Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Walking the Dogs

Walking Ernie and Ruby is an exercise in patience.

When I walk alone, I prefer to keep up a brisk pace, to get my blood pumping and gain some cardiovascular benefit. Ernie and Ruby like to saunter, sniffing at every lamppost and spot on the sidewalk, quickly and illicitly snorfing up any edible substance left by a passerby. (When I say edible, I use the term loosely.)

These days, their sauntering is even slower than usual. In her younger years, Ruby insisted on being in front of the "pack," blazing the trail. Nowadays she usually brings up the rear, and I allow her to set the pace. If she stops, we all stop.

I don't take them far. We're scared to risk Ruby's weak heart beyond a couple of blocks. Even Ernie gets tired in that short distance, his head hanging low, a despondent thread of drool decorating his mouth and collecting stray bits of street detritus.

Their advanced age doesn't prevent them from driving me crazy, though. Sometimes all the sniffing and pausing, the agonizing 30 minutes it can take to circumnavigate a single city block, makes me nuts. (I was especially cranky Sunday and Monday, when I mistakenly got up at 4 a.m. I thought it was 5 a.m., but the UK left Daylight Saving Time on Sunday, and I'd failed to reset the bedside clock!)

Occasionally I unthinkingly jerk the leash to snap their noses away from a particularly interesting smell. Shocked at my own behavior, I remind myself that they're the equivalent of octogenarians -- at least.

Besides, to them, a walk is not just a walk. It's their single opportunity to interact with the world beyond our apartment, with other dogs, with new and different smells, with birds and blowing leaves. It's almost sad, really.

So, yes. An exercise in patience. An opportunity to practice breathing and gentleness and generosity, and to examine my own annoyed, urgent impulses. After all, where am I trying to go so quickly?

(Photo: South Kensington, on Friday.)


  1. Oh, yes, I hear you. I was recently talking a friend about this very thing, explaining that dog-walking used to be my main source of physical exercise...and now the "exercise" is mental, not physical.

  2. I remember housesitting for someone who had an elderly corgi. Teag was a fabulous dog, but would sniff and christen EVERY tree we passed. I learned how to amble with that dog :)

  3. Old age for dogs is bittersweet. I remember getting impatient with Jake all the time. He would look at me as if to say, "I'm old and everything hurts!" It was such a betrayal of how much I loved him, my betrayal.

    So many many hearts and much love to you all.

    Love the alien eyes. Saw a bunch of them today on my walk and of course thought of you.

  4. Wish I was there to walk them for you. It sounds like they go at about my speed.

    Just hope the world is as understanding of you when you are the equivalent of their age...