Walking the Master: Part I

Here is an essay I wrote several years ago about our beloved dog, Laddie (1995-2008).   

My apologies to Kip across the street.  How often was Kip the victim of my gloating jibes to my children:  “See—that’s why we don’t have a dog.”

For rain or shine, summer’s steam or winter’s snow, Kip would be out every morning, 7:25-7:40 to be exact, walking the family border collie, Joy, before work. 

He was a heaven-sent defense against our children who pleaded relentlessly with all their childlike promises:  “I’d walk him every day.  I’d feed him.  I’d play with him.”  “Sure you would,” we said with parental wisdom.  

Something went wacky with my husband one Christmas, however, when he embarked on a secret quest for a dog.  Secret even from me, his wife.  When he brought home an 8-week old Lab mix, he was guilty of the worst marital betrayal ever—Lifestyle Upheaval Without Consent.  I might as well have brought home a new baby and said, “Oh, but I couldn’t resist.  He was so cute.  And the kids will love it.”    I was not pleased.  But I admitted the pup sure was cute.

I thought Laddie might need me the first night, so I put him in his crate and slept beside him on the family room couch.  He did need me.  He was a nervous pup, unsure of his captors, and so he threw up on his doggie blanket.  I pulled him up on the couch, close to me, he curled up, I curled up around him, and we both fell back asleep, and bonded.  

Soon Kip and I were waving to each other every morning, although my shift in the park adjacent to our house was slightly later than his.  The kids soon abdicated their promises to do all the walking with lame excuses like having to go to school and things like that, so it was mostly just Laddie and me in the morning.  And I wondered which neighbors were gloating from their cozy kitchens. 

But, curiously, soon I realized it was not me walking Laddie in the morning.  Laddie was walking me. When Laddie takes me for a walk, he looks carefully at everything, sniffs it, examines it.   He walks purposefully and aimlessly at the same time in a way only dog can do.  There are some things he examines with both curiosity and trepidation , like the port-o-johns at the baseball field.  But they don’t go unnoticed.  Nothing goes unnoticed.  These are things he’s teaching me how to do.   

Without the walks Laddie takes me on every day I would never notice that some mornings are gray, some are eggshell blue.  I would never hear the honking of geese, and the thuddy spring sound that the bullfrongs in the creek make.   I wouldn’t have been able to say I walked happily in the rain in my adult life, without worrying about getting my hair wet.  I wouldn’t have the opportunity to emblazon the lime green of spring, the verdant green of summer, the firey hues of fall or ice blue cast of winter into my daily life. 


If Laddie never took me for a walk, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to clear my mind and let it drift in a drifting that would result in ideas and thoughts and plans that I’d eventually execute at work or home.   During our walk, ideas waft in and out of my mind surely and imperceptibly like waves at low tide, but this only happens when Laddie takes me for a walk.  Otherwise, there’s no time in my day for idea-wafting.


If Laddie never took me for a walk, I wouldn’t hear the church bells beckoning….church bells that I eventually heeded after years of lapse.  After all, you hear them often enough and you finally say,  “Enough already.  I’ll go!”  I never heard them from inside the house, with Matt Lauer blabbing and the morning laundry churning.


No, sometimes Laddie’s curled up under the bed sleeping but I’ll have that urge.  I’ll stand by the door and look at him expectantly.  He’ll try to avoid my gaze.  Then I’ll rattle his leash, and he’ll go eat some kibbles and try to ignore me.  Then I’ll whine a little, “Laddie, want to go out?”  He’ll sigh and let me snap on his leash.  And as we head out the door, with my tail wagging, I could swear he says under his breath, “O.K., girl, come on.  I know you have to go out!”  

Laddie smelling the roses (or, in this case, tulips)

Laddie smelling the roses (or, in this case, tulips)


  1. Oh! Another beautiful post!

    I’m keeping reading…


  1. […] Walking the Master:  Part I I talked about how Laddie became my master on our daily walks, teaching me mindfulness, joy, living […]

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