Has anyone out there seen the movie “Office Space?” If you have, there is a magnificent opening scene where the star of the show is driving to work, and he’s stuck in traffic, and traffic is moving so slowly that some old man using a walker, on the sidewalk, is actually making better progress, and moving faster, than the guy in the car. It’s really a hilarious scene in a hilarious movie.
I’m reminded of that scene now because, in a few days, I will be that man with a walker. On the 28th of October I go in for hip replacement surgery, and for the next six weeks I will not be winning any road races.
But this series is about my walks with my two dogs, Maggie and Toby, so you can probably see where I’m going with this installment: my walks with my two dogs, which I cherish so much, will be greatly curtailed while I recover from the surgery, and that is what this musing is all about.
No, They Are Not “just Dogs”
To a person who does not love dogs, and I concede there are many out there, this may seem like “much ado about nothing.” I get it. I really do. I’m that way about cats. But for those who love dogs as much as I do, this lament will appear quite normal, and so I thank you in advance.
Truth be told, I did not do somersaults of happiness when my wife, Bev, came home one day, four years ago, and told me some friends were selling the most adorable puppies from a recent litter. She suggested we get one. I suggested she seek help from a therapist. I was much too busy to take care of a puppy. I had writing to do, and yardwork to do, and a myriad of other very important “things” to take care of, and we both knew who would be the primary caregiver, since Bev was working full-time at that time. No, it simply wasn’t possible!
Two days later we brought Maggie home, and my life changed. Against my strongest attempts to the contrary, I fell in love with the furball. Suddenly I was taking her for several daily walks. Suddenly she was riding in the pickup truck with me. Suddenly she was my constant companion, so much so that she gathered a faithful following through these “Travels With Maggie” articles.
Fast-forward two years and again Bev came home, again excited about a new litter of puppies, again suggesting we get one, and again me screaming in protest.
Two days later we welcomed Maggie’s brother, Toby, into our family and yes, I fell in love with that furball as well.
No, they are not just dogs to me. Maggie and Toby give me balance. They give me continual companionship. They present to this gruff old man unconditional love. They show me that there is still magic to be found in a boy and his dogs, taking me back almost seventy years ago when my parents brought a puppy home, and a shy little boy had his best friend for twenty years.
No matter how busy I am, no matter what project I am working on, no matter how many chores or errands I have scheduled, the Eleven a.m. walk with Maggie and Toby is honored, day in, day out, rain, sunshine, snow, sleet, howling winds, it will happen! They expect it. I expect it. The neighbors expect it. It is good for the physical health of my dogs, and it is good for the psychological health of their owner.
No, These Are Not “just Walks”
You know how cars and trucks need regular check-ups to make sure all parts are running properly? That’s how it is for me and these walks. I need the time alone with my pups. I need that connection. I need the peacefulness of a walk in the woods. I need the human connection of saying hello to neighbors. I need the affection I receive, each day, when Maggie looks at me with love, and Toby licks my hand, tail wagging furiously, letting me know, without speaking a word, that I am their world.
My dogs and I solve the world’s problems on those walks. We cure disease and eradicate poverty and spread love on those walks. We meet up with my muse and write short stories and novels on those walks. We think of days gone by, and loved ones who have passed, and we embrace sweet melancholy on those walks.
Every single day, for the past four years, these walks have happened.
But not on October 28th, and for several weeks after, while I recuperate, and yes, that saddens me. For several weeks I will abdicate the throne, pass on the torch, and allow someone else to do that which I love most about my days. The hardest part of total hip replacement, for this old man, is in not being able to do that which I love doing while my body recuperates and grows stronger. I know it is necessary, I know I will feel better than I have felt in months, but sadness still creeps in, unbidden, and fills my thoughts on these last few walks leading up to the 28th.
And so, on this brilliant fall day, I allow my senses to absorb as much of the beauty as possible. The smells of Fall are unmistakable. The air is crisp, almost tangible, as molecules interact, as systems jet by overhead, as highs and lows bump shoulders across the sky, here and thousands of miles elsewhere, creating the unique atmospheric conditions we walk through on this Tuesday.
The colors, oh my God, the colors . . . yellows, oranges, reds, various hues of each, the gods painting pallet alive, food for the poets, inspiration for young lovers, manna for the artists and photographers, colors so vibrant they demand one to stop and take notice, to not allow this moment to be ignored, one Kodak moment in a lifetime filled with the minutiae of living, but a moment to be savored as one does a fine wine aged decades in an oak cask.
Watch and nature will entertain. Squirrels are so very busy collecting and storing and chattering throughout, playful little cherubs, embracing Disney’s “whistle while you work” philosophy, driving my Toby crazy, taunting him, announcing to him that he will never, ever, in his lifetime be fast enough, or sneaky enough, to catch them in a chase. Maggie watches with interest but no intent; Toby watches with lament, but lament interspersed with the excitement of one who does not know his limitations.
Robins are busy as well, preparing nests as the geese announce to the world, overhead, that a long journey has begun. Up ahead a mother and two fawns break from the woods, stop, stare at us, decide we are no threat, and slowly cross the street, enter more woods, and meld into the welcoming, shrouding colors of safety.
People are more friendly in the fall, or so it seems to me, grateful the heat of summer has gone, grateful for the last few days of decent weather before the rains and snows of winter descend upon us, and many of them greet my dogs as well as me, remarking on this scruffy beauty and handsomeness, reaching out a hand for a sniff, small talk interspersed, connections made, fighting back the loneliness we all feel at times, taking a chance on a stranger and his dogs, silly banter, meaningless comments, and yet so important for us all, we are not islands, we are not alone, we are all seen and have value, reminding me of a new word recently learned, “sonder,” thank you Brenda and Kyle.
And so, It Ends
This last walk, before the very last walk, ends as it began, where the pavement ends and the wonders begin, on Fir Street in the City of Olympia, in the State of Washington, in the nation of the United States, in the Northern and Western Hemispheres, of this place called Earth, 47.103 Latitude, -122.8709 Longitude, a man and his two dogs, contemplating a word called sonder, signing off for now.
Thank you for joining us. As always, you are appreciated, your value immeasurable, your friendship invaluable. Because of recent changes to the comment section on HP, if you would like to stay in touch with me, you can find me on Facebook, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2021 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)