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Monday, March 17, 2014

On Walking Someone Else's Dog

I mentioned earlier that my mom was going to have knee replacement surgery, and I was going to be her caregiver. The surgery was two weeks ago today, and Mom is doing great. Not up and running marathons, like she seems to think she ought to be able to do by now, but for a 78-year-old, she is a rock star.

One of my easiest duties as caregiver is to take Mom’s dog for a walk, twice a day. We’re not sure what breed she is—she looks like a Golden Retriever, but in miniature—but she has a sweet disposition and has been a great companion for Mom. She is peculiar in one respect: she won’t do her business in the yard, and so she must be walked. This has been great for making sure Mom gets her exercise, and giving her reasons to socialize with the neighbors. The downside is that Ada (the dog) must go twice a day, every day, rain or shine. At ungodly hours for a night owl like me.

I tend to stay up well past midnight writing or proofreading, and left to my own devices, I get up around 8:30 or so. But Ada wants to be fed at 7 and walked by 8 at the latest. Mom has been able to feed her, but I’ve barely been able to drag my butt out of bed to get out the door by 8. I walk her as late as possible in the evenings, but this time of year it has still been over 12 hours since she’s been out, so I do feel for her, and I try.

One interesting thing about walking someone else’s dog is the people I meet.

Now, Ada is not always friendly with every dog she meets, so I never assume the pug or yorkie or hound coming up on us is a friend. Most times they pass without incident. But whether or not the dogs are friendly, almost everyone we come across knows my mom. And they ask me how she is, where she is, and how the surgery went. It is gratifying that so many people know and care about Mom, and tell me to tell her that “Winsow’s mom says hello,” or “Dakota and I are praying for her.” (We all seem to remember the dog’s name before the people’s names.)

Since I am not a morning person, I also look for the blessings in getting up so early, and I find it very peaceful to walk in the quiet of the morning. Mom lives near a sweet little park that features lovely magnolia trees, which are in bloom right now. Everything changes so much this time of year. I can walk by a bare tree in the morning and by the afternoon the leaf buds will be pushing, and the next morning it will be leafed out. A magnolia will be full of fuzzy pods one trip, then 11 hours later they will be open and displaying beautiful blooms. Dewdrops and birdsong in the morning, sunset colors in the evening. Clouds as a backdrop, blue sky, green green grass. It is all splendid, all glorious, and seemingly all mine. It is a blessed escape from the cares of the world, a timeless bubble impervious to the tragedy, anger, politics, and madness that seem to be crashing against the rocks of reality, driving me to distraction when I let it.

We anticipate the doctor will tell us tomorrow that Mom doesn’t need live-in care any longer, and I will be able to go home, just stopping in every couple days to help her do the things she can’t do herself. The dog walks will pass on to helpful neighbors, and I will get to sleep in again. At least until I get back on the truck next month.

I have to confess, part of me will miss the daily walks with Ada. But I do miss my own bed, and my lazy mornings.

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