They get to participate in at least two excursions per day. You’d think they’d be dying to get outside, but often it’s a struggle. Sometimes just finding them is a challenge. Occasionally I end up hunting for them throughout the house. Once they’re both located, I need to convince them it’s time to go. I grab Roxy’s leash off the hook, which they both know is the signal for going outside. They drag their feet to go out into the cold, dark mornings before I settle in for my work day.
Once outside, it instantly changes and they want to sniff every little clump of grass on the way. Realizing that this could take all morning, I end up trotting downhill with them, which is not really the best thing for my aging knees. We even run in the dark sometimes, which is always a bit of a thrill. If we’re moving fast enough, we whiz by all the tempting smells and flora along the way.
Once we reach the bottom of the hill, it’s a whole different story. For Champ, the hunt for small critters is on. Our older Shiba-Inu Roxy yearns to use her remaining seven teeth on soggy grass blades. I don’t know why she loves this so much, but it seems to send her to her happy place. I sometimes take pity on her, until I remember she is about the same age as me, in dog years.
Roxy and I eventually start back up the hill, calling for “Champie” as we begin. He somehow always finds something to fixate upon. That could include any sound, sight or smell within his sensory range. I’ve seen him stand and stare at a cow for a full five minutes, neither of them making a move. It’s a standoff. Occasionally I’m forced to start back down the hill with Roxy in tow to retrieve him.
I know well that a dog’s elimination habits are tied closely to exercise. A little fresh air and a bit of running triggers a process of, as my wife says, “Getting the juices flowing”, a concept that kind of bothers me. As we crest the hill, Champ suddenly breaks into a sprint towards the house, often spinning around in a frenzied 180 degrees to threaten Roxy or attack the leash. It’s all part of his bodily waste ceremony before eventually disappearing into the trees.
I’m convinced that it’s best when people and dogs have certain daily rituals. I mean, I assume that dogs like having a ritual. Ours is well-established. As tedious as it gets, forcing the dogs (and me) out of the house at least twice a day is a healthy thing. Every little bit of exercise we get is beneficial.
The road is my salvation and my nemesis. Soon the snow and freezing rain will be here, just like every other winter. We will still make the trip, slip-sliding down the hill if that’s what it takes. It’s always a little scary when we begin our descent. I sometimes picture myself in my 80’s with two different dogs, struggling to get down the hill. Losing traction, I hit the ice hard on my brittle hip, sliding all the way down to the bottom as the dogs stand there watching. They soon return to the house as I lie on the black ice for hours in agony, eventually succumbing to the cold and fall asleep.
I chose this isolated property fully knowing how much work it require as I got older. Sometimes I wonder what I was thinking. Keeping the road maintained and clear is a handful. Even walking down it can be quite the challenge at times. But I realize that this it’s one of the things that helps keep me young. I take a certain amount of personal pride in knowing that we will make the trip daily, no matter how dark, wet, icy or snowy it is. It’s not always comfortable and it’s not always safe. Honestly, it gets old sometimes. But it’s what we do, and I’m always glad we did it when we finally get back to the house.