Daily Archives: August 16, 2016

Walking with Darla II

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On a day when I have to work, the dogs know they should be thankful for whatever they get in the way of exercise. If I get up early, it might be an actual walk, while the coffee’s brewing, down the road to the drive that marks one half mile. If I sleep late, it might be a simple wander around the yard. If I sleep very late, I may just send them out on their own while I drink coffee and get ready to rush off…with the promise that I’ll make it up to them later, with a ride down to Fox Lake, of course.

Rosa Parks could really go either way. Some days she passes on the walk altogether. She often has to be carried out to the yard, when it’s early. She’d opt for a ride any day, if given a choice. Darla takes her walk seriously, and never misses a chance. If she realizes that I’m not going to work, she gets down-right demanding. That’s a good thing, in this household. Who knows what I would forget, if the dogs forgot to ask!

Darla is a mild-mannered dog, though, and even her “demands” are pretty tame. When she wants to keep her spot on the bed or the couch, it’s passive resistance all the way. She just makes herself totally limp, and pretends to be unaware of my coaxing. When she wants to be petted, she tucks her big head under my hand. When she wants to take a walk, she picks up whichever toy she has decided gets the honor of coming along and puts her chin on my lap. “Look,” she is telling me, “the giraffe is ready to go for a walk!”

We check with Rosa Parks, then, to see if she feels up to coming along. If not, she gets a biscuit to keep her occupied. Darla and I head out, the little stuffed giraffe in her mouth, tail in the air, a bounce in her step. She waits at the end of the driveway until she sees the path I will take. North, if it’s early, where the open road offers sunshine; south, later in the day, to take advantage of the shade. Sometimes – especially if Rosa Parks is with us – west, down the long drive to Cotter’s cabin. There is no traffic there, yet plenty of squirrels to keep their attention.

Darla likes to be in the lead, but she always knows my whereabouts. At some point she tires of carrying the toy, and puts it down on the side of the road. Sometimes she picks it up on the way home; sometimes she retrieves it another day. She always seems to know where she’s left them.

Yesterday, walking home, we came upon two scooters, parked at the roadside, and two men looking at the trees. Darla went ahead to see. I called out a hello, and told them she was a friendly dog, in case her size would frighten them. “We like dogs,” they called back, and put out hands for her to sniff while I caught up. We had a short conversation, then, about dogs and trees and the weather. Darla rested at my feet until I was ready to continue our walk.

Home, she boasts, just a little bit, about getting a walk if Rosa Parks didn’t. She takes a big drink of water, and is ready to relax. Our exercise is done for the day.

Tuesday: Exercises in Writing #11

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Today’s writing idea comes from Melissa Donovan, one of 25 writing prompts at her “Writing Forward” blog.

Tell bad drivers, rude customers, and evil dictators how grateful you are for what they’ve done. Do it with a wink and a smile.

First, let me say how very fortunate I am to have found this writing prompt at this particular time of year. I have just made it through the busiest part of our summer season, the most stressful period in the whole year. I’ve been feeling pretty good about it, too. I work long hours in customer service at a hardware store in a tourist destination.

Every single time an item was brought to the register, and wouldn’t scan, the customer said, “Must be free.” Young, old, rich or poor, it made no difference, when an item doesn’t scan as it should with the bar-code reader (which is, after all, a fallible and fairly new invention), the universal suggestion is “Must be free.” Hearing it a hundred times over the summer allowed me to perfect my response, which is, “That is so rarely the case, Sir [or Ma’am or even precocious toddler], that I hate to have you get your hopes up.”

Customers often charge in the door, look me square in the eye, and bellow, “Hammers!” or “Duct Tape!” or “Floor Leveler!” Their day, I guess, does not allow for the time it would take to speak in entire sentences, as in “Hello! Where would I find the duct tape?” I answer this way: “Well, Duct Tape to you, too, sir! That’s an unusual greeting, but a fine one anyway. Walk with me and I’ll show you where to find it.”

Others begin their greeting with, “You ain’t got no…” which is annoying for its negativity, even when spoken with proper grammar. Why did they even come in the door if they’re so sure we don’t have it? My responses vary, depending on my mood. I might say, with horror, “We don’t? Oh, my gosh! We’ve always had it before…” or, “Yes, Mr. Negative, I hate to contradict, but we do carry that item…” or a simple, “Do, too!”

My boss and my co-workers, though, generally greet me with a glance at the clock. Because otherwise, I guess, I might not realize the time, or be aware that I’m late. I used to offer reasons, but I’m sure they’re as tired of hearing them as I am of telling them. It’s always something. First, there is the alarm clock, and all the things that can go wrong there, what with batteries and snooze button and accidentally falling back asleep after turning it off.  There is coffee to make and a thermos to be filled. I check my Email over morning coffee, which sometimes leads to something else that needs to be dealt with. If I wasn’t awake at three AM writing it, I write my daily blog. I often pack a lunch. Shower. Dress.

There are the dogs, who want belly rubs and ear scratches on awakening. They need at least a stroll around the yard if not a walk down the road in the morning. Before I leave, Rosa Parks needs to have her medicine crushed in the mortar and pestle, mixed with a little wet food and served in her little flowered porcelain dish (which sometimes has to be found first) as I tell her, “You take care of things!” Darla needs the same, without the medicine, just to be fair.

I travel to work on narrow, gravel roads that are also used by bicyclists, joggers, dog walkers and one elderly driver who insists on a snail’s pace for his pick-up truck. In addition, I have to watch for deer, squirrels, chipmunks, turtles and flocks of roving wild turkeys. Sometimes, depending on the time of year, the sun is blinding through my dusty windshield. At other times, ice or snow play a part.

If customers call, running late, on their way to town for an emergency purchase, I am happy to stay after hours for them. When my boss expands our hours for summer, I am fine with taking most of those late days. When tourists wander in right at closing time to look around or for a last minute purchase, I am always pleasant. At the beginning of the day, though, I am always late. Thank goodness there is always someone there to bring it to my attention!

I did not walk off my job this year; I did not yell at customers, co-workers or my boss; I did not fall apart. Surprising, when you think about it. Now, thanks to this generous – and spot-on timing – writing prompt, I have been invited to vent! I may be looking at early retirement after all. I could be banished from the island!