March 19, 2019

It’s cold out. And snowy and icy and slushy and generally miserable. But Waldo doesn’t mind, he loves the snow. He runs, slides, nuzzles the snow and eats it, rolls and makes snow angels and generally has a ball. Me, I follow behind, as best I can at half puppy-speed, tramping along in old loafers, trying to keep the snow outside my shoes. Waldo runs to the end of the leash, turns and looks back at me as if to say, “Come on, old man! I’m on a mission!”, then turns his attention to a large, low, thick evergreen bush, sniffs around and under the dense leafage at its base, looking, I’m sure, for a rabbit warren. I tighten the leash and urge him to reverse course by saying, “This way.” If he gets tangled up in there, I’ll never get him out. I’ve had him for only a little over a month, but he understands what I want and complies. We’ve done a lot of walking. Many times a day.

It’s been two weeks since I worked my last shift. It doesn’t feel like I’m not going back. It feels more like I’m on vacation – something I didn’t get much of when I was working, but used to great advantage to decompress when I did. It’s funny how you can have this psychic momentum that propels you forward even when your life has changed, almost as if you are still on automatic pilot, doing what you’ve been doing for so long – working, resting, then back to work. I know I’m not going back to work, but some part of me does not.   Work defined who I was by what I did. I’m still that person, but no longer characterized by saving lives, alleviating pain and aiding the diseased. I don’t think I’ve worked out in my subconscious just who I am now, but whoever it turns out to be, just by the amount of time and energy I put into it, a large part must be “doggy-daddy.”

Waldo stops and squats with his butt in the snow just an inch above the ground. It doesn’t look to me like there’s enough room for him to leave a deposit, but he manages. Sizeable one too. I reach in my pocket and pull out a doggy doo-doo bag, but before I can retrieve what he’s left behind, he’s off at full puppy speed, looking for the next adventure. “Wait!” I call out as I reach down, fighting against the tugging leash. Waldo pauses, but only for a moment. A puppy’s attention span is short and he’s easily distracted. The apartment complex has several dog-waste disposal bins placed around the property. I locate one and redirect our course.

We haven’t gone far and Waldo’s ears perk up and he’s staring, motionless, into the distance. I look in the same direction and notice three kids playing in the snow, sliding down a gentle slope on broad flat pieces of plastic designed for that. He bolts out in their direction, tail wagging back and forth with a vigor that makes him waddle. I call out to the kids and let them know he’s friendly and ask if it’s okay if he says hello.   “Yeah, sure!” they call back as they bend over, mitten-covered hands outstretched in preparation to pet the puppy. Waldo approaches in a submissive low to the ground, posture, tail going to-and-fro with even more ferocity. Soon, all are wrapped up in the leash as Waldo dances around, trying his best to lick each and every one. God, he knows how to have a good time.

Hmmm. Maybe there’s a lesson to be learned here…

My only real complaint is the weather. I am so looking forward to warmer days. True, with the higher temperatures comes first the melting snow, then the mud, then the spring rains and more mud. But the ground will firm up eventually and, in the meantime, as muddy as it may be, it won’t be so uncomfortable to stay outside for long periods. Mud can be washed off, after all. Well, okay, brushed, washed, rinsed, dried, more brushing and so on. Sometime this summer, I’ll be sweating, Waldo panting, and we’ll both be looking forward to a cooler clime.

But not now. Now it’s time to go inside and thaw out.

1 comment

Mike Van Demark

Great story!! It’s not easy raising a puppy

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