October 19, 2012

Slowing Down

Maybe it’s the time of year, maybe it’s the waning light, maybe it’s just that I’m getting older (I’ll be 6 in February), but despite the speed of my day-to-day life, things seem to be slowing down. I don’t know why I think this because our days (and nights) are just as busy as they were in March or even last October, but inside of me is this feeling that my paws aren’t moving as quickly, my mind not as sharp, and that there’s a greater desire to take a nap on the couch than I’ve ever experienced before.

Time is a funny thing. I look up from sniffing my day and it’s already mid-October. “Wait!” I say to Gretchen, “What happened to September?” She has no explanation and when I try to find answers to why I feel like I’m slowing down when everything around me is speeding by, the humans just look at me and say, “Oh Rubin.”

There are mornings when Gretchen writes or studies after Momma Ann has headed off to school (she leaves early, early, early in the morning for her studies in Horticulture) and I sleep on the couch underneath a blanket or curled up under the desk mesmerized into dreams by the tap tap tap of the keyboard and I think, “What a slow start to our day!” and then BAM! we’re up and at it — leash on, out the door, and off to pick up Monty or Roux or take our boarder out — Paige or Tyson — or running errands to pick up more dog food for me or more treats for our clients or pick up some groceries so the humans can eat something other than garden burgers or rice and beans.

And just as quickly, we’re winding down our day — this time with Momma Ann studying her plant identifications and Gretchen reading about the Liver meridian and tracing it along my tired, curly body. Then we head to bed and everyone curls up together and snores their weariness in a weird kind of musical, sleepy interlude.

In between it all there is life (and unfortunately death) and raw turkey meals with ground up bones and coconut oil (for me) and pots of root soup (for them) and leaves falling and dogs playing and new excursions to interesting places and friends visiting and quite moments when the unusual October sun shimmers through the shades warming my spot on the couch. There are bills to pay and photographs to fiddle with and a house to clean and humans sent off to work – Gretchen to the pool, Ann to a tutoring gig — and errands to run like the bank or the post office or a neighbor’s house to drop off homemade bread or pick up Eastern Washington apples.

Some days I can’t breathe because of all the activities and other days my skin itches to get out the door and race around some wooded trail. The list of things to do is long and then all of the sudden we aren’t doing much at all. 24 hours moves along in a herky-jerky fashion and it makes me more tired than I’m willing to admit.

My older friends tell me it’s what life is all about. Monty says you just have to roll with the punches. “You can’t take time too seriously, Rubin. It moves as it moves and you just have to live in this moment.” But I’ve noticed that even Monty is slowing down. He has his spurts of energy, but they aren’t nearly as long as they were 2 years ago and certainly not as long as they were when I first met him (5 1/2 years ago!). Still he seems more comfortable with the roller coaster of time than I am.

Quillette is my oldest friend and she says this: “Time is a human construct, Rubin. It matters not. There are layers of time where minutes move in seconds and seconds take hours. You just need to breathe in each one, okay?” I try to heed Q’s advice because I definitely see her slowing down in her 14 year old body. I’m glad she hangs out with us some days because she makes me feel like I’m a bit more anchored in each minute especially when she howls her joy at being at our house. She knows how to enjoy life whether it moves quickly or slowly and for Quillette, she more often than not chooses to move slowly.

Tyson is older than me, too but like me, he tends to worry. “Is it time for my meal?” he asks? “How about a cookie? Or maybe we could go for another walk?” Tyson has an internal clock unlike any other dog I’ve met. Since my days are kind of random (dog walking different dogs on different days at different times, one mom here while one mom is gone, time alone, time with friends…all very random) I’m not as tuned into the clock as Tyson is. If 5 o’clock passes and he’s not been fed, well he’s darn well going to tap his wristwatch and let you know.

I rarely ask to be fed, though lately (and no one is sure why) food has been very interesting to me. Gretchen says I’m getting in touch with my Labrador side, eating everything in my bowl and eating it in 3 minutes or less. This is new for me because some days I wouldn’t eat at all or eat half the bowl or take about a half hour to pick around the edges. And I rarely ate in the morning hours. But now, I eat when my bowl is presented, I eat it all, and I eat it in a reasonable time.

Gretchen says I eat better when other dogs are around. All my friends eat quickly and happily so I guess they have encouraged me to make the most at meal time!

See, there it is again…time. I guess when it comes to my meals I’m not slowing down at all!

Carter and Kali have very different takes on time. They can say the same sentence in very different ways — “Is it time for my walk?” When Carter says it he’s jumping around and very thrilled. When Kali says it she’s more like, “It’s great to see you and all, but can’t we just cuddle together and stay in the warm dry house?” Of course, once outdoors, she’s pretty interested in the world. She says, “I don’t believe in time. Think about it. In a couple of weeks humans will turn their clocks back an hour like they can just drag time backwards and forwards and it doesn’t matter!”

She has a point.

Carter, on the other hand, thinks time is a toy. “Is it time for a squirrel to race by? Is it time to go over here or over here? Is it time to smell this tree? How about that one?” Gretchen says that walking Carter is like walking a dog with a very limited attention span. She says he moves around like a flea on a hot skillet! Carter, in other words, measures time in nano-seconds I guess!

Woobie’s time is all about the new baby in her house. Whenever we go to pick up Woobie from home, she is always ALWAYS lying at the feet of her Mom who is inevitably cradling West, their infant son. Time for Woobie is measured in baby time — feeding, diaper changes, napping, sleeping, feeding, strolling, napping, diaper changes, and on and on. You’d think that our coming by once a week to walk Woobie would be a needed and welcomed break, but it’s a painful decision for her — should she stay with the baby or go with her friends?

Everyone encourages her to go for a walk, but Woobie looks a bit concerned. “What if something happens while I’m away?” She inevitably goes with us, but when we round the corner back to her house, Gretchen lets her off the leash and she races like the wind to the front door where she whines until she’s let in. Then, as if we were just a blip on the screen, she flops down by her baby and smiles one of the most contented smiles I’ve ever seen.

Not that I want a baby in my house or anything…but it’s sweet.

Roux’s relationship to time is a busy one. When we pick her up at her house, she always barks at us: “It’s about time you got here!” and then, when we drop her back off at her house she always asks: “Our time’s already up?”

And in between the pick up and drop off, Roux keeps asking, “How much time do we have left? Come on, let’s go this way.”

I follow Roux offering advice — “Slow down, Roux. Enjoy the moment.” But she rarely listens to me. She just keeps moving!

And then there’s Paige. If ever there was a dog for whom time is about BEING, it’s Paige. Never have I met a dog who is more eager and willing to go and do and explore than Ms. Paige. She stayed with us for a couple of nights at the beginning of the week and every morning she woke up with her ears at attention and said, “It’s time, isn’t it?” as if she’d been waiting all night for the start of the next day. Every time someone moved, Paige would be at their side saying, “It’s time, isn’t it?” and we’d all just have to laugh at her delight of each possible moment.

It’s not that Paige exhausts me, but I’ve noticed, as I’ve gotten older, that energy like Paige’s takes a toll on my curly body. Yes, I play hard and love every minute of my life, but curling up on my bed for a a nap has been a newly acquired joy for me. Curling up on the couch with one of my moms is perhaps my greatest joy — a moment when time stands still — and in my middle age, I’ve learned to revel in the beauty and simplicity of it.

Slowing down isn’t such a bad thing after all, I guess. And I suppose that one can’t really do anything about the inevitable. October follows September, the leaves turn into rainbows and then fall to the ground, the light fades, the chill comes, and time bends itself into a circle around the sun.

Have a great weekend!



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