The first day of March always carries such hope. Weather-wise, the past week has been awful. The cold is only a small part of the nastiness going on outside my door. When it is not snowing it is raining and when it is not raining it is hailing. This isn’t the gently falling stuff either. This is the hard, blowing, stinging kind of precipitation that no sensible human goes out in if she doesn’t have to.
Every day at six am out I go.
Every night at six pm out I go.
Why? I mean, really, why?
It’s not the complete end of the world if Shiva misses a walk or two. She won’t curl up and die. She hates the blowing wet just as much as I do. Half the time in poor weather, if I accidentally drop the leash, she turns and heads for home.
When we decided we were ready to adopt a dog, I knew I wanted to wait for spring. In spring the weather is much more appealing. If I was going to establish a solid walking routine – something I deeply believed in – I knew I had to start in a more palatable climate. I hoped by the time winter arrived my body would be so used to a strict schedule I wouldn’t find walking in minus twenty temperatures a huge chore. At least I was half right. There are days I do find it a bit of a chore. For whatever reason, I do it anyway. I feel much better after it is done than I would if I had wimped out and stayed inside. Even if I can’t exactly feel my toes for the next three days.
On some of my darkest days, knowing I had at least gotten up and walked my dog was a point of pride. Sometimes, knowing Shiva needed to get outside, was the only thing getting me out of bed. It still feels good to know that every day, by seven am, I have completed something off my to-do list. It feels good to have a plan.
As many of you know, I am a fairly lazy person at heart. Before this nutjob of a canine entered my life I was more than thrilled to spend my nights on the couch, reading and watching television. However, after we brought her home, it is like a synapse in my brain just snapped into action. A synapse I didn’t know existed.
As I have said countless times before – and probably will again – Shiva’s first six months with us were a special kind of pain. Walking her was the opposite of fun. She barked, she growled, she lunged, she tried to eat garden gnomes, and she seemed pretty pissed off that anyone else in the world dared to exist. Walking her was freaking hard. After several particularly nasty episodes, culminating with me sobbing in my dark bedroom, it would have been easier to give up. It would have been natural. No one would have been surprised. In fact, some people would have said it was for the best.
But I didn’t. Even though I have never hesitated to bail when things get too tough, this one time, I didn’t. In fact, a few of the sentences I remember typing to my dog trainer, long before we started a journey of recovery, were, “I can’t give up on her. I won’t give up on her. But other than that, I’ve got nothing.”
In my mind, Shiva was MY dog the instant I signed the adoption form. Her life, her needs, were now my responsibility. Well, mine and my husband’s. Taking her back to the shelter was not an option. It just wasn’t even on the table. If such a thing was even hinted at, I would go into a rage. There was no reason we couldn’t make it work. No reason I could live with anyway.
And if we just couldn’t do it? If we had exhausted all options and Shiva’s needs were just beyond us? Then it would be my job to find someone who could help her. A better owner with more resources. Someone who would be able to understand what she required. Thank goodness it didn’t come to that. I have complete sympathy for those who are forced to give up a pet because it just isn’t working for either human or animal. The idea makes me want to weep.
Nevertheless, one someone has signed the dotted line, I do believe the animal has then become that person’s property. Therefore, the animal’s problems are now the owner’s problems. Not the shelter’s. Except for cases of severe illness, I just don’t get it. A dog isn’t a t-shirt that doesn’t fit quite right and thus is returned to the store. It baffles and saddens me that a few people seem to have this view.
But I digress. Again. This was supposed to be a post about dog-walking. For me, I guess the two go together. From the beginning, I made a commitment to Shiva. I promised to care for her and protect her. I promised to feed her better than the street garbage she lived off for too long. I promised her she would never have to wonder where her home was again. Most importantly, I promised to walk her at least twice a day.
It is the least I can do. I guess I can add “tenacity” next to “patience” on the endless list of things Shiva has taught me.