(My apologies for the title to Robert Frost, who used to live around here.)
Last summer, to keep our dirt driveway from washing away, we had our \”driveway guy\” cover it with a load of crushed granite. Now, every time the temperature rises above 30F the dogs return from their walk with their feet, bellies, and tails coated in a kind of gray cement that resists the most vigorous toweling. I hate to leave them for hours in the garage, so I let them in the house where, for the rest of the day, they shed sticky grit on any parts of the floor and furniture not already covered in a light film of wood stove ash.
I could avoid the driveway by taking the dogs into the woods, but when my CFS is acting up, as it has lately, taking a walk is something that I know will have repercussions if I force myself do it. One option is to throw balls with the ball thrower, which enables limp-wristed me to throw with the speed of a major league pitcher. I could do this in the backyard, where mercifully the winter\’s crop of dog poop is still covered with snow.
Ball throwing, however, is fraught with conflict. It is Bisou\’s favorite thing in the entire world, and given the chance she would chase balls until her last dying breath. Wolfie likes to chase balls too, but even after three courses of antibiotics his anaplasmosis (a tick-borne disease from which may the gods spare your pets) has kept him from regaining his former stamina. As a result, after half a dozen throws he snatches the ball and refuses to give it up, which means I have to isolate him until he changes his mind.
All this is way too emotional for me, especially on bad CFS days, so I have acquired a soft frisbee, which Wolfie has no trouble giving up. Bisou, bless her heart, runs after the frisbee too, and lets him catch it, but I can tell that she is longing for the speed and excitement of the ball. I think she should have something of her own to run after, so I pick up the frisbee plus a weird s-shaped toy that they both like and slosh into the backyard.
I put Bisou on stay and throw the frisbee for Wolfie. He runs after it, and she breaks and runs after it too. I put Bisou back on stay and throw the frisbee for Wolfie. This time she holds the stay, and then I throw the weird toy for her. Meanwhile Wolfie is ready for me to throw the frisbee again. This time it goes into the woods. I praise Bisou for waiting and throw the weird toy for her. Frisbee, toy, Wolfie, Bisou. How long do I need to keep doing this? Wolfie is slowing down and my fingers are freezing from picking up the snowy toys. But Bisou is barely warmed up.
I do a few more throws. The familiar cloak of lead is on my shoulders and I know that every minute of additional effort will cost me hours of recovery. As I take the dogs into the garage to dry them off, Bisou sees the ball thrower hanging near the door and jumps up, trying to knock it down. There is nothing she would like more than a solid hour or two of running after that ball.
I pick up each of Wolfie\’s saucer-size paws and dry them while he moans his doleful moan. I call Bisou away from the ball thrower and swaddle her with the big towel. Despite her disappointment, her tail wags and wags. Inside, the minute I stretch out on the sofa she jumps up and reclines on top of me. Her ears spread out moth-like on my chest, she looks into my face, and in her orangey-brown eyes I see perfect happiness.