Evolution and Another Dog Walk During COVID-19

“If all the humans die, which animal do you think would take our place?”

We looked at our unlikely dog trotting ahead of us, sniffing the air, ever-hopeful for a… Bunny? Squirrel? 

“The strongest or the smartest?” continued the 6th grader, knowing the bunny wins every time.

Some conversations last the entire 3-mile loop around the neighborhood. Some return at the dinner table.

Would it be different on each continent? Would the strong win first, then a weaker but smarter species evolve to overtake the strong? Or could the strong one evolve to be smarter? Would the next phase of evolution follow the same pattern as before? Would the next “humans” be like us? Would they look like an animal we already know?

Another doubting glance in the direction of our sweet, old dog.

Walking with My 17-year-old During COVID-19

It was only in the first week of school closure that he realized how hard his Dad was working at the hospital. So, he started setting his alarm for 5am, just beating Dad to the kitchen to make him coffee. Three weeks later, our early morning teenager is still brewing – a treat for me too.

He joins me almost every day on long walks with the dog. I have learned everything a mom needs to know about the more than 100-year history of the Green Bay Packers. How woven the team’s history is with that of the country. Pearl Harbor, Gerald Ford. And… “Remember that game in 2017? We were driving back from the mountains, listening on the radio, and we got home just in time to see…”

I remember the drive, but not the play.

“How do you not remember that?!”

Every day, a minute or so into the walk, he says, “Look at Star’s ears!” Her right ear flops, while the perky left remains alert. “Isn’t she the cutest?!”

And yesterday, there was construction on the road we usually start off on. We were half-way down the block in another direction, when he stopped. “Wait, why are we going this way?” He doesn’t like change, he said. Star had tugged uncertainly too, so we corrected our path.

He grows impatient when I let the dog sniff too long at a fencepost until I remind him that he has nowhere he needs to be. “True,” he shrugs. “So anyway, the players heard about Pearl Harbor in the middle of the game, and they had to keep playing knowing it was happening. That must have been….”

By evening, you would think a 17-year-old might tire of his parents. But he is the first to wander out to the firepit and listen to his Dad talk about the latest in the world of COVID-19. Inform him that Mom doesn’t remember that amazing play in 2017. 

And when the whole family heads upstairs to watch “Big Bang Theory” together, all of his 6-foot, 200-pound self climbs onto our bed to watch.

Now in week three of school closure, remote learning. My return to nagging. “Did you send the email to…?” “Did you do your…?” That desire to hit him over the head with the coffee pot when he rolls his eyes late afternoon, Chemistry still to do, that Statistics project looming.

The Twists and Turns Regarding a Second Dog

Star is almost eight years old and is only just beginning to grow out of her puppy phase. With her maturity comes a quieter home, but apparently, teenage boys and their Dads seek chaos.

The pitch for a second dog – a large puppy – began in earnest about six months ago. Four against one. By mid-summer, I was losing. Dad was emailing breeders.

Until….

Star and I were crossing a stream while the boys fished on the shores of Jefferson Lake. Puppy excitement reignited by the new smells of the wilderness, Star tugged on her leash. I slipped off the log I was on, and broke my foot.

It silenced the new puppy talk. The only benefit to “the boot”…. Until….

Our car and garage were robbed. Two very nice bikes are now in the hands of local criminals. They managed to buy about $50 worth of snacks at a nearby gas station.

Star tried to alert us. She barked at midnight, which she never does. She scratched at the door. And when we finally stumbled downstairs to let her out, she stood unmoving in the yard. Watching. Protecting her herd.

But they had already absconded with the goods.

And what was the very first thing our teenage son said even before the police arrived? With Mom still in “the boot”?

“If we had two dogs, this never would have happened.”

Nurse Star

Our fourth grader started throwing up at 4:30 this morning, and spent the next three hours lying on the bathroom floor. Sleep. Puke. Sleep. Puke. Sleep. Puke.

After one such bout, our dog Star, with her aching hips, forced her creaky self off the hall rug and scratched to be let outside.

“My tummy hurts so bad,” moaned the little guy, as I lay a blanket over him.

Star re-appeared at the door moments later with a dirty bone dug out of hiding. Passed right by me when I let her in. Dropped the bone outside the bathroom a foot from my son’s feverish forehead. “Here, try this,” she seemed to say, “It always makes me feel better.”

Then returned to her nap nearby… just in case he needed her.

Walking the Dog Today

Our dog Star, who is not a star, randomly threw herself at a moving car on our walk today. I wasn’t ready, because she typically saves her “crazy” for big, mean trucks and yappy little dogs that look like bunnies.

I don’t know what snapped in that dog-brain of hers. It’s a beautiful day. A regular car. No loud car rumble. No young pup hanging its head out the window taunting her.

But her leash was loose. I wasn’t ready.

My dog was hit by a car today. Or really, the car was hit by Star. A full body slam.

A smack and a yelp.

The car slowed, but drove on.

She hobbled to my side. Sat down, holding her paw up to be checked like she knows the drill. Like she gets injured battling evil cars all the time.

Then Star, who is not a star, dragged me around the neighborhood as if nothing had happened.

I kept the leash tight and Star close. She ignored the yappy dogs. Discovered no bunnies. Didn’t notice the other cars at all, until a little red sportscar passed on our return home.

I don’t know what snapped in that dog-brain of hers, but this time, I was ready. Star and the car survive to see another day.

The Peppermint Failure

Our dog digs. So, I bought peppermint plants.

I got the idea on the Internet. Then I confirmed that it works with the herb guy at the plant store. “Dogs hate that strong minty smell,” he said. “She definitely won’t dig near it.”

Unless you’re Star, the dog who created a little mulch nest in-between peppermint plants, her nose resting contentedly for hours within an inch of that strong minty smell she is supposed to hate.

Or Star, the dog who I discovered covered in mud, digging madly around one of the sprinklers, which was spraying her directly in the face. The peppermint plant she nestled with all weekend is missing. Not a leaf of evidence that it even existed.

So, onto Plan B. Fill hole. Sprinkle with red hot Cayenne Pepper.

Why We Need Our Dog

We were standing at the edge of the water, the sun splashing itself against the curling waves so that the water itself sparkled. My thirteen year old son, whose freckles reappeared after a few days on the beach and whose blue eyes match the turquoise sea, leaned into me. “I don’t want to leave.”

“Me neither,” I answered with my arm around him.

“It was an awesome week.”

And we took a few last moments watching the sea together.

Two hours later, having packed up and showered, our nine year old and I sat on the Harbour island dock with our bags while my husband went back to get the older boys and lock up the golf cart. Our son wore a Kansas City Chiefs baseball hat and a fluorescent green t-shirt from last summer’s swim team. His red fox neck pillow was wrapped around his neck.

“You guys are so much fun to travel with,” I told him and couldn’t help but kiss him on the nose.

He smiled, “You and Dad are fun to travel with too.”

And when we were all together, having made our connecting flight, but nostalgic for the day we arrived eight days ago, our fourteen year old reminded us that home is not so bad, because…

“I can’t wait to see the puppy.”

The puppy who is no longer a puppy. “Poor puppy,” the boys added and were suddenly ready for vacation’s end.

 

That Was Actually Funny, He Said

My teenager and I were sitting on the steps with the dog. It has been a dry winter, and with more than a week of warm February weather, everyone is watering. At our house, the sprinkler needed a quick fix in the yard after it fell off the hose when my son moved it from one spot to another. “I can’t get it back on.”

I was putting my shoes on to help out and hoping the dog poop had been picked up before he had watered the grass. ”If you don’t pick the poop up first, then it’s gross to pick up when the grass is wet.”

“It wasn’t me,” he said. “Dad started it. Blame Dad.”

So, I belted out a little South Park “Blame Canada!”

He chuckled. “Mom, that was actually funny… and surprising.”

“Didn’t think I had any South Park in me, did ya?”

Santa Dog

My first grader has been bringing a stuffed puppy with a Santa hat to school. He keeps it in his backpack for when he is feeling sad or frustrated. A quick hug with Santa Dog, and he is off and running again.

Our real dog, however, is lacking in Christmas spirit even if she flies across the yard like Blitzen.

First, our stellar dog ate the roof off of our son’s very cool Atlanta Falcons gingerbread house while we were out on Christmas Eve. Aren’t we smart that we didn’t leave the Christmas presents under the tree?

And on December 23rd, I overheard one holiday season substitute mailmen say to another, “I wouldn’t get out of the car if I were you. Not with that Rottweiller staring at us.”