I wanted to write a blog post in April to designate my year with Whiskey in our house. Then the date came and passed. And passed some more.
So I’m a little late- and anyone who knows me would probably say that’s just fitting considering I’m late to just about everything.
So a bit behind the times here is my post to celebrate a year with a dog. I got Whiskey after a back injury in spring of 2010. It seemed a stupid thing to do. To get a dog that we weren’t prepared for (in the home- not dog proofed, in the yard- no fence, or financially- no explanation needed). And to get a dog when I wasn’t physically able to walk 100 feet and he was a husky!? And he’d need to be walked like, you know, every day!? What the hell were we thinking.
Well, forced to walk (okay, dragged by the no leash manners dog) I eventually began to heal faster. Was it just time for me to heal? Or was the walking contributing to strengthening my injured back? I don’t know… but either way it worked.
I recently came across a poem by Jane Kenyon called “After an illness, walking the dog.” I loved it and it reminded me of our own beginning with me sometimes having to turn back out of pain, or only walking 2 blocks, taking lots of stops along the way, wearing a back brace between shirt and jacket.
I was especially taken by her last lines “and he –the designated optimist– imagines to the end that he is free.”
So, here it is
After an illness, walking the dog
Wet things smell stronger,
and I suppose his main regret is that
he can sniff just one at a time.
In a frenzy of delight
he runs way up the sandy road–
scored by freshets after five days
of rain. Every pebble gleams, every leaf.
When I whistle he halts abruptly
and steps in a circle,
swings his extravagant tail.
Then he rolls and rubs his muzzle
in a particular place, while the drizzle
falls without cease, and Queen Anne’s lace
and goldenrod bend low.
The top of the logging road stands open
and bright. Another day before
hunting starts, we’ll see how far it goes,
leaving word first at home.
The footing is ambiguous.
Soaked and muddy, the dog drops,
panting, and looks up with what amounts
to a grin. It’s so good to be uphill with him,
nicely winded, and looking down on the pond.
A sound commences in my left ear
like the sound of the sea in a shell;
a downward vertiginous drag comes with it.
Time to head home. I wait
until we’re nearly out to the main road
to put him back on the leash, and he
–the designated optimist–
imagines to the end that he is free.
If you’d like to know more about Jane Kenyon visit the Poetry Foundation for a starting place. She was New Hampshire’s Poet Laureate when she died.
I could say a lot of things about my year with Whiskey. I’ll try to keep it short. It’s been one of the most wonderful years of my life. Hands down. I’m happier. I exercise more. I have something that is probably as close to unconditional love as you can come to in a lifetime. He’s led me to care deeply about animal rights and to strive to be a better person. After all, it’s true what they say, your dog is your mirror. And after a year I can say my mirror is a little bit shinier than before…