The evening walk, once a sixteen-block jaunt with my dogs, has become a stroll around the block. That’s all fourteen-year-old Cabela can handle. Her hips and left rear leg slow her down; although, she occasionally dashes across the yard or gallops along the property line in moments that my father would’ve called, “Old enough to know better, but young enough to do it anyway.” My father lived by those words, with mixed results for the people around him.
For Ziva, our walks are too short. But she’s a go-along-to-get-along kind of dog. When she walks with her sister, she adopts Cabela’s slow pace, and like Cabela, she smells all the grass. The two of them have a favorite spot to sniff in the neighbor’s yard, a spot worthy of serious, laborious inspection each time we walk by it. The spot looks normal, but obviously it smells delightful and contains a message they are both hoping to decode. I understand because when lilacs are in bloom, I sometimes stop along other people’s yards and inhale their aroma. The scent of lilacs is my favorite flower smell. I muse about nature having assigned each flower its own perfume.
Some days, when Cabela is sound asleep and doesn’t hear us, Ziva and I sneak out of the house for a longer walk. I crook my finger at Ziva in a follow-me motion as I whisper, “Want to go for a walk?” She always does. Without Cabela, she poodle prances swiftly along the road, her butt sashaying like she’s a model in high heels striding down a runway. Sometimes I ask, “Ziva Baby, do you have a hamburger to go with that shake?” She ignores the question, and tells me to keep up. When we return, Cabela is usually sleeping in the same spot she was before we left and has no idea we’ve been gone. I’m thankful because I don’t want her to feel like a junior high dog whose friends ditched her.
A few nights ago, when we returned from our around-the-block walk, which turned into a twice-around-the-block walk to avoid some people with a dog, Cabela was tired. I let go of Ziva’s leash so she could trot up the stairs along side the house, and I walked with Cabela, letting her take her time.
Ziva reached the last landing and spotted three squirrels and a bunny in the back yard. She took off like a middling horse out of the starting gate. (Ziva might walk fast, but she’s a jogger not a sprinter.) She treed the squirrels and sent the bunny scurrying into the neighbor’s yard. She came within inches of one of the squirrels but made no attempt to grab it. She has come close to catching squirrels before, but she doesn’t want one. She enjoys harassing them. She stretched up along the tree trunk and gave a couple of quick barks.
If Ziva caught a squirrel, I picture it curling its front paw into a fist and pummeling her on the nose. She would cry and run to hide behind my legs. Ziva is a brave knight in the face of danger that she believes won’t come to pass. For all other occasions, she’s a damsel in distress hiding behind my skirts. If you invited Ziva to go bungy jumping, she’d tag along—but only to watch you jump. And I would be standing next to Ziva. Neither of us are too adventurous.
But next year I’m going to the Shetland Islands. This is an adventure for me. The Shetland Islands are so far north of Scotland that on most maps, the Islands are denoted with their name and an arrow pointing north—as in “Yeah, they’re up there somewhere.” I fell in love with their stark, stunning scenery while watching Shetland, a mystery series named after the Islands. My desire to visit the Islands became so strong that I thought about it every night before I drifted off to sleep and ever morning when I woke. Then COVID hit, and my dream drifted away. But the yearning is back, so I’m making concrete plans.
I’m nervous about going, about being so far away from home, about travel arrangements being garbled. But, when I start thinking this way, I’ll remind myself that being punched in the nose by squirrel can’t hurt worse than giving up on a dream.