Monday, February 2, 2009

walk the dog


I’m thinking about commitment. Probably because I’ve made a serious commitment to my dog. She’s a sweet thing, a little on the needy side, very high energy. Oh, and she licks and licks and licks. I’ve created a rich fictional back story for her, a doggie fairy tale we tell, where she was abandoned by the side of the road and lived for months foraging pieces of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum from underneath piles of leaves along the highway. And then she was scooped up and dropped off at the Humane Society, where she came this close to death. But she was saved at the last minute and hustled off to the New Life Shelter (I know, sounds like a religious rehab joint for dogs) where Rollie and I found her. When the dog shelter employee picked her up (her shelter name was Opal), she promptly peed all over the poor woman. We played with her. We hemmed and hawed until the doggie re-hab people kicked us out. Then we sat in the car for ten minutes, trying to drive away, before we turned around, went inside and signed the papers.

So, I want her life to be better. She just seems so confused. Her feelings are so easily hurt. She’s uncertain. (Or maybe she’s just the victim of an obsessive anthropomorphizing owner?)

I rented the Dog Whisperer and studied two episodes intently. And came to this brilliant conclusion – she needs a good long walk first thing in the morning. So I’ve made a commitment. Every morning for almost two weeks now we are out the door in the dark and off to the park. I do what the Dog Whisperer says, keep her close to me, on a short, short leash, and she hustles by my side, focused and loyal.

And I practice “calm assertiveness”. Which, incidentally, is turning out to be a good lesson all around. Who knew three-year-olds respond to calm assertive as well as dogs? And maybe I can start phasing out my “monkey howler” voice.

The plan is she’ll finally find her place in life. Quit bopping from submissive to assertive, type B to A. That she’ll be able to relax in to her role as follower, that she’ll learn to trust that we’re the uber dogs and we’ll protect her. That’s the upside.

The downside is that now I’m locked in to getting up early every morning to walk the dog. Every morning. ‘Til when? The rest of her life, right? Because if I don’t get up and walk her I have to face those disappointed brown eyes. And who wants that on their conscience all day?

Of course I’m learning from all this. Getting out in the morning is nice. Fresh air. Pinecones. Misplaced seagulls circling overhead. A well exercised dog which means less irritation (and obsessive licking) for the whole family. And I get a tiny bit of exercise and alone time every day. But I can’t help feeling a little bit of the dread that, for me, inevitably comes with commitment. Because long term promises are, ultimately, so hard to keep.


Susan said...

Wow. Thanks, Kate - this was worth waiting for.

Clutterchick said...

Hey Susan! Will you follow me around and say things like that all day long?

Amy Louise Skorheim said...

Alcoholics Anonymous teaches that whole "one day at a time" thing for just that reason. Deciding to do something for the rest of your life (or the dog's life) is an intimidating prospect. So they say, "I'm not going to drink today. I might tomorrow, who knows? But I won't drink today." I always remembered that advice from when my best friend went down the AA path. I wonder if that approach would be helpful here. "I'm going to walk the dog today. Tomorrow, who knows? But I'm going to do it today."