Thursday, April 20, 2023

Springtime and an Old Dog

Indy is asleep at my feet. He and I just came back from a slow walk around a couple blocks that didn't include much of a hill. Earlier, he had begged me to throw his toy for him, over and over, and I did, but only for a few feet and only on flat ground. When we walked up the stairs after our short walk, his back legs slipped on the stairs, but he caught himself and kept going. He is happy. He is old. 

When Indiana first came home with me over twelve years ago, he was unstoppable, full of anxious energy and young dog enthusiasm. He would play fetch for hours. Six mile hikes up the steep Altadena hills hardly made him blink. He needed to move all of the time. In the first year of knowing him, I lost 20 pounds.

Young Indy was anxious. When my friend who was on a run passed us as we walked along the side of the street, Indiana chomped down on his hand. He bit several of the first people he met at our house. He got in scrabbles. Nowadays, he has two dog friends who he has worked hard to tolerate, and dislikes the rest of his own species. He's great around cats that don't run, but chases those who do. In his elder years, he has become affectionate. He mashes his head in my thigh, smearing me with slobber and waiting for ear rubs. When I sit down, he places his head on my lap and asks for me to rub his ears and neck. When he gets exactly the petting he hopes for, his tail wags madly and a mohawk along his lower spine rises. We call this the "happy hackles."

He can no longer hit the hills with me for long walks. To take care of myself the way that I need to in order to be the person I like being, I need these long walks, so I have to take them without Indiana. I hate leaving the house without him. My leash arm feels naked.

Without an anxious dog attached to me, I'm able to move through the territory of unleashed dogs. I don't have to worry about a potential fight, or some other dog owner who has no control over their off-leash dog blaming me for their dog attacking my own. There is a freedom, not a freedom I have wished for, but a freedom just the same. This freedom is coinciding with a spring after historic rains that have filled my local wild-ish park with very wild flowers. Walking without Indiana, I've been able to stop at every wildflower that catches my eye. The meadows in McLaren Park this year are beautiful.

Blue eyed grass, Sisyrinchium bellum

Suncups, Camissonia ovata

Footsteps of Spring, Sanicula arctopoides

Checker-bloom, Sidalcea malviflora, with footsteps of spring below it.

Baby blue eyes, Nemophila menziesii

Ribwort plantain, Plantago lanceolata

California poppy, Eschscholzia californica

California poppies are just getting started in our park

After I take my long walk, I take Indiana for his own short walk in which he can take all the time he wants to sniff all the things that catch his attention, and when we return home, I pet his velvet ears and gray muzzle until his hackles rise; that's pretty beautiful too.