The dog and I go walking on a day made of cool winds and warm sunlight, faded wildflowers crushed underfoot and the first colored leaves of the season drifting down to settle in our path.
As far back as I can remember, there has always been a dog tagging at my heels.
First there was the crotchety old dog, then the golden shepherd with his soft eyes, and the little black dog who stole my heart from the instant I met her. Some time ago and somewhat by accident, I got my first dog as an adult — a sturdy black lab who makes up for what he lacks in subtlety with boundless energy.
This dog is childlike in his enthusiasm. He chases sticks with such unlikely joy that it confuses me how he could find so much pleasure running after a piece of wood flying through the air. At night, he sleeps on his back, foot tapping against the wall as he dreams.
He is a frenetic bundle of nervous energy, all wagging tail, lolling tongue, and fast breath. When he finally sleeps, it is with the restlessness of an infant, turning and muttering in his dreams. His eyes, brown and deeply observant, keep a close watch over every move I make.
Back when he and I were first learning to coexist, whenever I would find myself growing frustrated by his frantic obsessions, he would drop his monstrous head in my lap, the weight of his chin on my knee somehow diffusing any irritation.
In dogs is found the measure of a human, and I often see my own restlessness reflected back in him. I imagine we both do our best thinking while wandering, him imagining squirrels and rabbits in every shrub and my head filled with whatever humans mull over.
He is a calmer beast now than when he first came into my life; less prone to bark, with a curiosity that has grown to encompass more than sticks, and his sleep is less troubled when he lays at my feet as I write.
It is often that the dog and I go walking, whether into the singing morning or gathering evening, down wooded trails or along cracked asphalt roads.
It is an easy rhythm to fall into and now, more often than not, I find his head beneath my hand, his footsteps a near perfect mirror of mine.