My sister lives 500 miles away but we have walked together regularly for years, chatting on the phone during my morning commute while she takes her walk. Since she’s walking I figure my drive also counts as walking, the same way a chocolate croissant from the farmers market counts as a vegetable.
Being together/apart is not new for us. What is new is that now I’m working from home and have started walking too. And I’m taking the dog.
While we don’t know her exact provenance, we believe the family dog, Hazel, is a mix of German shepherd, black mouth cur, and tripped-out hippie with some feral pony thrown in. If she had a theme song it would be “Don’t Fence Me In.” The trainer says she has some hunting dog in her and once her nose is on the ground everything else disappears. She’s not ignoring us when we call her; we have ceased to exist.
We gave up on the trainer and got a harness.
Hazel has a love/hate relationship with the harness. It signals a long walk, which she loves, but when I clip it on her she freezes in the middle of the kitchen floor with legs splayed like Bambi on ice, unwilling to move. It looks like I will have to carry her on our walk until the outside air reconstitutes her and she’s able to pull me down the driveway.
“Okay,” I tell my earbud’s microphone, “we’re in position.” My sister and I set out on our walk.
We talk about things we’re working on. I tell her what I’ve planted in the 24 hours since our last walk. She tells me how to avoid nail pops when you repaint a ceiling. I’ve gone on my sister’s walk with her and know her neighborhood as well as she knows mine. We compare notes — the lily of the valley here has just blossomed while hers has already gone. I hear birds in her background which are different from the birds singing near me. She greets her neighbors and I notice she’s reached a state of detente with the little dog who has finally stopped barking at her.
I frequently interrupt her mid-sentence, blurting directives and admonitions.
“I should make a bingo card of all the things I tell Hazel, to make sure you’re paying attention,” I tell my sister. I say roughly the same things every walk, usually several times:
- Get out of the neighbor’s flowers.
- Out of the road!
- Drop it.
- If you roll in that you’re not allowed in the house.
- Ew. Spit that out right now.
- Leave it (repeat ad infinitum)
- That’s not your poop.
The card would have to be magnetic of course, since we’re out walking.
Thinking I’ll mock it up and send it to her as a joke, I mentally fill the bingo squares when I get home with things I hear myself repeating the most. I realize they don’t just apply to the dog and perhaps there is room for both of us to improve.
Today the dog and I will not ruin the beautiful things our neighbors are doing.
Today we will not spend 20 minutes investigating any real or perceived piles of poop.
Today we will leave what does not serve us, or will make us barf all over the living room floor as soon as we get home.
Today we will be the good dogs the trainer believes us to be.