It’s funny how these things happen, sometimes. It used to be the case that Sally would only poop if my father was the one holding the other end of the leash. As well, she would usually refrain from doing that sort of thing unless she had a lead clipped to her collar. It just wasn’t the same without someone to follow behind us as we took an eon to select just the right spot. But, Dad collapsed one frosty morning a few months ago, and then we moved away from the only home Sally had ever known.
The neighborhood to which my parents recently moved is about a fifth the size of their old neighborhood. It’s relatively charming in that small, the-houses-are-too-close-together sort of way–a subdivision of cul de sacs and round abouts–ideal for those just starting out or those finishing up. I moved with them. While it was out of necessity, there’s also a thought that lurks at the back of my head: what if I hadn’t been here? My parents are older, and they have less energy than they once did. Moving is stressful at any time of life, and I think it just might have done them in this time. There are still things like dish towels that we haven’t found yet, and the garage is the semi-permanent home of several room’s worth of items there’s no place for in the house proper.
Sally spent her entire 13 year life in the same house, with the same routine. The move was, to say the least, traumatic for her. She’s a border collie/black lab mix, and she’s at a loss without a “job.” The first morning both of my parents left the house, we’d been here less than a week. I was still abed, since I keep odd hours for freelance writing, and her crying woke me up. It was the first time I’d ever heard her make that particular sound–she’s a barker, not a crooner or howler. It was the most heartrending, bereft sound, because she thought they’d abandoned her in this strange house. Nothing was where it should be and the smell was just all wrong. The world was, for all intents and purposes, a cruel and unjust place.
While there may have been a leash law in Fulton County, in North Point where Sally grew up, it was never mentioned. My parent’s house was a mile from the front of the subdivision. Here, there’s a leash law, a homeowner’s association, and spiteful biddies who probably have binoculars and a comfy chair by a convenient window. Coupling these points with the fact that Sally had no knowledge of the terrain and there are several large roads that remain busy for most of the day, allowing her to be a free range Dingo was out of the question.
Somehow or other, I fell into the habit of taking her on several walks each day, allowing her to go at her own pace–sniffing five blades of grass for seven minutes or her legs working like pistons. We developed a routine. She would wake me each morning around 9:30 by sitting at the foot or the side of my bed and softly growling–uh-uhhh, uh-uhhn. If this did not rouse me, wheaking and exaggerated panting were added to the wake-up call. Paired with the laser beams boring into my sleeping face, it was an effective way to roust me from my bed each day.
What True Job Security Looks Like
While Dad is still the go-to for reveille call at around five a.m., she now “talks” to me whenever she feels the need to go out during the day. The aforementioned laser beams are brought to bear, along with soft, tapping paws and plenty of verbalization, which escalates the more “scusted” we become. She is my shadow–sometimes before and sometimes behind, but always there, excited to go. She supervises the putting on of clothing, the retrieval of shoes, the Ceremony of the Leash and Poopy Bag, actually rearing in joy as the doorknob is grasped.
Perhaps what has surprised me most is not that I have become the Poop Nanny, but that she actually loves to run. She’s 14, with arthritic hips, and “ankles.” When we moved here, she had no definition to her midsection–rather resembling a black and white sausage. Now, she has begun to trim down, to relax into her role of barking at all and sundry passersby. She trots prissily, her tail curved high over her back like a flag and regulates the neighbors behavior sternly. Because she’s in charge, and it’s never occurred to her to question that.
We run a little every day, and she coaxes me out the door at least three times, even when Dad is home. He doesn’t do much more than take her across the street. If it’s an exploratory Pupstitutional she wants, I am not allowed to do work or eat food or talk on the phone. I must put on my shoes, bag up, and prepare to spend up to forty-five minutes walking-standing-running-showstepping. It’s relatively good exercise for me, and it’s helped take the edge off her anxiety, but it does not change the fact that I know my place.
Behold, I am become the Poop Nanny. This…this is my life. Don’t mind me if I cry a little bit about that.