March 10, 2020

Cold, rainy, foggy day on the rail-trail.

The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.

-William Arthur Ward


It’s cold out, about thirty degrees, and rainy. The past few days have been warm enough to melt the patchy sheets of ice that made it slow going in places. I can now walk on the rail-trail tarmac without risking a fall that could cause me significant injury and Waldo a hiatus from his beloved daily walks. Waldo, he was never at as significant risk of injury as I was. He’s closer to the ground and has four supports keeping him up to my two. Not that I haven’t seen him fall on the ice; I have. He doesn’t seem bothered by it, though. He goes along, doing his Waldo thing, and sometimes even seems to think that sliding on the ice is kind of fun. But, until the next snowstorm, that’s now a thing of the past.

I watch him as he saunters down the path, out in front at the end of his eight-meter leash, gently (most of the time) pulling me along behind him. Maybe I should train him to be a sled dog. But, if he were a sled dog, he would have to be the lead dog. He does not like being behind anyone. On the other hand, I don’t think that pulling on the leash is his goal. I think he just gets into a hyperactive state of mind where he feels, “Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go!” I think he just wants to let it all out and run full throttle. Unfortunately, the leash won’t allow him to. I know he loves to gallop to nowhere as fast as he can — I’ve seen it when I let him off-leash in fenced-in areas. And who can blame him. His genes have been selected to run after sheep in wide open fields.

I got a puppy who was born on a farm without leash or fences, bred to wander far and wide, running at will, wherever he might want to go. Have I done him a disservice by bringing him into city life? Allowing his only freedom to be within small fenced-in areas or at the end of a tether? I struggle with this a little, but if the only places where there are border collies are on farms, there wouldn’t be very many border collies. And Waldo is really such a sweet dog. The world could use more like him. I think, instead, it is my responsibility to try to bend his instincts to life in the city.

When I knew I was going to retire, I looked online for a border collie puppy. I researched their needs and decided it would be good for me to be forced to get out and exercise an active dog. Border collie puppies for sale are not hard to find, but I had in mind owning a tricolor dog, don’t know exactly why, and they are not that easy to come by. When I saw Waldo’s picture on the computer screen, I decided he was the one I wanted and I bought him. It was still five months before my retirement and I didn’t want to get a dog if I couldn’t be with him regularly – that wouldn’t be fair to the dog. So, I made arrangements to buy the dog, then have the breeder keep him until I was ready to pick him up. I visited him once for three days three months before retirement and finally picked him up three weeks before my final day at work.

I brought a portable crate for when I had to work nights (which I mostly did) and put it in the physician’s office just outside the ER. That way, I could keep him in the crate and take him out when needed, with lots of visits for pets and pats in between. He slept the rest of the time. He was remarkably quiet and the ED staff fell in love with him. Waldo and I lived like this – home, work, home, work — until my last night on the job – the night of my seventieth birthday. That was a lot of change for the little puppy and I know he felt pretty insecure.

Since I got Waldo, I’ve paid attention to the fact that Waldo wasn’t bred for a city life and tried to find a way to make him happy as he adjusted to it. You know, maybe the fact that I had to pay attention to Waldo’s adjustments made mine easier.

Life is always easier when you focus on problems outside of yourself.

To be continued next week…

Wald in the city, towing my grandson.

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