Small Stones: Morning

I wake up this morning in the middle of a dream. In it, there is a squirrel on campus that will watch you if you run in circles, get dizzy and stumble around. I see students torment it, try to stop them but they won’t. They think it’s funny. So to save the squirrel, I take it home with me. It follows me around the house like a dog. I am trying to decide what to feed it when I wake up.

I get up and my first thought is “this is what tired looks like” and I silently promise myself I can take a nap after I walk the dogs, if I still feel this slow, sleepy, and sluggish. I feed the dogs, make my coffee, grab a banana and granola bar and go into my studio to write. Dexter follows me, his Little D hanging from his mouth.

Sam comes in later to tell me it’s time to share our banana. Usually he’s asleep in the big bed and comes running when I snap the top, but the last two days, he’s come to tell me it’s time. Dexter comes too. I don’t think he really likes banana all that much, he’ll only eat a tiny piece at a time, but he doesn’t want Sam to have anything he doesn’t get.

Getting ready to leave, Eric and I do what we do every work week, every work day, and coordinate our schedules: “when are you leaving for work?” and “when will you be home?” Two people caring for two dogs, their two meals and two walks.

Arriving at the park before dawn to walk, we see Forrest Gump running his square around the parking lot. He has longer hair, wears a trucker cap, and runs like he’s made out of rubberbands. He has odd routes around the park, never just running the trails but methodically adding on strange angles and circles. Sometimes he runs with his partner, Jenny, who has a long golden braid and is taller than him.

Forrest and Jenny aren’t their real names. We give nicknames to the people we see at the park. Some of them are: Husky Man, Walking Dude, Friendly Fire, George, Fancy Pants, Suki, Old Man Colorado, Liiiiiisssssaaaaa!!!, The Kevorkians, Big Black Dexter, Old Black Dog, and The Nemesis.

Then two runners, one with a headlamp and one with a blinking red light strapped to a sleeve, running and talking on the trail. I hear a metallic tinkle, am not sure if it’s keys or tags, and since I haven’t seen these two before, I don’t know if they have a dog with them, and if they do, I assume it’s off-lead, so we wait. Sam barks and whines, upset by them for some reason, two floating, talking lights in the dark.

Crossing the wooden bridge over the river, to our left, sounds of a fight–hissing and growling, no animal I recognize. The dogs stop, strain at their leashes, wanting to investigate. I move them quickly away from the crazy, wild, mean. I tell them that’s what you do in a situation like this, move fast in the other direction, checking to make sure you aren’t being followed. Sometimes the dogs don’t know what’s best for them, need my help. On this morning’s walk, I save them from this fighting wild, pull a Goat Head thorn out of Dexter’s paw, and keep them from tussling with two sets of off-lead dogs.

First it’s George, a dude who runs with his Saint Bernard and Great Dane, both off-lead. He likes to think he has control over them, but if our history serves as evidence, he doesn’t. George is actually the Saint Bernard’s name. We saw them the first time when he was just a puppy, and there were three dogs, but we call the whole group George. As soon as I see them (and he sees me, but makes no real effort to keep his dogs with him and away from us, just keeps running), we wait and then take a different trail, higher up. I know this park so well, I can almost always reroute when necessary.

From there we can see the beaver swimming in the pond next to its den. Sam starts to pull and jump, barking and whining and yodeling at the beaver, but today I have a better hold on him.

We get to my favorite part of the trail, the stretch along the river between the ponds and Obi’s Bridge, and see Friendly Fire heading towards us, so we turn and go the other way, through the back parking lot. He has two huge, gorgeous Huskies, one that he walks off-lead. He’s another one that thinks he has control of his dogs, but doesn’t. Sometimes, when they get away from him and he thinks no one else is around, you can hear him yell and growl at them. If Willow, the one he walks off-lead, gets away from him, runs towards us, he’ll always say “it’s okay, he’s friendly” and I always have to remind him “mine aren’t.”

Why is it that people with “friendly” dogs don’t think it’s a problem when their dog rushes us? If a complete stranger ran up to me, started touching and hugging and smelling and licking me without introduction or invitation, I’d be mad too. Sometimes friendliness, when unwarranted, when forced upon us, is a kind of aggression–like when some person I don’t know, who doesn’t know me or what I am dealing with, demands that I “smile” or “cheer up.”

Now the sun is all the way up, and as is always the case in Winter, the temperature drops a few degrees. We are supposed to get 3-6 inches of snow later in the day, and I can see it in the gray, heavy, cloudy, cold morning sky.

Good morning, beautiful day. And good morning, you beautiful people.

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