January 28, 2020

Drop what stick?

If it wasn’t for puppies, some people would never go for a walk.



It’s been a year now since I picked up Waldo and brought him home. In three weeks, I will be retired for a year. It’s time to look back and think about what has happened over that year – to assimilate it and make it my own.

Before I retired, my life centered around my job. It was the most important regular activity in my life. For weeks on end, my day involved waking up, going to work, doing my work-thing, taking care of people I didn’t know, coming home, then resting so I could repeat it the next day. Now, the rhythm has become one of wake up, take the dog out, eat breakfast, feed the dog, do some writing, get dressed for the rail-trail, walk the rail-trail, get home, take a nap to recover from a six mile walk, take the dog out, feed the dog, meditate, make dinner, eat dinner, take the dog out, play with the dog, do some writing, take the dog out, put the dog to bed, do some writing, read a little and finally go to bed so I can repeat the process the next day. My day is very busy and I never feel like I have too much time on my hands.

The question to be asked here is, does this new life have value? Did I make the right choice when I got Waldo, and should I make other choices now?

And how does Waldo feel about it all? He is, after all, not the dog, he is Waldo. A living breathing being with his own feelings, needs and wants.

Waldo is a very good dog, and is very easy to live with. True, we have our conflicts, but they are just challenges we have to work through in order to bond more deeply. I have someone I need to care for and that, it seems, is important to me. This caring involves more than just seeing that all of Waldos physical needs, like food, water and a place to sleep, are met.

When working with people, if there was a conflict, I could usually ignore it, or address it at the moment, and then move on. There were few problems that I couldn’t walk away from. With Waldo, it’s different. He depends on me for nearly everything. I can’t ignore what happens between us and I can’t walk away from him. In that way, it’s very much like having a child. I find myself watching him and trying to figure out his psychology so I can come up with a way to work through our clashes and yet see that he has needs taken care of. When successful, the process brings us closer than we were before, just because it requires caring.

Take the thing with the sticks, for example. Waldo walks around with sticks in his mouth, all the time. As many as he can fit in there. As long as he doesn’t eat them, I’m fine with that. Except he can’t bring them into the house. Many times, I’ll tell him, “Drop it,” and he does without any trouble. But for some reason, when we return to the building where our apartment is, particularly at night, he still won’t drop the damn sticks. I can’t let him bring them inside, so we’re at an impasse. I’ve tried everything I could think of. He won’t drop the damn sticks for the most enticing treats and if I try to outwait him, we could be standing outside in the cold and dark for a half hour. Finally, one night, in desperation, I grabbed ahold of his collar and lifted up — not enough to hurt him, but I knew he didn’t like the choking sensation it caused. He dropped the sticks, then voraciously grabbed the treat I offered him. Now, all I have to do is touch his collar and he complies. Afterward, he eagerly goes inside, wagging his tail.

So, caring for Waldo is a challenge, intellectually, ethically, and emotionally, as well as an opportunity to feed, love and protect. He keeps me busy, but also engaged. And I don’t have to sacrifice time with friends and family to do it.

And Waldo? I watch him as he bounds down the rail-trail, going from sniffing one stinking thing to the next, tail flailing about, eagerly exploring his environment, and I know I must be doing something right.

Yeah, getting Waldo was a very good decision.

What about retirement? Stay tuned.

Okay, I dropped it, now what?

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