After a cup of very strong dark-roast coffee made silky with a dollop of half-n-half, I greet the morning from my front porch. Two double-coated English shepherds, Cappy and Luci, lay at my feet, anticipating my next move into the day.
Yesterday some kind of front moved in, laden with moisture and heat. Dew point and air temperature met, and the curtain that rose skyward from the lawn clung to any fiber or hair with summertime tenacity. Muggy. Humid. Words just don’t do justice to the heaviness of the air.
We headed over to the park before the sun climbed too far up above horizon. It was our regular routine. Out of car to the “registration desk”–a patch of grass littered with dog pheromones. Sniff, pee, sniff, trot. Up the hill. Sniff, pee, sniff, trot. Nose to ground, walk, sniff, walk, sniff, pee, trot. Along the main park road to the campground entrance. The trot sniffing continued as normal, all the way down the hill, round the corner, past the place of herons and turtles, down the straight-away where the hillside forest meets lake, a game of pheromone tag.
This is an out and back two-miler, shaded at this time of day, with just one hill in each direction. We have been easily negotiating this hike for over a year.
But not yesterday. Cappy made the loop around to head back, and walked.
One paw lifting at a time.
The water was waiting for us back in the car, as usual, and I could only promise to not do that again. Luci was oblivious to her companion’s discomfort, continuing her trot explore, content with the many opportunities to pause for further message-leaving. But I was exquisitely aware of the new pace, and concerned that whatever distress Cappy was feeling got managed well.
I let him set the pace as we wound back around the place of turtles and herons, up the hill still shaded by oaks and beech, passing the empty ball field. As we turned left onto the main road, Cappy perked up, smiling, picking up the trot, and joining Luci in a couple of last minute sniff and pees before jumping into the car’s hatchback.
I toweled off the liter of cold water before unscrewing the bottle and filling the collapsable bowl. Cappy lapped until his muzzle was drenched, while Luci, still in her own world, clipped out orders to a passing dog.
Move on! Nothing to see here!
But I saw something.
I saw my Cappy as an elder dog, for the first time reckoning with his imperceptible decline. My tri-color lad will be 12 this September, and with some reasonable accommodations to humidity and heat, we will continue our morning constitutionals.
Carrying water with us.