My dog Petey has a tumor - a big one on his jaw. It’s inoperable. I don’t know how much longer he’s got. When I took Petey to the vet he asked me, “How comfortable are you with death?”
“Well, I grew up on a farm,” I said. “We learned not to get too attached to our animals.”
“Okay, well, there’s nothing we can do about this tumor,” he said. And that was that.
Petey is actually my ex’s dog that he went and got from the pound without even discussing it with me which I wasn’t happy about. At the pound they said he was a beagle. He turned out to be a German Shepherd mix and huge. Seven years later my ex left me with the dog and the kids. At first I was resentful of Petey. I had to walk him. Clean up his poop. Take him to the vet. Feed him. It’s a big responsibility to take care of a dog especially when you’re trying to wrangle four kids all by yourself.
A couple weekends ago I had a whole laundry list of stuff I had to do, most of it work oriented: catch up on my twitter messages, write another blog entry, work on my video blog, finish the Bloomers! Schoolyard brochure, etc. etc. As I was getting my coffee in the morning I looked down at Petey and had a mini-meltdown. He is the best dog in the whole wide world and has kept me company and protected me for many, many years and all of a sudden I couldn’t bear the thought of losing him. Imagine that. Me. Someone who doesn’t get too attached to animals.
I decided to ditch the work and do something for Petey. I decided to take him on a special hike. I’m not really a hiker and there’s not a lot of places you can hike with a dog in Los Angeles. But I remembered that Temescal Canyon was one of them and it wasn’t too far. I had to keep Petey on a leash but it turned out to be a really nice trail and pretty long – about two hours.
I Googled safe hiking tips. I just wanted the basics: how to avoid a 127 Hours type situation – you know that movie where the guy is hiking and has to cut off his arm. Apparently the most important thing was to just stay on the trail. Stay on the trail. Okay, that would be easy. I put on sunscreen, took a big bottle of water, my cell phone, a couple Kind bars and some plastic bags to pick up poop. Evan went with me.
We got to the trail and it was an amazing day and workout. I took Petey off the leash as soon as we were out of sight of the rangers. (It was okay; he’s a good listener). I forgot any kind of water pan for him so at the other side of the mountain, I put one of the plastic bags in my baseball cap and poured half my water into it which worked great. We stayed on the trail, which turned out to be not so easy: I wanted to venture off because I’m an explorer by nature. But I just stayed on the trail. This hike wasn’t about me. It was about Petey.
As it turns out, Hiking is GREAT exercise. I am a fit person, I work out in the gym, I run, I go on long bike rides and I put hiking right up there with all of those. GO HIKING! Take your kids. I was seriously tired and slept like a dog that night :)
Two hours later we stopped at Gladstone’s for some lunch. Petey waited in the car. He was sore but absolutely beaming. As I looked at the magnificent Pacific Ocean, I thought that hiking is a good metaphor for life, relationships and business. There is something to be said for just staying on the trail. To me it means making a plan and seeing it through. Honoring your responsibilities. Not wandering off... Like with Petey. I kept him. I took care of him. I could have given him away, but I didn’t.
A funny thing happened along the way. I didn’t resent him anymore. I became attached to him. I don’t know what I’m going to do when he is gone but I know that for now, I feel like I am the luckiest woman alive to have been given a dog like Petey. And I’m just going to enjoy that. And stay on the trail with him.
What are you going to stay on the trail with?
Sage Advice is....
The Bloomers! blog for grownups. Whether you´re a family member, educator, or friend, join us in the wonderful ways to explore the splendors of nature with children. An early appreciation for nature allows our young ones to grow up with a healthy regard for themselves and their surroundings.