jeans were wet, and a bitter wind was causing the denim to freeze to my thighs. Insult was added to injury when a car roared by us, spraying me with salty, mucky, slush that hit my cheeks, slid down my neck and ended up somewhere between my sweatshirt and my skin.

Parker, for what it's worth, didn't seem to mind any of this at all. In fact, the cold and snow don't bother him in the least. He loves romping through the drifts: "C'mon, Dad. C'mon. c'mon. c'mon, c'mon!!!"

Ah, the eternal cheeriness of the Labrador Retriever.

It's hard to fault him for it.

But I somehow start thinking it would be easier to take at 10:30 a.m. on a 75-degree day in May.

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