Watch Dogs

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“Go play.”

I pointed Lilly’s head toward a nice Labrador –Golden Retriever mix, and pushed her from behind. Her back legs moved forward but her front legs remained planted. Lillian was now doing “cat” at the dog park. She wagged her tail. Lilly thinks just about everything is great. Delilah bopped my shin with her nose. She bops me like that sometimes when we’re out and about, just to let me know she’s hanging around.

“Those are high energy dogs,” said one woman, as my dogs stood idle.
At the dog park there is pressure to perform, to be the owner of the dog who gets all the others to run and play.

“Not tonight, I guess,” I almost apologized.

Lilly half-heartedly chased a shepherd mix, then skittered back to me, standing stiffly, matching my empty gaze across the park. Delilah was stuck to my leg like a cactus.

“Sweet peas, what’s the matter? Go play,” I begged.

Bop.

Finally I gave up. They trotted closely in my wake toward the chain link exit. I felt like a pickup truck with extraordinarily large rear wheel wells. We leashed up and got in the Jeep. They both laid down. I wondered if something at the park had upset them. The weather had been so nice earlier, I’d left the back door open while I was at work. Maybe they’d chased squirrels all day and they were tired.

I was tired.

A few weeks back, my job had taken a sudden, unwelcomed turn. And I knew probably within the next 24 hours I was going to have to undo my current, albeit pretty new relationship. I was fond of the man – he made me laugh. He also frequently sank to very dark places after a few drinks. It was beginning to wear on me, even frighten me slightly. “Red Flags” my friend Andrea called them. These were more like flares.
This afternoon I’d come home from an edgy day at the office and gathered up my Rhodesian Dance Team and headed to the park. I’m not sure why this happens – I guess I let my mind wander too much when I drive but I was overwhelmed with the frustration of it all. I’m too old to be out here drowning in this dating pool. And I’ve already suffered through too much professional indignity. So as I drove along Davidsonville Road I had a big gully washing cry, pulling it together as I turned into the park so as not to appear insane.

After the park we went to dog school and we all perked up. They performed most of their tasks with little chaos, which for us, is good.

At home, we all went upstairs, they curling up on their beds, me stretching out in mine. But I couldn’t sleep.

Work and life and dogs all weaved in and out of my consciousness, and for some reason I tried to remember the last time I had a good cry. I recalled that as tears had streamed down my face, Lilly trotted frantically around the room, bumping into things, looking back at me, not too far, but not too close, completely unnerved. But Delilah had come close, softly and lightly setting her head in my lap.

Bop.

Oh.

They hadn’t been tired that evening. In fact, they’d been vigilant. Hypervigilant, even. They were just being them, keeping watch over me.

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