May 02, 2023

My buddy, patiently waiting to cross the street.


Before you get a dog, you can’t quite imagine what living with one might be like; afterward, you can’t imagine living any other way.

-Caroline Knapp


It never ceases to amaze me that I ever had enough time to have a career, let alone one as demanding as medicine.  Now that I’m retired, I still can’t finish everything I want to do in a single day.   Of course, I rarely let myself get sleep deprived the way I used to, and sleep takes up about a third of one’s life.  There are a couple of programs I like to watch on TV, around the times I’m eating, but that doesn’t eat up that much time.  There’s grocery shopping, preparing meals, taking care of ADLs (Activities of Daily Living), like showering and so on, coming and going, driving around.  I read books, do whatever writing I’m working on and pursue other projects of interest, and poof! my day is done.  I am never, ever, at a loss as to how to spend my time.  I haven’t mentioned the time I spend with Waldo, but, all told, that doesn’t consume more than four hours a day of constant, direct contact, unless we’re on one of our longer walks.

Even when I’m not walking or playing with Waldo, he is still there, on my mind at some level of awareness.  I made a good choice when I decided on getting a border collie.  Waldo has a mind of his own, only occasionally seeks my attention, and when he does, more often than not, it’s because he needs something – he’s hungry, he has to go outside, or he’s bored.  Actually, bored is rare for Waldo.  After all, he has his balcony to perch on and survey his dogdom, which seems to keep him well entertained, somehow.  Even so, Waldo is the organizing principle around which my life is built.  He is the bedrock that tethers me to what my life has become.  He is my family.

My daughters and friends think I’m a bit bizarre because of that.  I’m invited out to dinner, or over to someone’s house where Waldo isn’t welcome, I don’t stay for longer than about four hours.  With travel time, that means that I have to leave Waldo in his crate for six hours.  He can easily hold his business for that long, but it just seems cruel to keep him in jail for so much time.  Even if I let him run around the apartment while I’m gone, he’s still restricted to only a small living area.  I know for a fact he hates being left alone.  I may have family and friends, but all he’s got is me.

I don’t feel that any of that is a burden, or restricting my freedom.  It’s a choice I made when I got a dog and a choice I continue to make on a daily basis.  I found out, a long time ago, that real love takes place only when you take care of someone else.  It’s the tending to the needs of another that engenders the internal feelings of affection and appreciation of that other that we call love.  Performing those duties aren’t as much an expression of what we feel as they are the reason for why we feel it.  Making sure Waldo is fed when he’s hungry, has plenty to drink, gets his antiflea and tick and heartworm medicine, has enough exercise and entertainment to keep him happy, are all acts that make me feel affection, they are not done because I already feel that affection.  Cleaning up the stinky gooey mess he leaves behind because he has diarrhea and can’t get outside in time, or wiping up the wet muddy footprints he tracks in the house, or fixing the thousand other ways he creates chaos, are even more powerful ways of filling me with fondness for him.  Oh, I piss and moan, even yell sometimes, but that’s not directed at him.  It’s more directed at the fates that forced me to have to deal with whatever has occurred.  Because it’s so onerous, that kind of stuff leaves me loving the dog even more because I took a situation that I really disliked and dealt with it, making his life, and mine, even better.

I know, too, by the glint in his eye, the wag of his tail and the mischievous lunge at my bare feet, that he feels the same.  The licks he gives me when sitting next to me in the car, or when he rests his chin on my forearm, or paws at me playfully as he passes, all tell me that he, also, has affection for me.

My day is not just full of things to do.

It’s also full of Waldo.


Waldo, patiently waiting for me to take a picture.

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