|Some of my favorite clouds spotted recently - mare's tails!|
Doc and Sam are now on a three walk per day schedule. Three very sloooow walks. In theory, going out with the dogs is a wonderful thing - getting a little exercise, enjoying the "fresh air" and neighborhood nature, and checking out the changes people are making to their houses. In reality, the situation is rarely that pleasant whether it's the constant sniffing stops, fighting the heat and mosquitoes in the summer or picking up a nasty poo.
Since I am on my own with the dogs this week I am walking them more than usual. The weather has finally cooled down into the 60s-70s and leaves are beginning to change color and fall. The dogs are in their golden years, and Doc (entering his 10th month with an aggressive cancer that we thought would have taken him long ago) more than Sam is beginning to wind down in his own way too.
I used to have no tolerance for letting my dogs stop and sniff while out walking: It's letting the pack guide the leader, and I'm not okay with that. As dog parents, Todd and I assert our leader qualities very little with these dogs, and this one thing was important to me. However, old dogs, especially old dogs who have been diagnosed with cancer, are allowed certain sympathies and leniencies - extra hugs, kisses and treats, occasional human food and, yes, an unlimited pass for stopping to sniff on walks.
Occasionally the stopping still drives me crazy, but it is a good time to practice being present in the moment, remembering that I am outside spending quality time with my two dorks! (Affectionate name for 'dogs' in the Smith-Platt house.) We are here and we are happy. This does not come naturally to me, I have to be deliberate: I notice the trees letting go of a leaf, the blue sky as an abstract slow-motion painting, the ambient sounds of tree-top leaves blowing in the wind or little squirrel feet brushing past fallen leaves with a crackle that sneaks up on you.
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It's funny to me how dogs always seem to go to the same places to sniff, pee and poo. "That's not weird," said my friend who was walking with Doc and Sam and I last weekend, "we always go to the same places too." Well, maybe that's true.
I have different walking routes with the boys, but more often than not they are always attracted to the same yards. Sometimes I feel a little bad - one of our regular stops is a neighbor with a (formerly) well groomed yard and (now struggling) nice grass. Fortunately that neighbor has two dogs so hopefully he understands. Another neighbor around the corner has a female golden retriever and we can never pass by that house without a massive amount of yard sniffing. (I'm pretty sure Doc and Sam have a crush on her.) But it's not just yards with other dogs that they like, though that seems to help. There are plenty of houses with dogs for which they show no particular interest.
Corners and intersections seem to be universally popular spots for dog sniffing and peeing. This must be ingrained somehow into the dog psyche - I wonder if it's at all similar to how Native Americans made trail trees as signs for others? It's secret dog navigational information.
The number one favorite sniffing spot - which only shows up this time of year - is leaf piles. The bigger, the better! Forget about walking by a pile of leaves with Doc and Sam. (The leaf pile in front of the girl golden retriever's house? Gold!) They will walk straight into a pile that's up to their chest intently following a smell trail oblivious that they're making a complete mess. I have no solid evidence but I suspect that the best leaf piles are those in which reside massive amounts of stranger dog pee, squirrel poo, mold, grass and maybe even a bit of old road kill. As disgusting as that all sounds, you have to admit that it would be pretty cool to stick your head into a pile leaves and be able to smell all those things at once. Maybe the human equivalent of this would be walking into a coffee shop, a bakery, a laundry mat, or spritzing on your favorite cologne - all at the same time.