Routine is the god of every social system; it is the seventh heaven of business, the essential component in the success of every factory, the ideal of every statesman. The social machine should run like clockwork.
--- Alfred Whitehead
A Walk in the Woods
TONIGHT on TV
West Wing Marathon
ITS ALL ROUTINE
3 August 2004
Weve settled into a routine, Ms. Sheila and I. Its become more blatant to me how "routinized" weve become this week because Walt has been in Boston visiting Jeri and its just been me and the dogs around here.
The day begins around 6 a.m. for Sheila. It matters not what time the previous night ended for me. At or around 6 a.m., if Im not already awake, she begins to subtly wake me up. Shes very polite about it. A nudge. A lick. If I open one eye a crack, shes watching me. I finally admit Im awake and start petting her. She rolls over on her back and lets me rub her tummy for awhile while Im waking up fully.
Then we get up and come downstairs. She runs outside to check and make sure everything is still there from the night before, to bark at any dogs that are barking in the neighborhood, and to relieve herself.
I check e-mail.
If I spend too much time at the computer, she begins to get antsy. Whats this? Were supposed to be at the park! There are dogs waiting for her! Again, she is very polite, but very insistent. She puts her nose under my elbow and just nudges it. Over and over again. I finally give up and get up.
When I begin to put on my shoes is when she knows that were really going. She can hardly stand it and she used to try to grab my sox out of my hand because its now officially play time and there are things just dangling there begging to be grabbed. But long ago I made her sit when I put on my shoes and sox and if she doesnt, then I turn away from her, sit back in the chair and wait until she sits before I continue. She knows that until the shoes are on, shes not leaving, so, quivering all over because she can hardly bear it, she sits and waits. Sometimes she plays with Kimba while Im getting my shoes on.
Once the shoes are on, the time is really here and she leaps in the air and runs to the door. It must drive her nuts that I have to gather my wallet and, if were driving, my car keys. It kills her but she knows she has to sit before Ill put her choke collar on so she sits. And then she knows she has to sit again before Ill open the door. She desperately wants to grab the leash and just go, but her person has these weird rules that must be followed.
We go outside and she stands at the door of the car, always surprised if it turns out this is a walking day. If its a driving day, she hops in the back seat--she never tries to jump from back to front, as the lab puppy did, for which I am grateful. She stands in the back seat, waiting for me to roll the window down for her. I only roll it enough for her to get her nose out, but thats enough. She rides to the park with her nose out the window, sniffing at the air.
If were lucky there will be a dog at the park. Today there was a young collie, who is about the same age as Sheila. Her owner is not the sociable type, so the two of us circle the field, on opposite sides, giving each other space, each watching our dogs cavort. He throws a ball and the two dogs take off in hot pursuit. Both reach the ball at the same time, both look at it and come trotting back.
"Shes a collie; she doesnt fetch, she chases," he explains. Sheila too. She loves having things thrown for her, but fetch? Pulleeze. So the other owner and I get our exercise walking around the park, picking up balls and throwing them for the dogs that will chase at top speed and then gambol back to where we are standing, without a ball.
Sometimes, if were lucky, other dogs come. Sheila is the park greeter, always running to the gate as soon as she sees a dog, and if the dog doesnt come in, very disappointed, barking a "come play with us!" bark.
Shes like a little kid on Christmas. There arent enough dogs for her. One day we had seven dogs running around the park, and Sheila was still looking out the fence as if to say "is that all?"
If there are no dogs, as there arent at 7:30 on a Sunday morning, she finds other things to amuse herself. Shes started chasing birds, cyclists passing on the bike path, skateboarders practicing in the adjacent skateboard park. The dog must run and she finds reasons to get her running in. I always apologize to her for not being a jogger.
When shes had enough, she trots to the gate and sits down, telling me that its OK to leave now (I am well trained). She waits patiently for me to put her leash on and then we head on up the Path from Whence Dogs Come. When we get to the fork in the road, one road leads down to the parking lot, the other fork leads to the Overpass Formerly Known as Dreaded. Sheila gazes wistfully at the dreaded overpass, knowing that dogs come from there and dogs disappear there, and wanting desperately to go chase them, but she gives a sigh and follows me down the hill to the car. Its time for breakfast.
We come home and she runs to the kitchen and sits to have her collar removed and waits patiently while I get the dog biscuits. She gets two small biscuits and Kimba gets one. Sheila is very polite. Even if Kimba drops part of her biscuit on the ground, Sheila does not take it. But she waits for her breakfast, because she gets 3/4 cup of kibble in the morning.
I fill her bowl from a big garbage can sitting in the kitchen. She runs to her crate, because thats where I feed her. She sits and waits for me to put the food down, then she scarfs it up in 10 seconds.
When breakfast is over, Sheila plays quietly with toys or naps for the rest of the day. Somewhere around 5 p.m., she begins to get antsy again, not sure if were going out for an evening run or not. Sometimes we do, sometimes we dont (it generally depends on whether I have a show to review or not). If it begins to get late and we havent gone out, she begins to sniff around the garbage can where the food is--if shes not going to get a run, at least she needs her dinner.
Both dogs get fed at night (Kimba doesn't eat if I feed her in the morning). Kimba gets her dinner first, on one side of the room and Sheila gets fed second in her crate. She is surprisingly polite and never tries to grab Kimba's food, as all of our other dogs have done.
After dinner, when I settle in to watch some TV, she brings me toys over and over again to toss for her. She would rather play tug-of-war with them than retrieve them, and so sometimes we play tug of war. Eventually she settles down to sleep.
I usually spend a lot of time in my office at night and while Im there, she has finally chosen to sleep in the crate. Oddly, she never sleeps in it during the daytime, but at night thats her place of choice. Sometimes when I go off to bed, she stays in the crate until sometime after Im in bed, then Ill hear her feet tapping on the floor as she comes in to hop up on the bed with me.
She rolls over on her back for a tummy rub, and as I begin to get drowsy, she moves away, crawling down to the end of the bed to curl up there until 6 a.m. rolls around.
And thats how life is with Ms. Sheila. Shes really a very good dog, overall, and we seem to be learning each others biorhythms pretty well.