A couple of Sundays ago, my friend Kathleen and I went for a walk with her dog, Lily. The Sunday dog walk has been a routine of ours for years. Kathleen lives on one side of the town woods and I live on the other. We often met halfway, me with my exuberant yellow lab, Hobbes, and Kathleen with Lily.
Hobbes didn’t join us on this particular walk. Now 15 years old, he is still mentally chipper, but a walk of any kind on a hot, humid day is just too much for him physically. Kathleen and I have been preparing for the day when Hobbes will leave us. We were sure -- I was sure -- that when that sad day came, Lily would still be there.
We were wrong: Three days after that hot, summer Sunday walk, Lily died.
Thinking about our foursome walking in the woods, I now understand how something so ordinary can be so precious. As one who has lived her life surrounded by men (my mother died when I was a teenager), these walks gave me the rare feeling that I was part of a sisterhood.
Sure, we allowed the galumphing Hobbes to join us. Lily would plaster his face with wet kisses, roll over in brief submission, and then take off. She ran so fast that her long, curly locks would rush back from her face as she moved forward. And us ‘girls’ would join her in lovingly mocking his manly antics.
Then while the two dogs wandered ahead of us -- and in later years behind us -- Kathleen and I deconstructed, analyzed, and tried to solve both our own problems and those of the world.
Today is Sunday. This morning I called Kathleen, and, to my surprise, she suggested we meet in the woods. I gave my old dog’s head a rub and headed out. As I neared our usual meeting place tears flowed as I realized that Lily wouldn’t be rushing toward me this time. But suddenly, there was Kathleen. There were hugs and more tears, but there was also a walk with lots of good talk.
I know these dogless walks won’t last forever. Someday one of us will take the plunge again. For now though, this is the image of Kathleen and Lily that I carry in my head:
The two of them are walking ahead, one end of the leash is clipped to Lily’s collar, Kathleen’s hand loosely grasps its middle, and Lily has taken the dangling loop in her mouth. Together they walk, up the hill and home.