November 12, 2019

Follow the yellow-brick road.

A good friend knows all your stories. A best friend helped you create them.



A good friend came to visit Waldo and me last week. I have known Marlene for many years, she was even there when I found Waldo online and made the phone call to get him. She’s a couple of years younger than I, is very active and very willing to go with Waldo and me on our walks. She’s very much a dog person and gets along with Waldo well (Waldo particularly likes her toes, which she bares quite regularly in warm weather). That day, she wore walking shoes for the rail-trail.

The day was sunny and comfortable enough to wear only a light jacket. Fall definitely had us in its grip and many maples, oaks and black walnut trees were bedecked in yellow, orange and red. I’m not at all an expert in tree lore, but I know the maples by the shape of their leaves and the helicopter seeds they leave on the trail, the oaks by their leaves and the acorns on the ground and the black walnuts by their leaves and the green tennis-ball-sized fruit that have walnuts inside them. As we walked along, I noticed a maple tree that was green except at its top where it was bright orange. I was bemused by the thought that if I were a maple tree instead of an old man, maybe I would be carrot-topped instead white-haired.

As we walked along, Marlene and I talked about this and that and Waldo went about doing what Waldo always does on the trail. I pointed out the things I’ve discovered along our way.   There is a clearing, a little over a mile in, on top of an underground reservoir. It sits on a hill and at the bottom is a medium-sized lake about a mile or so away. On the far shore of the lake are some large houses and boat docks. Red, orange and yellow trees go down to the water’s edge. I can imagine that Thomas Kinkade could do the scene justice, but my iPhone cannot – at least in my hands.   I’ve tried several times, with Waldo in the foreground, all very disappointing. I showed Marlene where all the trash barrels are, or rather, the Waldo-poop receptacles, and the locations where someone painted distance markers in the blacktop every half mile. At more than one place, where the trail curves away out of sight, a recent storm laid down so many leaves that it looked like the yellow brick road from the Wizard of Oz. While we were there, the wind picked up and it appeared it was snowing yellow, red and orange leaves, falling slowly after being dislodged from their birthplace by the breeze. It felt really nice to share the place where Waldo and I spent so much of our time for so many months and it was a bonus that I could do it on such a beautiful day.

I showed Marlene Waldo’s ball courts — the places where the walnut trees have dropped their fruit. As we walked along, I kicked one down the path and Waldo dutifully and eagerly galloped after it. Waldo grabbed it in his mouth and continued on down the trail. I then kicked another and he would drop the first and go after the new one. “He doesn’t like how they taste,” I told Marlene, “but he’ll pick ‘em up and carry them along as part of the game.” Waldo enjoyed the sport immensely.

“How do you know he doesn’t like how they taste?” she asked.

“Because, at first, he was loathe to put them in his mouth. Then he decided that the game was more important than his culinary disposition (he’s put much worse in there) and he now does it without hesitating.”

I explained how Waldo would go down the rail-trail, full of zeal and energy, and then get in the car, lay his chin on the console that separated us, close his eyes and doze off. Waldo doesn’t have a variable speed control, only an on/off switch. It hit me then, how well I’ve come to know Waldo. I understand him. I know, too, how well he understands me – he waits at the curb, without prompt, until I tell him it’s okay to enter the street; he goes to bed when we’re done with our walk, knowing I need to rest; he drops his sticks and jumps in the car when I open the door; he lies down and waits when I’m writing. I have to admit, he also knows how to play me when he wants something (damn doe eyes). We also share the love of our experiences, even though what we enjoy about them is different.

In that moment, I felt the depth to which we have bonded.

The black-walnut ball court.

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