Dog owners know that our dogs need to be walked rain or shine unless you have have a large yard for them to run around and do their business. For 10 years of my life, Sage kept me fit. He was a big dog and needed exercise to maintain his svelte, athletic shape so every morning he looked at me with imploring eyes – “Mama, let’s go.” Every morning we would do our usual round of two and a half miles around our neighborhood. On our daily walks we saw other dog walkers and most importantly our puppy friends. Some days the pups sniffed and played bowed, they told each other about the exciting scents and deer sightings while their humans chatted about life/work/children and boring things like that. While on other days, if we were in a hurry, we simply said a quick hello and pulled our dogs away from their friends much to their chagrin.
One of the regular dogwalkers that Sage and I saw every morning was an older couple. They walked two dogs – one was a senior golden retriever and the other was a black dog of indeterminate breed. It was clear that the black, younger dog was adopted from a shelter and the couple was trying to train him to walk without pulling as well as socialize him. The golden was calm while the younger dog was anything but. He wanted to charge at Sage every time our paths crossed. My timid Sage cowered and then walked fast to get away from the angry dog. As months went by, we noticed a huge change in the black dog as the owners worked relentlessly to get him used to other dogs. As we came within their vicinity, I saw the dad start training his guy with treats and soon the dog understood that if he saw us, he will get treats. Instead of charging at Sage, he learnt to look at his dad with expectant eyes. The mom walked the sedate and dignified golden while dad gave the younger dog treats and showered him with praise when he ignored Sage and walked briskly past him looking for treats. He progressed enough for us humans to actually exchange a few words without him lunging and barking at Sage. Sage was still fearful and did not want to sniff him but he stood by my side quietly. We continued this for years.
Then Sage died on January 31st 2020. I could not continue my walks on the route where the two of us walked so I chose another path for my daily walk. I discovered Sage’s path. I did see the couple walking their dogs as I drove by our neighborhood. Many months later, I decided to walk what used to be our usual route since Sage’s path was wet and soggy. I met the couple. They said they missed us and where was Sage? I had to tell them and saw their expressions change. I smiled at their dogs, the golden was struggling with arthritis and the black dog had some whites around his muzzle. After a few months, they were walking only one dog, the black one. I knew the golden had crossed the rainbow bridge. We said hello. I did not ask where the golden was. I walk at different times these days and often I choose Sage’s path since that is more picturesque. However, one day, I did go to the neighborhood. I saw the couple walking without any dogs. I did not assume their dog was gone. I figured he was home. But I have seen them walk just by themselves on multiple occasions without their buddy. I think he too has crossed the rainbow bridge.
The couple seem incomplete without their companion. I bet they felt the same way about me when they saw me walk without my shadow too. It made me sad. Dogs are such incredible gifts to us but they come to us for such a short time.
I am getting ready to open my heart to another four legged child. Sean and I both are somewhat ready but when we do bring one home, I want to be there for the pup. Right now most of our time is spent outside the house and that is not fair to a new dog. One day, I hope we will be blessed to have that unconditional love in our lives yet again. I think back on the ten years we had with Sage and my heart fills with such a warm feeling. I think we all are better people because Sage came in our lives.