I am the official morning dog walker in our household and have been for many years. Every day our twelve-year-old Wheaten Terrier, Dooley, will allow me to drink a cup of coffee and briefly read the paper and then, with a penetrating stare, politely insist it is time for our morning walk. Dooley is well behaved and trained to be off lead, so we look for places that allow him this freedom. We used to live on a golf course and our walks were on the cart paths before the golfers showed up. Now we live in an apartment and have about six different parks and trails that we drive to, alternating between them each day.
I’ve learned to recognize the conversation of the birds around us. The questions, answers and declarations that they send to each other have their own construction, their own bird grammar. And I get to see the plant life change as it moves through the seasons, through rain, storm and sunshine days, how the high grasses that narrow the trail go wide as they yield to the summer heat. The bluebonnets last much longer on these trails, and at the end of the season they sprout little shells with peas that taste just like they should. Many of our trails have creeks running through them. They run wild with waterfalls in the spring and then the water often disappears when the weather heats and dries. There are squirrels and lizards, dragonflies and some bat shelters, although I’ve never seen a bat flying about on these mornings. Those beauties have already gone to bed for the day
Over the years I’ve adapted to weather changes and have suitable dog walking clothes laid out each night. I’ve got the proper walking shoes as well, whether tennis shoes or sandals. We usually walk about a mile, so every day I know I will have a mile’s worth of exercise before I sit down at my computer to work and to write. Or prepare for a busy day of meetings and appointments (that can only be scheduled for after the walk).
There was a time when this dog walking was a burden for me. I had things to do, places to be, why did I have to walk the dog? But those times have passed. Now it is a cherished ritual. Dooley and I are partners, staying close together, talking a bit. I patiently wait for him to complete his mandatory sniffing and other business. I don’t know when things changed—when obligatory dog walking became a serene start to each day, but it has. I know Dooley won’t live forever, nor will I, but I am grateful that what was once a chore has become a blessing. For both of us. It makes me think that getting older can be quite wonderful.