Cami (that's the dog's name, though I'm not sure if I'm spelling it right) is a big black dog of indeterminate breed. She has the bulky body of a lab, the skulky demeanor of a wild Australian dingo, the pointy ears of a Malaysian Fruit Bat, and the relentless courage of a well-fed hamster. I guess I never paid too much attention to her on our visits to Colin and Geri's house, though her enthusiastic willingness to bark at every man or beast moving a muscle within 80 miles of their place has always been a source of some irritation on my part.
"Somebody needs some training around here," I muttered every time she yelped and cursed when I entered a room.
So that's what happened.
She did pretty much cool it on the barking front, though I have to admit that it seemed to be out of a lack of interest in defending me and my home as much as anything. Otherwise, SHE quickly trained ME to walk her in, through and around the nearby park some 80 or 90 times each day and night.
Turns out, that's not a bad thing.
Walking is, I guess, just about the best kind of exercise for me in my current shaky state. My oncologist has made it more than clear that my favorite active stuff like bike riding is more than my brittle bones should encounter, while my current extra-skinny body style makes swimming a painfully frigid experience in even a lukewarm pool. I've never been the type to just walk for the sake of walking, though. I've always needed an interesting woodsy path to follow. Or some exciting urban sights to see. Or, at least, a dog.
What's more, I've discovered an additional benefit to walking besides the exercise it provides. A few years ago, I wrote a column entitled "The Lawn Mower Man," that confessed that many of the ideas I have for my weekly missives occur while engaged in the mindless, back-and-forth process of cutting the grass. Dog-walking, on the other hand, mysteriously tripped my song-writing trigger, a set of skills that has been mostly dormant since I released a pair of albums several years ago. Suddenly, I found myself humming snippets of tunes and coming up with fragments of songs and song titles.
A few examples include these gems, for which I accept no special responsibility except to remind you that I'm currently on drugs.
"Got a Black Dog in a Dark Park, Six Hours after a Pork Chop Dinner." came to me late one night when she kept unexpectedly trying to jerk my arm out of its socket while walking near the then-darkened site of the annual Messiah Lutheran Church pork chop supper.
"Walking Poop Blues" was a song title that occurred as I tried to get the blasted cur to stand still while doing her business, rather than making me shuffle bent-over behind her to collect my prize.
And then, there's that plaintive ballad called, "The Whole Town knows I Forgot my Plastic Bag," which describes the shame most every dog owner knows then they suddenly find themselves without a proper receptacle for the natural result of walking a well-fed canine, plus I added a couple of cover tunes, including "Weird Wolf of London" by Warren Zevon and "you Ain't Nothin' but a Found Dog" by the inimitable king of rock and roll himself.
Cami (Kami? Khami? Quami?) is gone now, returned to her rightful owners last weekend in an elaborate, well-planned hand-off that kind of reminded me of a prisoner exchange on the 38th parallel. And while I'm not exactly heartbroken without those midnight rambles and odiferous, well-filled bags, I do feel a certain longing... .
Of course, my sensible spouse has been quick to bring me back to my senses.
"You don't really want a dog of your own, do you?"
Well, uh, no. As much as I enjoyed the company, a full-time furry companion isn't really in the cards right now. But nonetheless, there is one more song ringing through my head:
"I got the dog-gone, no-dog blues."
And so it goes.