Updated: Aug 27, 2020
Sunday mornings have always been our routine. Walks in the woods on Sunday mornings. And somehow she always knows what day of the week it is. Some unknown tell.
She won’t leave my side until she’s safely loaded into the back of the 4runner. And she'll shake and cry until I finally unlatch the grated door that stands between her and the trail.
She’s 12, or 84 if you think in terms of human age. But she still gets excited about those walks. She can’t jump up into her travel crate anymore so I have to lift her in. And she’s maybe not quite as fast as she used to be, but still surprising when she decides to be. She’ll find a warm spot in the sun coming through the front door to nap when we get back, but she always gives 100 percent when we walk.
I’ve always thought of our walks as me doing something for her, but more and more I wonder if she does it for me. Recognition of an unspoken need.
I still remember the first time we met. A litter of nine pups. 8 males, 1 female. All in a writhing mass of puppy-ness. She was so small; the runt. And very white with much less ticking than her larger brothers. She saw us, climbed the barrier of the puppy box and boldly walked up to me. I picked her up in one hand and held her up to my face. She proceeded to bite my nose and then quickly lick it, in half-hearted apology. I knew this was my dog. A Christmas present for our boys 12 years ago. They were just 5 and 7.
Now I notice the grey around her muzzle and wonder if she notices the silver around my temples too. I can't bear the thought - won't allow myself to think about it - but I know our time together grows shorter and shorter and I'll likely be the one left saying a tearful goodbye.
Dog years. Like people years, but more poignantly compressed. We’ve had so many walks together that I’ve barely noticed as the time has passed.
I just sent my oldest back to college in Montana after the holidays and my youngest graduates next year. My closest friend since childhood just crossed the midway mark of his forties and 2019 marked 25 years of marriage and 20 years owning my business.
The days of wide-eyed kids opening presents by the tree while a puppy plays with the wrappings are behind me.
But I feel blessed by another Sunday morning walk with my dog, who to me will always remain a puppy, and the joy of another holiday season with my family and friends who in my mind remain forever young.