The Golden Retriever’s Owner

I didn’t really want to walk the dogs one night earlier this week (okay, most nights this week). It was cooler and windy and threatening to rain – it had sputtered a bit an hour earlier, and I hate walking in the rain (though not quite as much as the dogs). I’ve had to walk the dogs separately for awhile now, and one of my biggest fears is the weather turning bad before I get back from the first walk, necessitating a second walk in worse weather (or not being able to take the second one at all).

In any case, the temperature was still decent, and while my eyes do not handle the wind well at all, the weather is not supposed to really get much better or worse, and the dogs need their exercise (so does their owner). So, I put my shoes and jacket on, and off we went for a short hike around a nearby school/church “compound” of sorts.

As Athena and I reached about the quarter mark of our walk, I saw another walker with his dog coming toward us, and crossed the street, as Athena can be rude to other dogs. And then I realized it was an elderly man who lives a block and a half away from us, walking his golden retriever. He waved, I waved, Athena was on good behavior, his retriever wagged its tail…everyone was friendly all around.

I’d been wondering about him for a while now, as I hadn’t seen him out walking since I’ve been able to be out again and the weather was decent enough. I’m sure he’s in his 80’s, and one afternoon last summer, I had a very nice chat with him while I was out walking Apollo and he was out in his yard. We’d discussed my first surgery, and his health, and his poor neighbor, whose dog had pulled her over and broken her hip. He’d been headed over there to walk her dog for her while she was healing after he finished walking his golden.

A year or so before that, he’d seen me one evening walking past his house with both dogs, struggling to keep them under control as another dog passed on the other side of the street (yes, I did keep them under control, but it was hard work). He’d smiled once the other dog had gone past, clearly sympathetic, and simply held up one finger.

I got the message. And I knew he was right, but I wasn’t ready to admit defeat just then. That was before Athena chomped my left wrist, before I had two surgeries in six months, before I fell walking Athena and seriously stretched a tendon, again in my left wrist. All of which forced me to follow his sage advice, and walk one dog at a time. My left wrist is no longer strong/stable enough to control a large dog that might lunge at a bunny on its own. I don’t know if it ever will be again.

I don’t know his name and he doesn’t know mine (that I know of), but still, we know each other, and we’re friendly in passing and I’m sure we’d take the time to chat and catch up if circumstances allowed again.

I like knowing he’s still out there, able to walk his dog and enjoy the seasons even at this late point in his life. He’s living the kind of life I want to work toward, and I will do my best to be like him in my “golden” years. Perhaps I’ll wave and have sidewalk conversations with someone younger than I, out walking their dogs in the twilight hours as well.

If I do, I’m certain I’ll think of him, and the years seeing him and his goldens on the street, waving and sharing a smile and a common love of our four-legged friends.

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