Today I planned to head to the gym right after class. I even brought workout clothes so I could change in the locker room rather than having to stop at home. But after a day that felt engaging and productive and fun, the weather was just so gorgeous that I decided to go home after all, grab the dogs, and do my walking on the greenway trail rather than the treadmill.
Now, Rufus has never been a fan of walks. He’s scared of everything, and he had a severe case of heartworms when I adopted him, which meant that while we slowly killed off the parasites, we had to go easy (on both exercise and anything that induced fear) to avoid over-straining his heart. The few times I did take him to the park, he’d let me drag him a few hundred feet and then plant himself like a sixty-pound brick and refuse to budge unless and until I turned back toward the car.
My dad worked with him during the fall to try to build his stamina and tolerance for walks. That helped a lot, and so does Copper: I think it’s a combination of jealousy (the new dog doesn’t get to have all the fun!) and pack support (I’ve seen Rufus look to Copper for reassurance when he’s spooked by something like a fountain).
So as I laced up my Asics and Copper danced in circles, punctuating his ecstasy with yips, I wondered whether Rufus would opt to join us. He did. If a dog can regret, though, I think he started to regret it pretty early on. He held back as Copper plunged ahead. He wanted to dawdle and sniff things and rest in the grass. He was so visibly miserable that I decided to turn around after a mile, rather than doing the longer walk I’d planned.
We were about halfway back to the car when we needed to take a detour. A couple ahead of us, with three smaller dogs, had stopped because one of the dogs was relieving itself in the middle of the trail. As they juggled leashes and tried to clean up, I took my boys into the grass to circle around them.
In the middle of the grass was some standing water. I’m not sure whether it was left from last week’s rains or is a result of the area being naturally swampy or both. The cause didn’t matter to Copper, who immediately waded in for a drink. Rufus started to drink, too, then decided he’d rather just sit, so he plopped his backside right down in three inches of water. Not to be outdone, Copper hurled himself onto his back and wriggled around with maniacal glee. Even the couple with the canine trio laughed.
I finally managed to wrangle my joyful boys back onto the trail, hoping the wet dog smell would dissipate a little before I had to close myself in the car with them. But they’d figured out how to make the walk fun, and they weren’t about to stop. Copper wanted to roll around in every patch of grass and mud puddle we passed, and when we came to a tannin-colored pond punctuated by cypress knees, Rufus splashed right in and settled down.
To be honest, up to that point I’d been kind of regretting bringing the dogs. Not only had Rufus’ needs curtailed my workout, but I didn’t have a hand free to take pictures of the beautiful blossoms and flowers and turtle I saw along the trail.
But watching Rufus establish himself in a swamp with as much regal attitude as the Sphinx and Copper flash his doggy grin while he saturated his entire body in mud, and seeing the smiles and laughter of everyone who passed us, brought an unexpected surge of joy. It even lasted throughout the distinctly organic-matter-and-wet-dog-scented drive home.
The gym will be there tomorrow. Today I got to laugh at my dogs, and my dogs got to play and remind me to live in the moment. And their delight, their silliness, their spontaneity, and even their stubbornness made it a moment worth living in.