We lost Shilo on Christmas Eve day. She was a great dog and lead a long, happy life. This column ran in the paper in August of 2003.
Shilo and I have our morning walks back now.
That’s one of the few good things about the end of summer: Shilo and I own our mornings again. I don’t have to get to work as early as some people do. So once my wife and I get our 9-year-old daughter, Emma off to school and my wife heads off to work, I have a little time to hook Shilo to her leash and take her for a walk.
I like our morning walks. For me, our morning walks are a chance to relax, a chance to think about how to avoid doing any meaningful work. The walks mean a little bit more to Shilo.
See, Shilo is a German shepherd who spends a lot of time indoors with nothing much to do but terrorize our two cats. And, let’s face it, terrorizing cats loses some of its appeal after a while. But a morning walk, on the other paw, is a grand adventure. A walk is a chance to see if her buddies Jack, a Labrador retriever, or Carson, a golden retriever, are outside. A walk is a chance to check out every tree and every lamppost to see if anyone new has been walking through the area. And a walk is a chance to bark at a rabbit or a squirrel or, if she’s lucky, a strange cat.
When Shilo figures out that it’s time to go on our morning walk, she gets a little excited. She will jump and express her pleasure by whining, barking and turning around in a circle by our breezeway door.
This is what Shilo thinks when she figures out it’s morning walk time: “A WALK! A WALK! WE GET TO GO ON A WALK! HERE, LET ME EXPRESS MY PLEASURE ABOUT OUR WALK BY WHINING, BARKING AND TURNING AROUND IN A CIRCLE BY THE DOOR. I’M EXCITED ABOUT GOING ON A WALK, IS WHAT I’M SAYING.”
Sometimes I forget how important our morning walks are to Shilo. This summer, when I was busy getting Emma to one of her 294 different summer activities, I didn’t have much of a chance to take Shilo on a morning walk. In fact, we probably went almost two months without one. So last Friday morning after my wife left for work, I walked into the kitchen, where Shilo was lying by the door and dreaming about a walk, and I poured some coffee into a travel mug. Shilo watched me. At first, Shilo didn’t react. See, she’s seen me pour coffee before. But then she must have noticed that the travel mug was the same mug I used to take with us on our walks.
She went nuts.
I thought that was pretty neat. Like I said, it had been two months since Shilo and I took a morning walk. That means, based on my dog-time continuum theory (one human year equals seven dog years; therefore, one human hour equals seven dog hours), in Shilo’s mind it actually had been 14 months since our last morning walk. Shilo was eager; she was ready.
Actually, so was I. Morning walks are a pretty good way to notice the way things change, the way time passes. The way things change from week to week, from month to month. From one season to the next. From one year to the next.
A long time ago, I used to walk the very same neighborhood with a different dog. I was younger then, newly married. My wife and I were living in a comfortable but small, two-bedroom rental house. I used to think about stuff on those early morning walks too. I’m not sure what I used to think about then, but I doubt it was about things like the way time passes. But I think about time now when I walk by that same rental house where my wife and I lived 16 years ago.
Tuesday morning, I noticed that some of the trees in our neighborhood are already dropping their leaves. Not many, but some. It’s early, of course, and way too warm for serious leaf dropping, but it’s out there. In a month or so, it’s going to start getting a little cooler when Shilo and I walk, and it will be time to put away the shorts and pull out the jeans. Later, in October, when the maple trees that line the streets change and unload their leaves in bulk, I’ll have to grab a jacket before we leave the house. I’ll notice frost on the ground, and I’ll use my mug of hot coffee for warmth as much as anything else. Thanksgiving will come and go. So will Christmas and Emma’s birthday.
Sooner or later it will snow, and the sidewalks in our neighborhood will be covered with ice. Through it all, Shilo and I will keep walking. We’ll walk as the snow and ice start to melt, as the brown grass starts to turn green again. We’ll walk as the bare maple trees begin to bud out and flowers start to reappear. We’ll walk until it’s summer again. Then we’ll stop walking for a while so I can run Emma to her 294 summer activities.
And then, some morning in the middle of August, we’ll take Emma to school, and my wife will rush off to work, and I’ll walk into the kitchen and pour coffee into my travel mug.
And Shilo will go nuts.