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Rain slapped against the sliding glass doors. Wind whipped around the corner of the house and whistled through the pair of live oaks in the backyard. A perfect morning to pull the covers over my head and drift back to sleep.
If only the dogs agreed with my plan, but a whine reached my ears. Not daring to twitch a muscle, I hoped he wouldn’t notice I was already awake. I took a deep breath in, pretended a soft snore, and let the air back out.
Another whine suggested he wasn’t buying my act. My eyes fluttered open. A dog sat inches away, staring into my face. Alarm clocks can be silenced, but no snooze alarm exists on his furry head. His routine cannot change. He knows the day has dawned.
With a sigh, I stumble out of bed, pull a jacket over my pajamas, and slip on house shoes. The other dogs emerge from their sleeping spots, stretch, and yawn. They join the first dog in a happy dance around my feet, singing their delight. Dogs don’t need coffee to start the morning.
Dressed enough not to offend the neighbors, I slide open the glass doors leading to the upper deck. The dogs look outside at the pouring rain and their wagging tails slow. The celebratory songs dampen. Five pairs of eyes turn toward me, the accusations flying. I, as the human, am responsible for all things, including the dismal weather outside the door. I have failed.
I point out I was content to stay in bed, warm and dry, but their own packmate insisted the routine could not deviate. With canine shrugs, four, including the instigator, race down two flights of steps and enter the soggy yard below.
One, Frankie, hangs back and slinks toward his warm bed. Always the practical one, his confidence is high of his ability to control his bladder. Unfortunately for him, I insist he join his siblings. He responds with his masterful doe-eyed look, the broad brown eyes begging me to relent, but we’ve played this game. If I’m up, he’s up. I point to the door. He hangs his head, exits, and plods down the steps.
I tread down the interior steps, start the coffee maker, and head to my study. Sitting at the glass doors of the lower deck, Frankie, the last to join the pack in the yard is also the first to race back up the steps to the main floor of the house. He swears he accomplished his entire morning routine in record setting time. Soon enough his siblings join him, all five dogs dripping rivers of water from their soggy coats.
I let them inside the room and go to retrieve a cup of freshly brewed coffee. I sit sleepily at my desk, sipping the warm drink while scanning overnight emails. They stare mournfully out the windows at the marsh, periodically checking to see if I have finished. As soon as I drain the mug, we take our morning walk. It’s routine. We do it every day. Every single day. Despite the drenching rain, they are raring to go.
Desperate to remain dry, I suggested breakfast first then walk once the rain relents. Five accusing looks were my answer. Don’t I understand? Breakfast is served after the walk, not before.
Fortunately, canine practicality about food comes into play. If something to eat is being offered, no dog refuses. I spend the next few minutes preparing an appetizing breakfast and set it down in front of them. Thirty seconds later, the bowls are empty and they’ve returned to staring out the window. To keep me aware of their displeasure, one of them periodically shoots an ugly look to remind me the morning walk still has not occurred.
Midmorning, the rain slows, the skies brighten, and the dogs stir. Perhaps, they hope, we can return to our normal patterns. I stop writing and check my trusty weather app, the one providing a minute-by-minute forecast for the next two hours. It predicts rain to return in fifty-four minutes. At a normal walking speed, a human can complete three, nearly four, miles in the allowed time. We have ample predicted dry weather to handle our normal two-mile trek, inclusive of required canine bathroom breaks.
Pee (urination for those among you who prefer more civility) breaks aren’t the issue. Our lone female needs to find only one select point to squat and get business done. The boys are even easier. Males of all species are slaves to their bodies, so getting a male dog near any vertical object triggers the primal instinct. Trees. Fire hydrants. Sign posts. A slow human leg. In a pinch, a blade of grass works. With the suggested target located, their eyes glaze over, the rear leg rises, and a stream emits.
The problem with four male canines is a two-mile walk includes approximately eleventy-seven bazillion waterings. Necessity and efficiency do not affect primal male urges. Every blade of grass, twig, ant hill, and errant gum wrapper receives sprinkling. Choice objects require more—a team drowning.
The time-consuming issue, unfortunately, are poop breaks (again, for the civil among you, defecation). Such a delicate process requires significant planning, appropriate vegetation, and proper body alignment. The human’s role is to produce the required bag and package the final product for relocation to the nearest trash receptacle.
Which brings us to our next challenge. In our two-mile walk, we pass a single trash can at roughly the 75% mark along the path. My goal is that every canine completes their mission in time to package the output with loving care (and minimum gagging) prior to arriving at that receptacle. If anyone fails in this assignment, that special item travels back home with us along with its aromatic effect.
In fairness, I have been accused before by my ever-patient spouse of bringing home unnecessary shit, but that’s figurative, not literal.
Some of you might be thinking this is not a big deal—deposit the bundle in our own trash cans for carting away by a trusty sanitation worker at a later point. Alas, we must haul our trash to the dump ourselves. And that means we would have to take the dump to the dump, so to speak.
I remind the dogs of their obligation to focus on the task because another round of rain is coming in our direction. We set off on our trek with frequent checks of the thick clouds overhead and the countdown app (another minute closer to water falling from the sky).
After roughly a half-mile (and several bazillion wettings of vertical objects), the first dog, Frankie, steps to the side of the trail and tramples out an appropriate holy spot of receiving. He had resisted going in the yard earlier in the day thanks to the monsoon-like conditions, but was now ready to complete his duties (or is that doodies?). With the appropriate concentration, the process is soon completed. He erupts in a happy dance of grass scratching while I bags the offense. A quick glance at the phone reveals thirty-seven predicted minutes remain before our jaunt is interrupted by rain, so we resume our walk.
Another half-mile of trail is completed (along with many more sprinklings by the boys) before the second volunteer, Roscoe, steps to the plate with his usual model of efficiency, preparing all systems prior to stopping. In fact, in watching him saunter down the trail while his body prepares to eliminate, I have often worried that the phasers might start firing before he remembers to stop, resulting in projectiles being slung through the air in my general direction. But, once again, he comes to a halt at the proper time, arches his body, and creates his artwork in mere seconds. I carefully package the result for transport. With two reeking bags in my hands, I encourage our merry band to pick up the pace. Twenty-two minutes remain.
The next fourth of the path is uneventful (excepting the required few bazillion squirts). In this case, uneventful is a very bad thing. As I see the approaching lone trashcan, I remind my furry crew I still have only two filled bags, a mere 40% success rate. You could say that is a quite crappy result. Or, more accurately, not crappy enough.
I inspect the five canines milling about my legs looking for any signs of bloating or discomfort, but none of them signal any impending creative moments. Do I dare wait? The weather app predicts rain starting in twelve minutes. Home is a half-mile away. Hoping for them to focus on business could get me drenched.
With a shrug, I deposit our puny result and resume the walk. We are a hundred yards down the trail when Landon begins his dance. He twists, spins, rotates, twirls and circles. We jokingly refer to him as the Feng Shui dog because he must be pointed in the proper direction before systems flow. The slightest distraction stops the wackiness and he forgets the purpose of his preparations, so my goal is to not hinder him in anyway. Fortunately, today is successful (the squirrels apparently hidden in their nests to protect themselves from the approaching storm). After only a few dozen rotations, the Landon roulette wheel comes to a stop on double zero. We have a winner.
Maybe roulette was the wrong game to use for this image. Perhaps craps would have been more appropriate. But I digress.
Bagging complete, a decision must be made. The app predicts rain starting in nine minutes. The trashcan lies behind us, but still within sight. A real (and stinky) prize is in hand. Do I return to offload the mess or do I carry it home? With a glance at the bag—though a sniff was probably more relevant—the decision is made.
We reverse course, return to the large green can, and deposit our prize. With seven minutes to go, we resume our walk. We still have a chance of remaining dry if only we can get home without further interruption. I urge the boys to stop pausing to sprinkle their blessings and pick up the pace. We pass the Landon zone (a lingering odor confirms it) and round the bend of the trail.
No sooner has the trashcan disappeared from view, Typhoon stops. Sniffs. Hunches. Produces.
After bagging is complete, I stand and ponder my options. The app says rain starts in four minutes. The clouds above us have darkened considerably. The first sprinkles hit my face. And a smelly mess resides in the plastic bag within my grip.
I opt for wet over stinky, so retrace my steps to the trashcan to drop off the offending matter. We have all of one minute to complete our journey home, a sure failure to avoid the weather but at least we don’t carry a canine stink bomb. If we hurry, we can avoid the worst of the impending downpour.
We set off at a brisk trot, the dogs focused on the goal. The misting rain morphs into a drizzle. We pass the Landon zone. We quicken to a near jog but the drizzle picks up its pace with us. We stride beyond The Typhoon disaster area. A quarter mile to go. The rain is now steady. Water drips down the back of my neck. My clothing is soaked. But at least I can celebrate I am not taking anything offensive home.
A tug on the leash signals a stop. Cheoah. The lone female. Her efforts to find the proper pee spot earlier were labored but completed. But now she needs to do more. She’s earning her poop merit badge. In the driving rain. Far from the trashcan. And close to home.
Her business done, she prances impatiently as my drenched fingers open the bag. With water cascading down my face, I bend over and gather the pile.
We trudge home, soaked to the bone, my reeking prize held gently between my fingers. We enter the house and dry off.
At least I can return to work, but quickly realize the dogs are watching me expectantly. The routine is set. Breakfast always follows the morning walk. My insistence that they have already been fed falls on deaf ears.
The story behind the photo…The photograph used as today’s cover photo was taken back in 2011 and featured one of my very special dogs, Rusty (aka, The Rooster or, simply, Roo). A long-running joke among Siberian Husky fanatics is the red-headed among the breed are pranksters and comedians. Roo never disappointed and was more than willing to assist in that photograph.