Dog and Other Walks

My daughter brought Rufus home for Thanksgiving and when she flies back to California later today, he will remain with me. Molly will return for Christmas and will bring him back to his west coast life in January. Meanwhile I have the pleasure and responsibility of taking care of this sweet dog.

Rufus smiling

While I haven’t missed his 6 AM demand that I take him out, I don’t hate being forced to see the sunrise. While he angles his leg towards the hedge to pee, I yawn and look up at the sky. This morning the sky was glorious – a deep navy blue in the west as night moved out and a glowing yellow of a new day in the east.

Getting outside also gets me out of my head when I am more inclined to retreat to full hibernation mode. Especially in winter, I get lazy and I don’t love the cold and there have already been days when I barely step out of the house. That’s not good. Even a short walk around the neighborhood gives me a spark of energy along with a fix of fresh oxygen. Having Rufus around with his multiple required outings each day, reminds me that I need to fan these sparks into flames.

Rather than letting the days simply pass, I want to savor each as precious. Even the physical movement of opening the door changes the energy, creates an atmospheric shift reminding me that I am part of something bigger than myself. Walking through the neighborhood, exchanging a few words with a neighbor or venturing down to the river to note the tide and maybe glimpse the great blue heron who seems to be wintering nearby, all give me a sense of well-being.

Stepping outdoors with no other intent than to follow this pup around in his wander, no matter how self absorbed I was minutes earlier, the wind against my cheek, light in my eyes, crunch of leaves under my feet, keeps me present.

Rufus surveying the estate

It’s not that I don’t go for walks when Rufus isn’t here. I’m pretty disciplined about getting up and out and there are advantages to doing this solo. While I like the purpose a dog brings, walks alone are easier. Without him, I walk at my own pace instead of being pulled along, stopping abruptly so he can sniff every few feet. Alone, I can drive the 10 minutes to the beach and walk where dogs aren’t allowed but the views are spectacular. I do like the freedom of not having a pet – but I miss the rituals, the weight of him on my lap, his sweet devotion.

No, I do not want to adopt another dog right now. But I do love having him visit and I do love him. But right now I am learning who this new me is that need only take care of myself and it’s very interesting and a little luxurious. Today it is rainy and Rufus, not a fan of getting wet, won’t want to venture further than the yard to do the necessary. I may just have to leave him at home and go for a walk by myself. (Or not!)

Pets or no pets?

New Chapters

At the airport (thank you Lopes family!)

Molly has moved all the way across the country. I wager she misses our dog Rufus as much as she does me, her mother. I get it – and regularly send her pictures of him. She responds with emojis – mostly hearts and texts like: “My boy!” “I miss him so much!”. But after I’d texted her the cute photo below, she wrote: “Mom, I think his harness is on backwards lol!” I’d given Rufus a bath a few days before because he’d rolled in something putrid that he thought smelled lovely. He’d been wearing it like some inside-out, backwards shirt since. Molly immediately Face-timed — both our faces scrunched in laughter and wet from belly-cramping guffaws. Through time and space, there we were, still sharing a silly moment together. We laugh a lot at goofy things like this. And we hug multiple times a day and always when we say goodnight. Mostly I am the beneficiary of back cracks but we both get all the love. I do miss those hugs – not yet available through FaceTime.

Harness Fail

It’s been a few weeks now. I think we’re both getting used to it. For the first few days I felt heartbroken and like some creepy stalker, I regularly checked the location app on my phone, staring at an address 3,000 miles away. It was strangely reassuring that I could sort of see where she was and kind of visualize it – imagining a palm tree or two and the impossibly blue sky out there. What I know of Los Angeles is mostly from the movies and television. More than 30 years ago, I was there for less than 24 hours to drop a car off to what turned out to be Ringo Starr’s mother in-laws house. That’s a good story but not the story I’m telling now.

In fact, there is no story yet for this new chapter of our lives of us apart. I’m still digesting the end of the beautiful long one that began when COVID stranded my daughter at home with her mother. Poor kid. It was not her plan to still be with me.

The plan was to land a job, preferably in the entertainment world of NYC and maybe even in a position where her dramaturgy degree would be relevant. She’d commute until she saved enough to move into her own place – she figured six months or so. Then COVID happened. It’s a story I know shared by many parents who mostly, at least the ones I know, agree – loved. Of course, COVID is terrible – but in our little world, hunkered down together, Molly and I – who of course love each other because we’re mother and daughter – discovered that we absolutely adore each other as people well. And we are good roommates.

In some ways, I had the better deal. I work from home and Molly mostly took care of me. She ventured out into the world to buy what we needed, planned incredible menus and cooked fabulous meals. She took on the formidable task of pruning the privet hedge that surrounds our property. We became YouTube fix-it queens – replacing our toilet, fixing a hole in our ceiling (yes, they are related). She wallpapered the bathroom, repaired the garage door, she sewed slipcovers for the cushions on the cool vintage rattan furniture we found on marketplace. She watered our community garden plots, sending me video updates on new blossoms and ripening tomatoes, bringing home garden lettuce for salads and the best BLTs. Every evening, we both went for a long walk with Rufus. It got so he insisted we both take him, turning back to the house if one or the other of us tried to walk him alone.

Summer weekend mornings we launched our kayaks into the Long Island Sound to paddle out to the islands, pulling our boats up on sand bars to watch the birds, read, swim. We binged on favorite shows, read the same books so we could talk about them. We spent hours drinking tea in the morning and coffee around 2, cocktail around 5. Hours of watching the world from our porch, discussing the state of the world and our lives, past, present, future.

I miss her, but seeing her face regularly, as she gives me a tour of the latest improvement she’s made to her room or a walk together down her new street, laughing together on FaceTime, has made the distance seem not so great. With help from modern science, I am adjusting to life on my own.

Don’t get me wrong – when I walk into her room and see a neatly made, empty bed, I miss her. I miss that she’s not within ‘Molly, will you open this jar for me’ distance. But this is exactly what we parents who are graced with healthy children, are supposed to do: let them go. It’s what’s supposed to happen. And she is so ready! I see her joy at being in an exciting and beautiful new place on her own adventure with wonderful friends and feel absolutely content. Fly, my beloved girl! xxx