Canine Companions


Day 226

I’ve  surprised myself by walking (cheerfully!?) through most types of weather and a variety of ailments with the exception of pneumonia. But I never anticipated that my favorite and most compliant walking partner of all — Smiling Sarah — would need to take a break from our sauntering routine.

Sarah came in from the yard Wednesday night with a red welt the size and shape of a half tennis ball marking her left rear haunch. She’s expected to make a full recovery from what the vets diagnosed as a “hot spot” of unknown origin, but after two visits to the vet, numerous shots, trims, and painful antiseptic baths, the poor thing is pretty much down for the count.  Today’s walk — her first since Wednesday — put her out of commission  for the rest of the day.

Two weeks ago we were all having fun sharing our favorite excuses for not walking: too hot, too cold, too early, too late, too hungry, too full and so on — you know the drill.

t’s one thing to convince yourself to put on your sneakers and slog through the rain. It’s altogether a different story to find something fun to say about it after you get home.

I’m not looking for any excuses, guys.  I have been walking. I was just too crazy to post. I’d like to say I won’t let it happen again. But the best I can do is promise that if there is another confluence of returning college children, my husband’s 50th birthday, a 2-day boat race, the final revisions of a novel, a speaking engagement, and two emergency trips to the vet, I’ll be sure to fill you in as soon as I can.

Day 211

I’ve been walking for more than 200 days and I’ve never walked the same way twice. I’ve been walking with my heart open and my eyes scanning the scenery while Sarah, my canine companion,  senses all changes in her surroundings by sticking out her tongue and looking very alert.

Yet we still turned the corner in our neighborhood park yesterday  — the day we went out just before the sky filled with thunder and clouds as quick as you can say ZEUS! — and discovered a lovely new garden / walkway that was not there last year.

How’d the parks and rec guys get these stones in and these flowers planted in the worst winter we’ve had in years?

You know what they say in New York City: If you see something, say something. If you see anything new and unusual in your neck of the woods, take a photo and drop me a line

Day 116

No, that is not me in the photo. And that’s not my dog, Sarah, either.

In fact,  just looking at this picture from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula makes me really happy to be here in my cozy living room, introducing you to this week’s guest blogger-publisher-writer Laura Smyth and her dog, Jack.

Laura writes: Walking has always been my exercise of choice, my meditation of choice, and my locomotion of choice. No Ipod, no companion, just my own pace and perhaps a notebook and pen in my pocket in case inspiration strikes.

I don’t know if it’s age or sensibility catching up with me but it seems I’ve been “quietly backing out of the room” ever since the birth of our daughter. Pushing a stroller around Brooklyn was my walking life for two-and-a-half-years as Jane and I loved our days spent at the Third Street Playground in Prospect Park.

When our family boarded the metaphorical “Park Slope-Montclair Express” and left the city for the suburbs I thought we had moved to the smallest town we would ever live in. I nearly hyperventilated at the thought of leaving the city and my adjustment was a slow one. But once we hit kindergarten I had my walking life to myself again and I could walk loops around Montclair to my heart’s content (well, deadlines permitting).

Now we live in a town of less than 200 on a spit of land that sticks out into Lake Superior and I have actually taken on a four-legged walking companion, our 1-year-old hound dog mutt, Jack-o-Lantern. And, like Laurie, I found it necessary to write about this odd new experience in a blog, Walks With Jack.

My new walks take me down wooded trails instead of tree-lined streets, or along Lake Superior beaches instead of paved pathways in Central Park. I still love the city and our old hometown in New Jersey, but this remote place feels like it’s always been home—something I never would have imagined just two years ago.

And now that I’ve discovered Laurie’s blog I can live my old life vicariously while still enjoying my new found solitude.

Day 51 

I’m not really an animal person. I enjoy some animals.  Like dogs.  And puppies. And…

…well, I like dogs. I didn’t really like little kids before I had them, but they grew on me damn fast, and now some of my favorite people are children. I’m sure between the time my kids go to college and my grandkids are born, I’ll end up feeling the same way about dogs.

Anyway, I’ve been walking a lot with Sarah. She’s always ready when I’m ready, she never has to make a call or put on mascara before she gets in the car, and she never asks me to wait outside the bathroom for her.

Today the dog and I we went to Grover Cleveland Park in Essex Fells. It’s a really pretty park, but a loop around the pond, past the playground, and up beyond the tennis courts only takes half an hour. I don’t really like doing a loop twice in order to go my distance, but Sarah doesn’t mind. That’s another thing — dogs don’t complain.

Not only does Sarah not complain, she also doesn’t bark (except at the gas meter man), she doesn’t growl, she doesn’t snarl at other dogs. She’s got a sweet disposition.

As Sarah and I were doing a second loop through Grover Cleveland, I was internally complaining and quietly ruminating about a certain terrible person against whom I have a certain terrible grudge. I was really getting worked up. I mean, I really just hate it when people are mean and spiteful and hostile like this person I was thinking about tends to be.

My dog and I rounded a bend and a sleek, black Lab on a leash slowed and approached Sarah.

“Be nice,” his owner murmured.

The dog turned, and bellowed at Sarah. He snarled, and I’m pretty sure he snapped at her neck — like, at her jugular.

Sarah took a diversionary step away from the attacking Lab. She put her nose to the ground. She sniffed something she liked. She wagged her tail. And she kept going.

She didn’t break her stride. She didn’t turn and snap, she didn’t snarl. Sarah didn’t let this big, mean dog make a single dent in her day.

I’m sure you see where I’m going with this. But just to make it clear, here’s a picture of the plaque my great friend Laura gave me for my 50th birthday.  Between Sarah and Laura, I’m going to get this thing down. I swear I am.

Day 44

Reflective+Pet+Safety+VestKaren in upstate New York asks, “What do you do during hunting season? It’s bow season right now in upstate NY, followed by muzzle-loader, followed by gun season. The whole thing won’t be over until December 22. My two dogs and I wear orange jackets and bells during bow and muzzle-loader but do no walking off-leash and off-road during the three-week gun season. What do you do?”

Karen, I’m sorry happy to say I have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what a muzzle-loader is, but I’m pretty sure it sounds like something the gun control people should get on and outlaw right away.

As far as walking during hunting season goes, I was out on a long hike in the  Wisconsin woods with a friend and our toddlers some years back, when men in fullElmerCheney camouflage, carrying guns and other weapons (big knives, flashlights, nets and other strange things hanging from their gear belts) came out of the dense forest and followed us up the narrow staircase of a lookout tower. There was no one around, and we were terrified. We inched around them, pretty much serpentined toward our cars thinking we’d be dodging any stray bullets that way, slammed the car into gear, and raced away.

That was the last time I ventured anywhere near any trees or wildlife lands during hunting season.   Fortunately, there are no bow hunters in Montclair New Jersey except for those archers who take target practice in Brookdale Park. And to be quite honest, I walk behind the archers, never behind the targets. I don’t care if I’m wearing orange or not!

On the brighter side, I can offer this tip, courtesy of my sister-in-law Paula, for those of you looking for ways to add stair-climbing to your daily walk, and make it fun…