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Walking the dog

It happens slowly, the adustments. I walk him with a very loose grip on the leash, and pull up the slack so it doesn't tangle around his left front paw. When it does, he stops and lifts a foot for me to make the extraction. He can't hold it up for very long, because he's already compensating.

He came with a tremor, and strangers rarely fail to remark upon it, up close. From the distance of moving cars, people marvel out their windows at how beautiful he is, whether that's a Chessie. They had one, or their parents did. Always in the past tense, but they give the impression, these people who stop strangers on their dog walks, that they would drive right home and begin looking for a rescue society to adopt from. Pet owners get attached to breeds. It's why the rescues are specific: pit-mixes, teacup poodles, greyhounds. Charlie came from Chesapeake Safe Harbor with marks in the fur of his back legs, that we figured meant he slept in a metal crate for a long time.

Now that he's five years older than whatever age he was when we got him (which was misrepresented, at the very least), his shoulders are also starting to quiver at times. We increase his pain medication regimen when he starts to lick the hair off his back legs again. It's a compulsive trait, common to his breed, the vet tells us, like the way he starts to drink water, or bark at passers by, and can't stop.

He walks slower now, can't tolerate as long a walk as he used to, which he shows by stopping at intervals to just stand, not even sniff. So I keep the leash slack in my hand so I'll feel it draw through when he isn't keeping up. I make a lot of stops on people's lawns, or while others are approaching on the sidewalk, and it makes me feel awkward, like I shouldn't be just standing around, but of course I have a reason, a beautiful reason, and he shakes. Does he always shake like that? Yes. He's not scared, or cold, or suffering in any other way we can think of to alleviate. He takes pain meds five times a day, wrapped in cream cheese. When I'm late with dinner or pills, he puts his head in my lap and looks up at me, to remind me that I have an adorable dog who is is jonesing.

Kevin monitors Charlie's well being by inviting him onto the bed each morning, on his way out to work. Sometimes Kevin has to help him. Even though it's hard to get up onto the bed, he wants to be there. When I wake up hours later, he's on the bed with me. He'll stay sometimes til noon. Other times he'll get up when I do, and go take up his other napping space, on the wingback chair in the dining room.

Today, I took him on one of our regular walks, to the bakery, and there were a lot of people around, because one of the schools is having its graduation. He knows the drill and submits to being hitched to the bike rack for the minute it takes me to select a loaf and retrieve him. On the way home, a man with a toddler walked by, holding his hand, and I judged her a calm child, so I didn't do anything to get Charlie out of her way. The possibilities, as I saw them, were all fine: she might shy, or walk past, or reach out to touch Charlie, even put her hand in his face, and he would tolerate it all with more or less happiness about the attention. It was only after we passed, and I was reviewing what could have reasonably happened, that I remembered Kevin saying he had been surrendered, because the owners said he bit a child. I can't imagine Charlie biting anyone without them being repeatedly aggressive. Babies have put their fingers in his mouth and nose, puppies snap at him, and he takes it all in stride. But then, he got fixed right before we got him... it could make a difference. That much? I don't know. I've never had an intact, adult male dog for a pet.

Since he's come to us, he's gone swimming hundreds of times, been on lots of long walks in the woods and around town, gotten love from friends and extended family, been a guest in a nice hotel when we took him with us on vacation to Ohio. He's had a rich life, the past five years. I don't know what his life was like before us. I heard he went duck hunting once, but not how that went. I know he loves to swim and retrieve. He had an uncanny knack for finding balls in the woods, lost by other dogs, but I can't remember the last one he found.

He climbs the few stairs to our apartment with a subtle reluctance. This is the time when we're watching, waiting. I want to say that we'll keep helping him onto the bed as long as he wants to be there, keep walking as long as that's something he wants to do. I know the truth is going to be more complicated than a dog's joy.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 14th, 2016 08:03 pm (UTC)
Beautiful and sad. Sounds like you're everything right. Maybe body block / distract around kids - as he may be in pain or feeling weak, he might be scared which can result in snappy behavior.

May. 14th, 2016 09:28 pm (UTC)
I was thinking about it this time, I think, because it's a risk I don't usually take. Charlie wasn't giving me any signals, either, so I did it, but you know somewhere in my head, the real list includes "dog bites child, parent sues owner."
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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