Suzanne Clothier writes: "Don't show me what your dog can do when you give him a command; just show me how you and he walk down the street together, and I'll know much more."
Walking a dog is an experience, as you all know. While there is some routine to the process, each walk is somehow unique. The last real walk that Wink and I took was about two days before he got really ill. It was one of our long walks--the kind that took a long time. I know it's a temptation to read too much into what our beloved pets do, but I swear that, as I look back on that walk, it was like he knew he was taking that walk for the last time. There were two directions that we would go--north or south. We would go about a half-mile either direction. On nights that he didn't feel like walking, we'd just move around the yard. That night started that way. We went around the side of the house, to the back, and to the front again. I thought, "This is a short night," and got prepared to go back in the house. Instead, Wink looked south, and began to head that direction. As Wink got older, I let him walk me...the important thing was to walk. So, that night we headed south. He checked all the important spots, marking more than usual, doing the "entire head in the bush" at that mysterious spot that always drew extra attention. We reached the end of that route and headed back home. When we got back to our front yard, I started to the house. WInk stopped.I stopped. I looked at him. He looked at me and then looked north. I was amazed. Very few times had we ever taken both routes the same night, and certainly not for a long time. He clearly wanted to go the north route. I was overjoyed that we were both going to get so much exercise. He did the same thing on the north route. At one point I laughed and said, "Winker, you couldn't possibly have any pee left." But on we went to the end of the north route, until he was satisfied that he had seen and done all he needed to, and back home we went. When we got into the house and I removed his collar and leash, he went to the family room and plopped down by the couch. It had been a good cardiac workout for both of us.
We covered every inch of our walk routine that night. It was the last time we walked together. When we came in, my wife said, "Boy, that was a long walk." The next couple of nights we would get as far as the front daylily bed, and then it was back to the house. Looking back, I know that he just didn't feel like it. I'm so glad that we had that last long walk together. Even though all our time together was special, "walkies" was our very special time. Wink would "help" me do all kinds of things, like planting flowers or vacuuming the floor <gr>, but when we walked we were truly united in a common purpose, going the same direction, being together.
I miss our walks together, Wink. It's not the same when I walk alone, along our special routes. I see reminders of you everywhere and, even though they bring a tear more often than not, I am so glad we walked together all those years, my besses puppo!