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.