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I remember as a boy foolishly waking Grandmother from her nap to ask if she wanted to do this, that, or the other.  She found some polite granny-way of telling me to go jump in the lake/can’t you see I’m sleeping?  This memory returned to me the other day as offers to Harper for dog walks nowadays feel the same. Once upon a time Harper jumped right up as I rose from bed to do my morning ablutions. No more. The old dear sleeps almost all the time nowadays. I’ve learned to let sleeping dogs lie in the literal sense rather than shake her from her slumbers to go for a walk. I now take the ‘you tell me when’ approach.* This isn’t often but once in a while she finds me as gives me that look she would like to go for a walk and who am I to tell her no?  I drop whatever I am doing and off we go. 

It is good to see her still interested in walks. In the earlier days when she ran out ahead of me, hauling me forward, I would try to curtail this sort of shenanigan. Not any more. If she wants to pull ahead, so be it. She will stop and smell a bush giving me ample time to catch up and haul in the leash. 

Although interested in walks she doesn’t seem to want anymore long ones. Maybe she is just impatient to get home for a treat. Yesterday Sunday rather than go around the block which is our wont we headed towards the park, a place she hasn’t been to in ages. We got across the street, took a few steps, and she turned around as if to say ‘time to go home’. I don’t think she was scared or exhausted. Maybe she isn’t interested anymore in far away places and events (and shrubberies) but content with the ones she know near by.

Unfortunately it is getting into summer, when day walks are too hot for man and dog, especially the latter with their paws that burn on the sidewalk. Morning walks will have to be done early, meaning will I shake her up and drag her out or we ain’t going. Like my Nana, snoozing is preferred. Although it is sad to see the decline in number and quality of the dog walks but take solace she still wants them – on her terms. I’m OK with this. 

*Back in our prime an ideal week had fourteen dog walks in it at two per day doses. Nowadays we are lucky to get five. 

I haven’t written a Walking the dog’ entry in a while. This is because we haven’t had many walks – at least none of note. In the cold dark winter months both of us just want to get out and back as soon as possible sometimes not even going as far as the end of the sidewalk. It’s April and it is sunny and warm again in the evening – and in the morning, making walks more pleasant and long.

In her youth, back when she could hear, I would say the ‘W’ word from across the house and she would come running in all excitement at the mention. Nowadays I have to fetch and wake her from her near continuous sleep to show her the leash. I am happy to say she never refuses and goes back to sleep; she is still glad to go. Some times on her own she will find me and give me ‘that look’ which I know means I want to go for a walk. I always try to oblige her. Who knows how many walks we have left.

She may sleep all day but on a walks she perks up and still enjoys smelling the shrubs; it makes my heart glad to see it. I’m being more lenient letting her decide which way we go and for how long. Most of the time she’s content to walk around the block rather than go a long stroll. This may be not so much about fatigue or age but her desire to get home for a treat which is obligatory at the end of a dog walk.

Harper’s habits on the walks have changed that she doesn’t stop to squat to do her duty but sort of slows down a bit and lowers her backside a little and lets out while she keeps walking, forming as line of plops. I have to stop her to stoop to pick up this trail. I’ve learned to watch her ‘Eye of Sauron for’ tell-tale signs of tumbling. Like a good Boy Scout I keep plenty of black plastic bags on my person as often there is a small encore a few blocks away after the main event.

We don’t see many dogs on our walks and when she does she seems timid and withdrawn rather than looking forward to investigate as she did in her youth. This might be because of her vision or hearing being bad – is she afraid? Perhaps like lots of oldsters she just doesn’t want to be bothered anymore with phatic interactions, especially with the younger pups.

This week it will be quite warm, enough not to stop us from getting up and going for 5AM morning walks which was the wont in winter. In her sleep she is more withdrawn, so walks are my time to be with her, when I sense she is grateful I am there. I hope with practice will again be going out for longer times and further distances. Maybe some of the ‘old Harper’ will return she will be getting ME up at 5AM to initiate the morning ablutions. Wouldn’t that be nice.

The dog walks are slowing down sad to say. Harper does little nowadays but sleep. She is deaf and her eyesight is not very good so she isn’t aware of the usual cues that get her going for a walk. Most of the time I have to fetch her to let her know it’s time for a walk. Seeing the lease would get her up quickly to an excited dash to the door. Now she slowly rises, if she rises at all. Sometimes she would rather sleep.

The days are cooler and darker, which is good for the paws, but not for the vision. Our dog walks have become short, more ‘to the point’ as it were, and often she aborts them. She will stop, look up at me, and turn around as if to say she’s had a enough. Usually this is because she wants that post-peripatetic treat. I think she now just wants to go back to bed.

Her habits have altered. Normally I can predict where she will go, and have bag at-the-ready. Now she sort of slows down he gait, stoops a bit, and lets out a series of dumps while still walking. This is a nuisance as scraping the sidewalk still leaves spots I’m certain not appreciated by the neighbors.

At times I feel she only goes on walks to appease me; left to her druthers she wouldn’t go. Happily there are times she cues me with her eyes she wants to go for a walk. I always honor this, hoping she will keep this going. Her preference now is to go into the back yard – more out of boredom than necessity. Like the Rum Tum Tugger she is always on the wrong side of every door. It is distracting and annoying to be continually getting up from my armchair to allow this, but I am glad she can signal so her wants.*

I knew these walks would one day come to an end. I am going to miss them. Until them I will take them when they happen until they are no more.

*In the cooler months the screen door can stay open she can come and go as she pleases.

7 August (so far as I can tell) is the birthday of Harper, my dog. She turns 13 years old. I forget what is the lifespan of a dog, I think it’s 15 years. I hoped with her mongrel genetics and regular dog-walks she would be a long-liver but I have doubts. “She’s in her dotage” as Someone says. She is grown deaf and she more or less sleeps all day. She no longer hears the door opening when I come home at night nor the food being prepared in the far-off kitchen. In her youth both would have her get up and running. Now I have to come into the room to let her know I am home.

The Dog-walks have slowed down. She no longer ‘gets me going’ in the morning. Rather I have to remind her it’s time for a walk. Often I have to rouse her from deep sleep and she isn’t enthused to go. In an ideal week we get in fourteen walks; nowadays it is 7-9. Once outside she perks up a bit; it makes me smile to see this, there is still some energy and interest in her thank goodness.

Dog walks are short, not so much due to age but the heat. August is hot and humid that even the early morning walks aren’t much fun. We used to have various routes, but we’ve limited them to two staid ones, each less than 10 minutes long. I hope in cooler months she will be willing and able to go on longer ones. She still comes to the pantry to get the obligatory post-walk treat.

As I write this I see her asleep on the bed. She can still jump onto it. She has ceased sleeping in her own bed for some reason. When I get into bed she moves from the front to the foot, as is her wont. This makes me sad, for I want her to stay up top to snuggle. She doesn’t. She is slowly sleeping away what life is left of her I suppose. I get teary as I write this.

Such are the Spo-reflections on her 13th birthday. She isn’t one ever to play with toys, so I will give her an extra post-walk treat tomorrow and call it birthday cake.

I haven’t done a ‘walking the dog’ entry in awhile, mostly because the dog-walks are slowing down and not much to say about them. The Harper Hound is ‘in decline’ as Father says about someone aging. Once upon a time she would jump up at the “W’ word. She no longer does so. This may be because she is going deaf. Someone points out she is not very responsive anymore to verbal commands – or perhaps she hears but doesn’t want to respond? Sometimes I have to go find her to show her the leash and the doggie bags, as if to say ‘look here doggy-dog, it’s time for a dog-walk’. There are times after supper she will follow me about the house looking up at me with that look I know well. This means I want to go for a walk. I never turn her down.

Between the ardent heat of summer and her dotage we don’t take long walks. She wants to go walking after dinner regardless that the sidewalk is quite hot. You try explaining to a dog we should wait until the sun goes down and things cool down some. Most of the time we do the five minute-long counterclockwise around the block routine, hoping she will poop just before we get to the station with the bags and waste can.

Although she is walking slower, she walks ahead of me as if in a rush to get somewhere. I could force her to heel, but at her age I don’t care anymore about such formalities. She remains engrossed in her sniffs; it makes me glad to see her stick her snout into a bush or at a light pole taking in the redolence of other dogs. I hope this stimulates her and keeps her happy.

She hasn’t lost her alacrity for post-walk dog treats. As soon as we get home she goes right to the larder, stomping her last season’s Pradas in great expectations. We keep on top of these making sure the pantry is not bare, as woe onto us if we are bereft. Worse than trying to explain the virtue of delaying a dog-walk is apologizing we are out of sticks and ersatz bacon strips!*

It’s sad to see a pet age. I begin to wonder if our dog-walks are numbered. Certainly each one makes me more appreciate the countless times we’ve done these. I hope for many more, so long as she can and is willing.

*The bacon strips look and smell quite like bacon. Many times I’ve been tempted to try one but I haven’t.

I haven’t written a ‘Walking the dog’ entry in awhile. This is mostly because Harper doesn’t seem to want walks as much anymore. Usually when I rise in the morning she is right there with me, eager to get out and go. Saying the ‘W” word no longer elicits sudden euphoria. Nowadays she just wants to sleep. I miss our dog walks.

It’s that time of year again when our morning and evening walks are both done in daylight. The day time feels safer. I am wary to go walking in the dark of night lest there are beasties. When we go out I turn on my flashlight and keep to lighted areas. I keep vigilance for coyotes and javelinas. Although it is not the season for them, I watch the ground for signs of rattlesnakes.

My night fears are not of people. Ours is not a high crime neighborhood, so I don’t fear seeing strangers approaching me, but then again I am male. I may not be the most masculine of fellows but I still am a man. I see the occasional couple or single man out for a stroll after dinner, but never a single woman just out for a walk, not even with a dog. I suspect the local women do not go a-walking after sunset not from fears of coyotes but from fears of men. I cannot imagine what it is like to feel not safe to go out in the dark in principal, yet half the population feels this way, or so I wonder. If women do go out on their own they have been trained to be wary and be prepared for trouble.

When we go for a dog walk and I see a woman walking towards us I purposely do things to try to convey I am harmless. I talk out loud to Harper in a cheerful voice, perhaps sounding a bit ‘fey’, as if to convey I am not a threat. I feel silly doing this – is this necessary? Should I be outraged I am being placed into common category ‘all men are creeps until proven otherwise”? Do women consider all men a danger? I don’t know. I know I would never say hello to a woman out walking unless she says hello to me first, sensing if I initiated phatic interactions she would become tense. I don’t hesitate to say good day to a dude, nor do I worry if I am making him feel uncomfortable by my mere approach.

If these assumptions are based on the dreadful proposition women are fearful of men – day or night – than it isn’t just and it isn’t fair for women. Women should feel OK to take a solitary walk after dark. Growing up in a family of all boys Mother never warned us boys to be careful when going out after sunset.

This ‘Walking the dog” entry didn’t go at all where I thought it would, but dog walks are like this. Sometimes Harper seems to suggest to go ‘this way or that’ over my provisional path. All the same I won’t go into dark areas for the reasons mentioned. This is just a slight but awful dread of what others must feel every night.

Spo-fans of the feminine type: do you go walking at night by yourself?

It’s that time of year when dog-walks become less frequent and long. Morning temperatures get into the single digits (Celsius). I’m certain some Spo-fans are snickering at these so-called gelid temperatures, but we are not hearty creatures here in Arizona. It is hard to arise from a warm cozy bed to go out into the dark and the cold of December. In warmer times and younger days, the sound of the ‘leash drawer’ being opened was enough to have Harper jump up and come a-running with tail a-wagging in canine rapture on the anticipation of another walk. Not so now. Harper is sleeping nowadays with Someone in The Dragon Room, which means I have to go fetch her for our morning ablutions. Some mornings she refuses to rise, ensconced in the warm blankets on the bed, next to a sleeping Someone. I leave a curt note in the kitchen saying ‘Your dog wouldn’t rise; you need to let her out”.

Most mornings we make it out the door. I put on a coat these days to keep warm. Harper isn’t a fat dog, nor is she furry, so I worry she will catch cold, but I don’t any signs of her shivering. All the same, she doesn’t seem to want to stay out long, and who can blame her? It is not uncommon for her to have a few sniffs, a sudden squat to pee, and after a dump, turn tail to get back home to bed as soon as possible. Those were the goals and once accomplished she doesn’t see much value in going longer. Mind! We both could use the exercise but I too am OK to get back home to warmth and a nice hot cup of tea.

The evening walks at this time of the year have the advantage we see the neighbors’ vast array of front yard Christmas decorations. The neighbors don’t go for subtle or religious themes, but prefer large inflatable cartoon types, bulbous green, white, and red monstrosities of a uniform gaudiness although no two are alike. Harper pays them no attention so I don’t have to worry her lifting leg on them. The morning walks are done in the dark, as these things lie lifeless like popped balloons until sundown.

Harper may have the winter blahs to rise and go for winter solstice walks, but she hasn’t lost interest in that post-peripatetic treat. In contrast with the seasonal variations of temperature, light, and routes, this is constant. It is good to see.

Dog-walks these days are becoming a bit dangerous. It’s that time of year again when our morning strolls are done in the dark. Last week during a morning stroll Harper fell off the ledge of the platform that crosses the water wash area on the way home. We have walked this route countless times; this was the first time she has fallen off it. Her eyes are getting cloudy so I daresay her vision is not so good and the dark doesn’t help, even with the flashlight on. I frightened, but she got right up and no damage seemed to have happened. It was as close call; the ‘gully walk’ is now reserved for in the daytime.

Sticking to the sidewalks has its own hazards. This morning we were walking south on the sidewalk on 44th street, when out of the dark appeared two coyotes running north up the middle of the road. They disappeared into the dark after they crossed the area lit by the lamplight. I don’t think they saw us (Harper was busy sniffing a shrub). Alas, I cannot wait for the sun to rise to delay our morning ablutions; we must be mindful.

The evening strolls are also done in the dark, but they are less worrisome. Some of the homes in the area have already substituted their usual white/yellow outsight lights for orange. Some places already have their Halloween lawn decorations up. The trimmings give our PM walks some extra light and a bit of merriment as well.

Yesterday Sunday Someone joined us for a stroll. Harper loves her Someone! When he comes along she lights up so. We went to the park, a place we haven’t visited in ages (we went in the bright morning light). The walk lasted thirty minutes, twice as long as usual. She was quite happy to feel some grass under her paws. Afterwards we came home she slept the whole day, apparently quite fatigued from it all. Sometimes she sleeps looking like she is having bad dreams, but yesterday she looked happy. It’s a dog’s life.

Dog walks commence like clockwork every morning at five. The time is constantm but the light varies depending on the season. Yesterday morning we walked in the nautical twilight of a morning sunrise. It is near Lammas Day; for the next six months our morning duties will be done in the dark.

Harper still perks up for her walks and it is good to see and a relief on my part. She has slowed down – ‘in her dotage’ as Someone calls it – and when she sleeps it is so deep it looks like death. She wakes for walks though, and doesn’t turn them down. We walk slower now; she is not pulling me down the path in a gummy excitement to get somewhere as fast as possible. It is good to see her still curious at all the sniffs and such.

Lately we’ve become fixed in a certain walk which consists of going out the door and hard to port to at the end of the block and hard to port again, to start a sort of clock-wise rectangular path through the gully wash to the east of our street. There there are more interesting things to see and smell, and more privacy to poop (and no front yards to soil) The waste station is near the entrance of the trail; it would be better if we went counter-clockwise so by the time she’s done her business the rubbish-bin is right there. I’ve tried to steer her this way but she prefers the clockwise approach. At our age I am no longer interested in training Dog to obey Master; she can lead me.

I’ve read through centuries the co-existence the Man and Dog has caused us to mind-melt some to pick up on each other’s emotional states. We’ve intertwined to the point we can perceive each other’s affects. I believe this. Someone tends to be excited when he joins us on a walk ; Harper picks up this and becomes excited herself. Our walks (sans Someone) are quiet more mundane matters, which are low-key and not too interactive. She’s sniffs the world and I am on my cellphone sending “Good Morning” memes. I should stop looking at the phone and be more with Harper, while I have the time.

A new ritual has arisen: normally when we approach home I toss the black bag over the tall locked gate to the back yard for later tending, and we head to the front door. Someone has asked me not to do this, but open the damn gate and put the bag directly into the trashcan. Fair enough. This means unleashing Harper, telling her to stay on the sidewalk while I walk around the bush to unlock the back gate, go inside etc. Sometimes she follows me, but mostly she waits in the driveway looking impatient as if eager to get inside as soon as possible, which is quite probable. After each morning walk we head to the kitchen for fresh water, a scoop of Kibbles, and the obligatory post-walk treat. Stopping to unload the waste bag stalls this a minute and it is enough to evoke sad and upset looks.

I try giving Harper a power-point lecture on the time -saving advantages of doing our morning routes counter-clockwise to drop off poop along the way so as not to delay going home to treats, but she sleeps through these seminars. Dogs are no interested in time management. It’s a dog’s life to sleep and sniff and poop and eat meaty treats. I can think of no better arrangement.

Spo-fans and various relations are sending words my way, worried about the heat here in Arizona. It is rawther hot here with lows in the mid-30s and highs in the mid-40s. * This is not new; it happens every year, although admittedly not so early. Normally these ardent temperatures start in early July. Global warming I suppose, although right wing know-it-alls will deny it so. Meanwhile the water supply is drying up and no one is listening to the Cassandras.

Regardless, it is bloody hot and no good for dog walks. In these ardent months, Harper and I must go out about 5AM, before The Sunbane commences.** Mid-day walks are right out until October – too hot for paws! – and our evening walks are delayed until after sunset. Even then it remains quite hot and Harper-hound quickly shows signs of not liking this. Panting soon commences and back home we go – just a quick walk to the post-box and back.

We’ve stayed our distance from other walkers for over a year, and I think Harper has grown wary of being near other dogs. . Perhaps in her dotage she is not interested in other dogs anymore. She remains very interested in sniffs. She still has her favorites, which she inhales like a scotch expert inspecting a rare single-malt whisky.

Someone is looking for some extra exercise this season, so he sometimes joins us on our morning strolls. Fascinating! Harper loses complete interest in me when she senses he will be walking with us. He can’t stray behind or worse, decide to branch off to fetch the mail or go home prematurely. Harper won’t have this, but goes after him. It is rather sweet; it seems to uphold my theory in her eyes I am not the other owner, but The Other Dog.

The HOA, in their infinite wisdom, put down new stones along the gulley designed for flood water. These red pebble-sized rocks are just the right size and shape to cause Harper pain when she walks on them. At one point on her favorite trail she has no choice but to step onto them. She does slowly, looking pained, until she is again on the sidewalk. Ouch indeed.

Dog walks now end with me taking Harper off the leash on the driveway while I go around the back to discard the waste-bags and turn on/off the sprinkling system. She doesn’t go with me, but waits impatiently at the start of the walkway that leads up to the front door, stomping her little last season Pradas shoes at me, wanting in for the obligatory post-walk treat. After receiving it, she runs off and eats this out of sight – usually in the bedroom on the bed and on my side. There goes dignity. She is a happy dog this way, so I don’t push her off.

When you love them, they drive you crazy, because they know they can.

*Celsius. I am at heart a scientist. Thems with complaints wanting Fahrenheit may email The Board of Directors Here at Spo-reflections. Be advised they don’t check their email right away. Sometimes not for months.

**Does anyone know of the literary reference? I would be wowed to know.

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