It is very therapeutic walking with a geriatric, arthritic dog. It does not matter if we are running late and if we don’t hurry will miss the school bus. It does not matter if it starts to rain and we are without an umbrella. It does not matter. It does not matter because these days, walking with Dexter, there is only one speed, slow and constant. That is the only speed he can go.
Dexter is our sweet German Shepherd mix. He turned twelve this July. As of late his arthritic hips have been giving him a hard time. He struggles to get up. He struggles to get down. He struggles to get out the doggie door in time to do his business outside. More and more often he does not make it in time. Once he is up and moving however, he can maintain a slow and steady pace.
Every morning unless the rain is heavy we walk the quarter mile to the bus stop. We watch Cody get on the school bus and then Carter, Dexter, and I walk the quarter mile back home. On our walks home we used to have impromptu games of hide and seek in the small open field (where there is really only one tree and one shrub worthy of hiding behind.) We used to pick green or red apples from the orchard at the back of this field to nibble on while we walked. We used to examine the almost invisible hole in the ground that a group of bees call home just behind and to the right of that great hiding tree. We used to watch our ant friends move with purpose and conviction, walking along a tiny path from their hill to the blackberry bushes, a path worn by thousands and thousands of little ant feet, a path we have lovingly named The Ant Highway. We used to play leaf boat in the natural creek that runs alongside the field.
We no longer take these little side trips on our morning walks; Dexter’s legs can only hold him up for so long. It is on the rare afternoon when we don’t have to rush to a swim lesson or a physical or occupational therapy appointment that I leave Dexter at home happily chewing on a treat and we get to pretend fish in the creek or visit our ant friends. It is the colder months and there is less activity anyway. The ants are sleeping under their warm dry thatch of browned grasses and dead pine needles. The apples are no longer any good for eating.
We don’t mind the change, at least I don’t. Carter can and does run up ahead to play or examine an interesting beetle or moss patch while Dexter and I bring up the rear, slowly. It is nice to know that for those moments, rushing or hurrying is simply not an option. I find myself looking forward to these walks and I know that someday, sooner than I would like, these moments will be gone.
And so we walk and we let Dexter sniff and take all the time he needs. There is no rushing. If we miss the bus so be it, I can always drive Cody to school. These last walks, however many more there will be, they are for Dexter.