I keep trying to warn him about these things. He never listens, of course. As a species, humanoids tend to be somewhat obtuse, and my Alpha is one of the more preoccupied of the bunch.
Usually you see him striding down the sidewalk, his steps full of purpose, even if his head seems to be lost in thought. He’s a humanoid with places to go, things to do. His sternest taskmaster is that metal band that he wears on his left wrist, which he consults frequently, often with a hissed whisper to yours truly, “Come on, Zoscha. Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.”
There was a time I could keep up with his frantic pace. I had the energy of a young pup, and could bound ahead, as Lily does now, sniffing out a few interesting prospects, leaving my own marks, and waiting for Alpha to catch up with that determined and pressing pace of his.
I haven’t been able to keep up with him for a couple of years now. Age and arthritis take their toll, of course, but perhaps just as importantly, at this stage in life it’s important to take time to smell the hydrants.
My hearing is probably not as good either – or maybe it’s my greater ability to channel out any noise not suited to the task at hand, whether stalking a squirrel or sniffing the residues of last Wednesday’s garbage. Alpha tells his humanoid friends that I’m getting dotty with age. I would rather think of it as being mature enough to set my own priorities.
But I wish he would listen to me sometimes. I could caution him on the dangerous things he likes to strap to his feet during the winter. There are various contraptions, some more benign than others. There are the funny shoes with the blades. When he brings these to the front door, you can usually count on a good time at Windsor Park, playing in the drifts while he and his pals glide on the ice.
Then there are shoes with longer blades. He never takes me with him when he brings these to the front door, but I’ve seen other humanoids make use of them at Brewer Park and on the frozen canal – places where we are not allowed to explore.
And then there are the big long planks he straps to his feet, and the long bamboo poles that he grips with his mitts. When he brings these up from downstairs, Lily and I know we’re in for a good time, trotting along the frozen river while he shuffles and glides over the snow.
But then there is another combination of boots, poles and boards I find very sinister indeed. The planks are shorter and wider. The poles are short and made of metal rather than bamboo. And the boots! All I can say is that I’ve never seen him put these big, heavy plastic boots on for a walk to the park, and I can understand why: I don’t know how they can take a step in those things.
And so, a few weeks ago, when Alpha began packing his suitcases and packing these contraptions, I feared for the worse. The packing of suitcases means a visit to the kennel for me. And packing those planks and poles and boots means that he’s up to something from which I cannot protect him.
And sure enough. When he picked me up from the kennel several days later, he was no longer my fast-paced Alpha with his determined stride. He was hobbling on crutches. He shuffled tentatively across the ice and snow as if afraid he might fall. When stooping to scoop, he put all his weight on his right leg, unable to bend his left knee.
Oh how the mighty have fallen. Nothing he ever read prepared him for a body this unfair. And you know what? There’s something liberating about sharing a house with a gimpy Alpha. For the first time in years, I can get up and down the stairs faster than he can. For the first time in years, I have time to check out smells in the driveways before he catches up to me when we go out for a walk. It makes me feel like a pup again, and I think even the Pup himself finds this slower pace more to his liking.
And in the mornings, our routines have changed. Alpha does stretching exercises and leg lifting and he puts ice packs on his knee. He mutters to himself that he is determined to put those big sticks back on his feet by next winter but, in the meantime, we’re all enjoying a more sedentary lifestyle.
Enjoying a more leisurely pace into Spring,
Many of Zoscha’s frequent readers have observed that she is a very literate dog who often sprinkles her prose with various quotes and allusions to the great writing of the past. Congratulations to those who identified a riff from Ted Hughes’ Crow in last month’s column: “Old Crow/Flying your black bag of jewels/from chaos to chaos…”
Once again, she has included a literary allusion in this month’s column. She is willing to offer a doggie biscuit and a pat on the head to anyone who can identify the line of poetry and the writer she is borrowing from this month.
Send your entries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Use “Zoscha’s contest” in your title line. Good luck!