There was no mistaking the smell of Spring in the air tonight. It was rich and earthy with just a hint of smoke, but fresh and clean, and the silence of the walk down Leawood certainly added to it. Children were outside playing in the warm air (not to rub it in–well, okay, just a bit but only because I can–but it was in the high 60's today and still 61˚ at 6PM). The sound of dogs playing in their backyards drowned out what little traffic from Pierce and Bowles we could hear and I could feel my spirit soar, a welcome change from the drab brown gruel of the previous weeks.And so, after a week of melancholy and The Blues, it's time to remind myself about the things which hold meaning for me right now, most of which, but not all, come from my walks with Dunc.
The rabbit statue halfway down Leawood that always captures Duncan's attention and sets him into hunt mode. We spent ten minutes staring at it this afternoon, Duncan taking slow and careful steps toward it before finally crashing through the bushes toward it, expecting it to dart away. When it didn't, he looked over his shoulder at me, eyebrows raised, clearly dumbfounded.
On the corner of Nixon and Leawood a tall evergreen sang in bird-ish at us as we approached. The tree was filled with tiny sparrows, some of which fluttered to and fro around it, while most of them hopped safely amid the branches and needles deep inside. There could have been a hundred of them there, all invisible, all raising their voices in a single chorus of praise toward the sun and the blue, shining sky.
On Marshall we met Jinx, a big, waddler of a Golden Retriever who belongs to the Jenkins family ("Get it" Mrs. Jenkins asked. "Jinx Jenkins?" she needlessly explained), who clamored out the door, down the step and across the street toward us while Mrs. Jenkins carried the groceries inside. Duncan and I accompanied Jinx back home and while I made conversation with the family, Jinx proceeded to sniff Duncan and then, without any sort of pillow talk, or even dinner and flowers, attempted to mount him from behind. Duncan snarled and stared up at me wide-eyed while Mrs. Jenkins pulled her dog away, apologized and retreated to her groceries. Duncan almost shook his head in disbelief, as if sighing, "Boys!"
While I watch the sky and the clouds easing slowly across it, squinting into the sun, tilting my head back into the warmth of the afternoon (did I mention it was almost 70˚?), Duncan sees the world in a completely different way, nose to the ground, following trails I'd never know where there. He is so careful with them, delicately touching his nose to the tips of the leaves, carefully circling trunks of trees, stepping over puddles, casting aside pebbles, all in pursuit of things I will never be able to experience.
Working with Duncan while on our walks the last few weeks has been wonderful. Quite often people forget that they need to train their dogs outside of their living-rooms and off their property. We have been working on "Come," which requires him to return to me and sit on my right foot or as near to it as he can get. He's gotten quite good, with the exception of a couple of distractions. We've also been working on "Down," so that when people approach us I can give the command and make him wait patiently for them to pass or scratch him on the ears without the risk of taking a paw in the crotch or kidney. He knows I carry treats in my pocket and the look he gives me while I make him wait is beautiful, innocent, excited and proud.
Today while cutting across the park, a kid–meaning a former frat boy now past his prime –was hitting golf balls, his mastiff at his side. Each time he hit a ball across the field the dog chased after it which resulted in a beating. I shook my head and wondered what he expected. The dog was simply being a dog and I knew that as frustrating and difficult as it is to train a pet, it's a lot harder to train people. And yet Duncan has trained me that I love him too much to deny him his nature.
I'm thankful that I can stand on my patio and look up at Orion and the moon and know that on the other side of the country, people I love dearly can do the same thing, and even though we can't see it together, knowing we can see it at all is enough.
I am thankful that someone is saying a prayer for the woman on the bridge.
And despite the fact that I've made entirely too much about our balmy, Spring-like weather today (again, for the people in the Midwest, it was 50 degrees warmer here!), it's going to snow all night and through the morning. My drive will be horrendous but when I get home I get to watch Duncan gallop and roll and snort and that will bring me tremendous joy. That white will wash the blues right out of my hair!