Saturday, October 25, 2008

Gratitude, part deux

(Originally published April 24, 2008)

A dozen years ago this summer, when I was totally sick of writing about agricultural trade (much less editing other people's writings about that topic), I happened upon Sarah Ban Breathnach's book Simple Abundance. The book consisted of daily meditations about living life more joyfully, creatively and appreciatively, and also directed readers to take time each day to write down three things that they were grateful for. Her message resonated with me, and soon triggered a creative rebirth that I'm still benefiting from. That was the summer that I placed my first freelance feature article -- a parenting article for The Washington Post -- followed shortly thereafter by a piece for the now-defunct magazine Pet Life about how to share an office with one's dog. The latter had been inspired by the behavior of Cory, my fax-attacking Sheltie.

One of the most memorable aspects of that summer were my daily first-thing-in-the-morning walks with Cory around our neighborhood. I loved those sojourns with my little Sheltie gentleman. The birds would always be singing, the mornings would be fresh, the grass would be so green and, often, flecked with dew. Sometimes we ventured out of the neighborhood and onto the W&OD bike trail where, one memorable morning, we encountered The Periscope Deer. But that's for another entry.

Flash forward those 12 years: Cory has long since departed for the Bridge, and succeeding him is Allie, my irrepressible but challenging Golden girl. Allie has had leash-walking issues ever since puppyhood -- and still does, even at the ripe old age of five-and-a-half. We can be in the middle of a tranquil walk when she'll appear to suddenly decide it's time to change things up. And change them she does, by jumping on me, tugging at the leash, tugging at my clothes, zooming wildly back and forth, and engaging in other tranquility-killing behaviors. I've tried all kinds of remedies, clearly with only limited success, although up till yesterday we'd gone for more than a month without incident. But yesterday, during a long walk, she was at it again, and I got royally pissed.

So I decided to institute a Walking Boot Camp for Allie: a daily 30-minute walk that includes required sits from her at street corners and elsewhere upon request from me, with zero tolerance for canine zoomie attacks or other ambulatory meltdowns. For this morning's camp session, we found ourselves taking the same route I'd taken every day with Cory a dozen years ago. The air was as fresh, the birds were as melodic and the grass was as green this morning as they were then. I felt myself relax and re-live the feelings of newness and gratitude and rebirth I experienced that summer. Meanwhile, Allie ambled with apparent contentment along side me the whole time with nary a hint of meltdown behavior. I found myself wondering if some of that long-ago tranquility had found its way to her soul, too. That thought brought a lump to my throat -- and even now, two hours later, I'm wiping away tears as I write this.

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