Friday, June 17, 2011

The Dog Walker

I had to fire the dog walker yesterday. To be fair and soften the blow, I took the dog walker to our favorite hangout, IHOP. I explained that now that I am home during the day I would be able to take Marlowe out for his daily walks. The dog walker seemed more relieved than I had anticipated. I think the thought of not having to go out in the 110 degree weather anymore was a huge bonus, but then the wave of realization of the loss of income moved across his face, so I threw him a life line. If ever he needed pocket money, gas money, movie money, In-N-Out hamburger money, he could always come by and walk the dog, that door was not closed to him completely.

Of course, it wouldn't be. This particular dog walker was my nephew, home from college. He hadn't found a summer job yet so, to help me out while I was still working, I was paying him to walk Marlowe during the day. As a manager of a busy department, my days were long and unpredictable. Just as I thought my day was over, and I was gathering my keys and heading for the door, some crisis--major or minor--needed my attention. I never was assured of  getting out the door on time. And that wasn't fair to my dog. Hiring my nephew was the perfect solution. Marlowe really likes him and dog walking gives my nephew a window into the world of owning a dog--a dream that he has. Dog ownership is not all about fetching toys and walks in the park, it's also about discipline and picking up after the dog has done his business. And I wanted my nephew to get a taste of that before he decided to take the leap into getting a dog.

I found Marlowe at an adopt a pet fair at a local pet store. I went in for pet supplies and of course got suckered into looking at the dogs as I walked into the store. I was only looking when one of the ladies asked if I would like to look at Buddy (as he was known then). I said no, but too late, here he was walking around to meet me. Everyone says that their dog is the sweetest dog, but in this case, it is really true. As I knelt down to him, he came right up to me and nudged my hand in that way all dogs do to let you know they want to be petted. He never looked me directly on the eye for fear of challenging me, although he did steal a couple of quick glances. As my heart was starting to melt, a huge, and I mean Huge, Great Dane/Pyrenees mix came bouncing--if you can call 180 pounds bouncy--up to us. This dog was very friendly and I wasn't nervous or frightened by him at all, but he was big, taller than me in my kneeling position, and certainly taller than 40 pound Buddy. Buddy, in no rush, and as if he does this all the time, moved to put me between the big dog and himself. It wasn't a sudden move, it wasn't a cowering move, it was a "this is my human and she'll know what to do" move. After the Great Dane/Pyrenees sauntered away, Buddy turned to me, looked me in the eye for the first time and gave me a high five. My heart was mush.

I wish I could say that I took Buddy home that I day. Sadly, I did not. I only went to the store for fish supplies, not to pick up a dog. How was I was I going to fit a dog into my life? Would it be fair to the dog? So many questions. I agonized over it all summer. The summer that my nephew graduated from high school and was now packing up and leaving for college. While I was wrapped up in the plans of getting him set up for his dorm room, helping my sister get him ready for college, the realization that he was actually leaving hit me about two weeks before his school started. He was going away to college, that I knew, but the "going away" part, the leaving home part was starting to filter through. I had never stopped thinking about Buddy. I had the time now to take care of dog, I would be home more now that my nephew was going away. I would have more time to spend at home instead of on the road going to my nephew's school events. I could do this, I could get a dog, I could get Buddy.

I called the pet store to see if they had the phone number of the rescue agency, and they didn't but they gave me the name. I found it on-line. But Buddy's picture was not part of the available pets ready for adoption. My heart sank. I phoned anyway, on the outside chance. The woman in charge of the rescue agency told me an interesting story. Yes, Buddy was still available. They had been bringing him back down, but he would not interact with anyone, he would stay in his cage and mope. So, they stopped bringing him down. Now, she knew why. He was waiting for me. We arranged to meet the following weekend. My sisters, my nephew and I all got a chance to take him off to the side to evaluate him and play with him. Even though I live by myself, I would be taking him with me to visit my family and I wanted to be sure he got along with everyone. He did. As they did with him. It was a done deal. All I had to do was fill out and sign some adoption paper work. And they wanted to do a safety check of my house before they would release him to me. But that was a formality they said. And it really did to turn out to be just that. I had to secure my front gate, even though it is seven feet high, there is wiggle room below, and I placed some rabbit proofing to secure it. Buddy/Marlowe was mine. And I was his.

From day one we've always taken long walks. We'll start the day with a 45 minute walk and end the day with an hour walk. In the first few months, I was able to come home during lunch and take him out for a walk. As the weather got hotter, the walks got shorter and more frequent. That's why having my nephew take him out during the day was so important. Now, that I have all the time in the world, we are taking more frequent walks again. In fact up to five a day. And because it so hot, our last walk is often at 11 o'clock at night when it is the coolest. Or some semblance of cool, that's when it starts to drop below 100.

I am enjoying our walking time. I think we are getting to know each other again. I know that he likes having me around. Our weekday routine is (or should I say was) different from our weekend routine and he knows the difference. I don't know what clues he goes by, maybe what time I brush my teeth or take my shower, maybe what shoes I put on in the morning, who knows what goes on inside the dog's brain. But I do know that he is smiling more, his tail is wagging more. And I am enjoying playing with him more. I am more relaxed.

I am shedding the layers of stress.

© pranaknits


  1. Who adopted who? (Yes, I'm parroting this...but it is true.)

  2. I often wonder the same thing...