Sunday, June 26, 2016

My walk with Duke

I thought I heard a bark.

It is 6am this morning and I am half asleep. I snap awake and sit up halfway in bed. Leaning on my elbow, I stare at the empty doggie bed under the window. I had been dreaming.

The trip downstairs is quiet and slow. We feed the cats. I heat the water for coffee and get the filter, the filter holder, and the coffee from the cupboard. A hot air balloon lands in the church parking lot just across the park. We watch for a bit and then sit outside on the back deck and drink our coffee. I watch a few TEDTalk videos while Angie is on her phone. I decide to take Duke for a walk.

I put on my sunglasses and when I open the closet to put on my P-38 baseball cap, I see Duke's collar and leash on the top shelf. I pick them up gingerly and fold them reverently so they will fit in my hand. The front door opens easily. The sun is warm on my face even for this early in the morning. Raider comes running from across the lawn and I let him inside. I close the door and step off the porch.


"Come on, Duke! Let's go!"

"Good BOY!"

I turn right and head for the park. The hot air balloon is long gone. Cupcake, the neighbor's cat, runs up to me from across the street and I lean down to pet and scratch her. The dew on the park grass twinkles in the morning sunlight as if some girls had sprinkled glitter on it. I start off across the park.

"You got the leash tangled in your foot again, haven't you?"


"Let me fix it, you nut."

The church parking lot is deserted. It will soon fill up with the cars of the parishioners. I walk under the Magnolia tree next to the church sidewalk and cross the street. A left turn next to the dog walk/sitting area...I cross the next street, and then head toward the boundary of the development. I hold the leash and collar close to my heart with both hands. I begin to cry.

"Duke, get away from those flowers."

"Come on."

"Good BOY!"

The coat of paint on "Pita's" former house looks nice. A new doggie is inside the fence. She seems to be skittish and is a bit reluctant to come too close. I put my hand through a space in the gate and she sniffs it. I scratch her nose. She moves away and then comes back for another scratch. She runs off toward her owner and I continue my walk around the corner toward Brownie's house.

"Leave the kitty cat alone."

"You've seen one before."

"Stop tugging at the leash."

I never noticed how long this stretch of road was before. The empty lot to the left and the few houses to the right. It always seemed to go so much quicker. Today it is slower. More reserved. Different. The birds are a bit louder because the local dogs aren't barking. Having noticed that, I shift the leash and collar to my left hand. I need my right to wipe away the tears that come again.

"Stay away from the cactus."

"Good BOY!"

"Let's go see if Dozer is home."

The old Naval airfield property has been freshly mowed. A hawk circles over it looking for something to catch. He flies to a tall pine tree and lands on the top. Then he flies to another tree close by. I have to be careful on this stretch of road because there isn't a sidewalk here, just a raised curb. A truck goes by pretty fast; faster than I remember any other car going down this road. I'm almost to the sidewalk. My hand grips the leash and collar a bit tighter.

"Come on, Duke."

"Up on the sidewalk."

"Okay. You can sniff here for a bit."

Up the sidewalk and across one street. To my right, I see the house where our old cat Corky lived after we moved here. Where is she now? A left turn onto our street and I have to be careful because the sidewalk is uneven. I've tripped here before but today I am more aware of the hazard. I cross the street and then onto our front lawn. I stop. The tears come again as I put both hands on the leash and collar and hold them to my chest. I weep. I sob. My shoulders shake. There are too many tears to wipe away.

"You want to play tug of war, huh?"

"Come on, let's go inside."

"Good BOY!"

My walk without Duke.

The video starts out sideways. It will orient itself at about 30 seconds.