Friday, December 07, 2007

Je Ne Parle Pas Chienglais

A couple years ago, I got into the habit of taking walks. I'd walk to work, walk home from work, walk after Saturday brunch, walk during my lunch hour, walk instead of taking a bus, and walk to explore a neighborhood. Not all of them on the same day, but each one pretty regularly. Then with Emily's campaign, I was so exhausted all the time that the walk down the hall to the bathroom was about all I could handle. Plus, we were living in a different part of the city, and the walk between home and my office just wasn't practical any more.

Recently, though, I seemed to have more impetus to walk again. I had the sense that my energy was shifting back in that direction. I welcomed its imminent return and looked forward to spending quality time with my iPod again.

In retrospect, I can see that the universe was preparing me for what happened this past weekend: we got a dog.

Through the glories of craigslist, Emily found Aydan, a fabulous 5-month-old Finnish spitz puppy. Neither of us had heard of the breed before -- it isn't very common in the US -- but picture a burly fox whose tail curls upward and you've got it. In fact, we've had several people ask us, "Is that a fox?" I bite back my impulse to reply, "A fox? On a leash? In the city? Are you insane?" because in this town, it's not totally implausible to see someone out for a walk with a fox on a leash. So I give a chipper, "Nope, just a dog who looks like a fox," and keep walking.

Now, I've always had cats in my life. I understand cats. I know how they operate, how they react, how they like to get scritched, and how to handle them if they're being a pain in the butt. I am naturally fluent in Cat.

With Aydan, it's a whole new language. "Are you all wound up because you need to pee? Are you play-biting or do I need to count fingers? How do your ribs not crack from all that barking? I can't imagine why you'd rather crush your windpipe against your collar than stay one foot closer to me on the leash." Want an easy way to feel out of your depth? Try being a vegetarian cat person picking out rawhide chew toys at the pet food store.

I remind myself that it has been less than a week into the learning curve for both of us. Just as we're training her to sit before we cross at an intersection, she's training me to be fully present with her. She's learning how to be a good dog, and I'm learning how to let a puppy be a puppy. She's getting housebroken, and I'm getting my heart stolen. And in the meantime, we're both going on lots of walks.


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