Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Sunset

On one of those temperate Texas evenings in mid-January, I took Izzy for a walk along the gravel path behind our apartment complex.  It was a Good Walk Day; Izzy trotted calmly by my side, every now and then turning her face to mine with one of those sweet dog smiles, and to top it off, a brilliant sunset bathed the Trinity River in a watercolor blend of oranges and pinks.  We rounded a bend, and I noticed dark silhouettes dotting the water off in the distance.  Ducks.  Hundreds of them. 

Now, it’s pretty common to see small groups of ducks floating together on the Trinity, but I’d never seen anything like this.  Gathered thickly together in an alcove, it looked as if they were dancing on the water as they glided amongst each other, beating their wings and sticking their heads high in the air.  Instead of quacking, they whistled softly, a sound I never thought I’d hear from a swarm of ducks; combined with the woosh of the rushing river, it was beautiful music.  Intermittently, newly paired ducks took flight into the blazing sunset, the grand finale in a magnificent show.    

Wow.  Izzy and I stopped, human and animal, for several minutes just watching the spectacle:  Me, in awe of a moment so worthy of National Geographic or an E. B. White novel (he had written a famous book about water fowl, after all), and Izzy, patiently waiting for one of those ducks to waddle up the bank into her mouth.

It’s a few months later, and Spring has arrived in North Texas.  White blossoms burst like popcorn on the Bradford Pears, mosquitoes spawn in thick clouds above sidewalks everywhere, tulips and daffodils dab the landscape in pops of color, and I expect that any day now, the Trinity River will be dotted with the product of that January evening: ducklings (true, they will be mutant ducklings—it is the Trinity, after all—but ducklings nonetheless).  And to think—Izzy and I witnessed the very ceremony in which many of them were created.  I would have missed it had I not needed to walk Izzy, a fact that makes the nature lover in me that much more grateful to have a dog. 

Witnessing a duck mating ceremony at sunset might not seem like a big deal to you, but I can assure you that my words don't do the beauty and mystery of it justice.  Perhaps the best part of the whole event is that for those five minutes, I forgot about everything--stress at work, what to make for dinner, phone calls I needed to make.  I just couldn't take my eyes off of what was happening on that water.  It just goes to show, not only are those daily walks good for your dog and your own body, but they’re good for your soul, too.    

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Man and His Dog

The two of them are inseparable, Izzy and my husband Scott.  She lays at his feet when we watch TV and follows him from room to room.  On Sundays, the two of them cuddle on the couch, her head in his lap, while he rifles through the newspaper.  Every day, she looks forward to the click, click of the lock, signaling his homecoming.  She greets him with a great leap from the couch and her helicopter of a tail.

I’m not jealous (most of the time, anyway); just surprised.  You see, if you had told me a year ago that we’d have a dog, I wouldn’t have believed you.  Scott didn’t grow up with dogs, and so to him, they were annoying objects that smelled and slobbered and demanded attention at the most inconvenient times.  I can relate; I grew up with dogs, and until the past couple of years, I thought the same thing.  But Scott also spent the majority of his life believing he was allergic to dogs.  In preparation for our visits, my mom would scrub the house from floor to ceiling in an effort to remove all the hair from their shed-happy sheltie.  She even installed hypoallergenic air filters and changed out the bedspread in the guest room.  After years of my mom trying to rid their house of pet dander, Scott finally took an allergy test.  Dust mites?  Positive.  Fungus?  Positive.  Dogs and cats?.... Drumroll… Negative.  After this news, I started to plant the seed that having a dog in our lives would be a good idea.

It took months—close to a year—but finally, Scott agreed to take the plunge into dog ownership.  I was ecstatic, but I could sense a vague hesitancy in Scott even as Izzy’s arrival date approached.  It’s not surprising; not only had I been around dogs before, but I’m an avid watcher of “The Dog Whisperer” and other dog shows, and I prepared for Izzy’s arrival by reading greyhound and general dog books.  Even though he had resigned himself to dog ownership, in part to appease his relentless wife, Scott wanted no part of these dog-related activities.  While I was certainly nervous about his hesitation and lack of knowledge, I kept telling myself, “It’ll be different when she gets here.”

Now, I don’t always like to gloat when I’m right about something, but I was right.  The man who didn’t think he could like a dog, let alone love it, now adores one.  He plays with her, loves on her, and yes, even sings to her (usually "Sweet Izzy Girl" to the tune of "Sweet Caroline").  Thankfully, I’m still #1, but Izzy is a close #2.

It’s hard to imagine life without our “Izzy girl,” and if Scott were writing this blog, he’d say the same thing.  Funny how opening our lives to possibilities, even when we don’t know the outcome, can bring so much joy.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The World Through a Dog's Nose

To watch Izzy on a daily walk is to feel as if one has not really lived.  As she trots along, her nose hovers above the ground like a Dust Devil, and if it were up to her, she’d stop to smell every rock and twig we pass.  Now, I know what fresh cut grass smells like, but what about a blade of grass?  Sometimes, Izzy will stop in her tracks, anchor down against my pull, and stick her snout on a blade of grass, her sides puffing in and out as she studies its scent.  Is she profiling it, mentally picturing every dog and animal that has brushed against it?  After a walk the other day, her face was covered in a fine white dust from running through a patch of blossoming weeds, the temptation of fresh smells too great for her to resist.  But Izzy’s true dessert is bushes.  She will push herself into them, her big black body disappearing as far as it can into the greenery as she (I imagine) fantasizes about every squirrel paw and bird claw that has touched each fragile limb.  That’s why, when she has been especially good on a walk, I let her smell the row of bushes by our apartment complex.  It sounds weird, I know, but to her, it’s the greatest reward. 

Her obsession with smelling food is no big surprise—she’s a dog, after all.  While we’re preparing dinner, she’ll follow us around the kitchen and sniff politely at the food just beyond her reach, her head just slightly below counter-height.  She’s big enough to where she could “counter surf” and steal a lick or two, but thankfully, she’s never figured this out or she’s just got some manners.  While we’re eating, she’ll sit on her dog bed, stick her nose in the air, and sniff away at the delicious smells curling across the room from our food.  Sometimes, this is just too torturous for her; she licks her lips before leaving the room altogether, as if to say, “I just can’t take it anymore!” 

Just for a day, I’d like to experience the world through a dog’s nose.  Watching them, you can’t help but realize that there’s a whole planet of smells out there that we humans know nothing about.  I thought this wouldn’t be the case for greyhounds since their placement in the “sighthound” category indicates that they are mostly ruled by sight, but ironically, this is Izzy’s first sense to fail when it gets dark.  True, her sense of hearing seems to be heightened, but ultimately, she’s ruled by her nose.  And according to the expert of all things canine, Cesar Milan, this indicates a healthy dog.  “Nose, ears, eyes”—isn’t that his mantra for a well-balanced pooch?  If that’s the case, our girl Izzy is the picture of doggy health.