Our little girl is growing old.

Basset hound on leash laying down, caption "This walk is over."My feeling so much better–more normal, less tired, less cancerous–this summer has been quite the surprise. Sure, I have the odd sleepy, dopey day, but for fleeting moments, I actually forget I have cancer. I should be over the moon.

Except I’m not. I’ve been a little down this summer, to be honest, and, oh me of little insight, I had no idea why.

Then Jelly gave me the clear message that she didn’t want to walk as much as we used to. She told me in the way that any Basset hound would: she dug in her heels and refused to move. Initially, I thought she was being stubborn, so I dragged her along. Then I recalled she couldn’t hop into the car and she hadn’t jumped on the counter for a while. I realized she’d been trying to tell me something.

Without my dog walk, I had lost the last bit of structure in my day. My gym was closed for renovations for two months. Sure, I maintained my home yoga program more diligently than ever, but home yoga gets lonely. I went to the grocery store and the library to get out of the house, completed every errand I could imagine, but I still had too many blank days on my agenda. I’ve always managed a fair amount of time on my own, but I had reached my isolation threshold in Jelly’s balking at walking.

Soon after we reduced Jelly’s activity, J. asked me to rest Jelly in the morning so she could take her for her after-work decompression walk. (I’ve always been the morning walker and J. the afternoon gal.) J.’s request was more than reasonable and, although I’m not the best at sharing the good stuff (I always give her the bigger half if we are sharing dessert, mind you), I felt it only fair that she be able to walk her dog at day’s end. At the time, I agreed.

The next morning, after a sleepless night, I selfishly reneged. Jelly was my only reason to get out of the house every day and, at least until the end of the summer, I needed to be the walker. At least a dog walk gave me a reason to get moving and the possibility of social interaction. I don’t have the luxury of workmates to kibbitz with during the day.

One problem with retiring early not because of wealth but because of illness is that there’s no one to play with during the day. People have jobs and children and busy lives. Plus I’ve failed at fostering daytime contact with those who are available because I haven’t had the energy until recently. I can’t expect people to jump in to meet my needs on my schedule. Friendship doesn’t work that way. So I count on the dog’s companionship because some days she’s all I’ve got.

J. was a very sporting when I asked her for exclusive daytime walking rights. She consented readily. All relationships are about give and take, right? If I keep giving her the bigger half of dessert, hopefully things will balance out in the end.

 

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