Take A Walk

My alarm goes off at 6 a.m. I push the snooze button, and wait for Charlie the puggle to shake his collar. He might wait a couple of minutes, but if I’m not rolling out quick enough, he comes to the side of the bed and puts his front paws on me. I swear his previous owner was deaf and couldn’t hear the alarm, and Charlie was his wake-up call.

I pull on jeans and a top and find my glasses and tennis shoes. In the fall and winter, this is easier — I pull on a couple of jackets and put up my hood. This summer has been a struggle to find something cool to wear but long-sleeved to keep the mosquitoes off me. Today I wore a hoodie with long sleeves that would cover my hands. I scratched at the bites on my hands so much yesterday that I wasn’t going to go out without something on my hands today.

Today there was a breeze. Yay! We wouldn’t get quite as bitten up as yesterday. I don’t bother doing anything with my hair or make-up — I normally don’t see anyone. One day I came out of my house as another dog-owner went by walking her dog. “Oh!” she said, “Did you cut your hair?” I explained that I don’t do anything with it when I’m out walking, so I cover it up with a hat or hoodie. I had to ditch my sweet little straw fedora. The band didn’t like my forehead.

Charlie and I set off the same direction every day. Some days we’ll walk to the end of the sidewalk, some days we turn at the end of the block. But from there, we head straight for the park near Jefferson School. Charlie has to mark a couple of trees on our way, and sniffs at almost anything new in his path. We hear the birds chirping. I can pick out wrens, orioles, robins, killdeers, and ducks.

Yes, ducks. We have a couple of mallards that like to nest at the park in the coulee. Yesterday, however, I didn’t see them. All I saw was water. The torrential rainfall caused the coulee to fill up — to the top! I’ve never seen it so full. Killdeers like to nest in the rocks and mulch in the flower beds at the park. I’m always amused when they do their “injured bird” routine to try and lure me away from their nest. Today the coulee was back down to its normal trickle.

Some mornings we see the Terrible Threesome — three little dogs/mops that like to bark at us. Well, OK, only two of them do the barking. The third one hangs back and lets the other two do the talking. A couple of times, their owner has come out of the house to see what the racket is all about. I think she’s figured it out now.

We catch the occasional smoker puffing away outside the apartments, or the occasional mom dropping off a child at a daycare on our route. There’s one little boy I call Timmy who comes to his grandparents’ house with his dad. I’m making all that up, of course. But here’s my logic: there’s only one child who comes to this house, so I’m figuring they’re related. I call him Timmy because he looks and dresses like he comes from a conservative home. They wouldn’t name him anything strange like Rain or something made up like Trudavey. (Mom is Trudy, Dad is Dave — Trudavey!)

Occasionally, I’ll see another person out walking; I used to see our newspaper carrier on a regular basis, but now I’ve heard she has three routes, so her schedule must be different. I always see rabbits and squirrels. Charlie either ignores them or doesn’t see them. I think he has bad eyesight. Either that, or he’d rather sniff out a piece of pizza someone tossed out a car window. Ick.

By the time we get to the park, Charlie is starting to flag. He’s not tugging quite so hard on his harness. Mornings are usually cooler, so he doesn’t get overheated. I’ve considered bringing a water bottle with me, but that’s just one more thing that would delay our walk. Charlie can get pretty impatient with me.

He leaps up onto the door, as if he can open it quicker than I can. I hold his harness and wait for him to come and sit down so I can put it on him. This morning, he sat behind me, as if he wasn’t sure he wanted to go. I can recall only twice when he didn’t want to go out: once when it was snowing hard, and once when it was raining hard.

Once I’ve picked up a couple of — ahem, packages — we’re on our way home. We haven’t been seeing Lucy lately. She was a big hairy dog — a collie or collie cross — and moved rather slow on her walks around the block. Her doggie-momma didn’t even use the leash because Lucy knew the route. I doubt I’d ever do that with Charlie. He’s too headstrong to obey. I suspect Lucy is making the route now in heaven.

Yes, I believe dogs go to heaven — especially if they have beloved owners there. My heaven would not be complete if I didn’t have a dog to pet. There’s a special place for cat owners, too. Somewhere far from the doggie heaven.

We round the block and Charlie and I have disturbed some crows. I know they’re crows because they’re huge! One is perched on a light pole, chastising us with his “caw caw,” while the other one answers from a tree branch overhead. They sound annoyed.

By the time we get back to the condo, I can see Grandma’s living room light is on. She’s up reading the newspaper, and ready for the day. Charlie steps into the hallway and shakes his collar again, sometimes to shake the dew off his tummy, and more likely to alert the building that he is up and ready for the day, too.