Whose Walking Who?
I begin each morning pretty much the same way.
I stretch in bed for a few minutes. I make tea. Then, I’ll sit in the bay of my living room and write in my journal.
Easily filling up several pages, I’ll write out complete conversations I have with God, giving special attention to moments from the previous day where I want to acknowledge my efforts or extend myself compassion.
My dog India, a spaniel-poodle mix, will follow me from bed to bathroom to kitchen to the table where I write. She’ll curl up at my feet quietly until about 7:20 when she’ll start trying to get my attention.
We’ll pad to the kitchen where I‘ll feed her breakfast. I’ll put on shoes or boots (sometimes, I haven’t even brushed my teeth yet), stuff a few plastic bags in the pockets of my jacket and we’ll perform our pre-walk ritual.
I’ll put her into her purple harness, assuming I wasn’t lazy the night before and didn’t bother to take it off following our last trip outside.
She seems to make this simple step a game.
I’ll untangle the harness, a mixture of water-proofed cloth, nylon leads and metal loops, ready to attach her leash at the back of her neck. I’ll spread out an opening between the flat nylon bands then try to coax her to step into the space I’ve made.
But no. Either both paws will be poking through where one should be, or she’ll step down completely outside of the area required for me to secure the contraption under her belly. Or, she won’t move her paws at all and I’ll have to fish them through their respective openings.
She’ll make this process take much longer than necessary. But doing this sort of thing quickly is not the point. Not to her.
She just wants to interact with me, to play or just to hang out for as long as possible. She’s not in a hurry for me to check email or return promised phone calls.
After I get her harness on, she’ll wait by the door until she can hear the sound of the leash click around the ring on the back of her neck. I wouldn’t think she would want to be so connected, but here again, I realize she has a different way of viewing things.
Being on the opposite end of the leash is not about me controlling her. It’s about us being bonded. It’s about belonging to each other.
She doesn’t run down the stairs as soon I open the door of my second floor apartment. She waits for me to start the descent. If I let go of the leash and motion her to go ahead, she’ll wait for me on the landing.
She’s not always the “follower.”
When she doesn’t want to shadow me along the route I’ve planned (usually when I want to go home before she’s done exploring), she will sit down on the grass between the street and the sidewalk and make herself an immoveable object.
Who’d think that nineteen pounds of willful puppy flesh would be so hard to overcome..
We have developed a way of negotiating how long to stay out and in which direction we’ll travel. Sometimes I’ll defer to the allure of scents she picks up and will follow her. Sometimes, she’ll surrender her resistance and let me lead.
As we take our first steps outside of my building, I’ll often wonder if I‘m walking her or if she’s walking me.
Taking a walk with a friend is no small thing.