About four years ago, me and my friend had a brilliant idea. We would meet at a trail to walk our dogs. She had two dogs and so did I so we thought it would be fun. She walked her dogs with confidence and her dogs rarely stepped out of line while me and my dogs were a fumbling mess. We kept getting tangled, the dogs wouldn’t listen to me, my feet kept getting caught in their leashes. By the end of the walk, I was in tears and felt so defeated. That day I resigned myself to think that I couldn’t control my dogs and so I won’t walk them anymore. Walking the dogs would be Matt’s job because he was bigger, stronger, and the dogs listened to him. So, instead of making my dogs listen to me, I just gave up and gave that task to my husband.
Now, let me stop right here and tell you about my dogs. My first dog Astro is a yellow Lab who weighs 115 pounds. He is a BIG dog. He is loud. He is loud when he walks, he is loud when he breathes, he is loud when eats, somehow he is even loud when he sleeps. Everything he does is loud. On top of him being big and loud, he craves attention and to be apart of the family. Most of the time, this is annoying because this means that a big and loud dog wants to be on top of me or sitting right next to me ALL THE TIME. Sometimes, being around Astro and hearing him breathe loudly all day long is so annoying that I have actually said, “Astro, go away and stop breathing”. I don’t mean for him to stop breathing and drop dead, I just want some space and some silence for five minutes to gain my sanity back. I tell Astro to go away so often that my sweet innocent son now tells Astro to go away more times than I care to admit.
My second dog Ranger is the exact opposite. Ranger is smaller, he only weighs 78 pounds. Most of the time, he is calm and quite and likes to be left alone. I constantly have to tell Luke to get off Ranger because as much as he wants Astro to leave him alone, he wants Ranger to play with him. Ranger is so quiet sometimes, that I forget that he is here. UNTIL, a car drives by or the wind blows and all of a sudden Ranger will BARK so loudly that my heart jumps out of my chest and I prepare for the home invasion I am sure is happening because why else would this calm and quite dog be barking with so much vigor.
Another thing which Astro does is he will eat anything in sight. If you are making a sandwich and you turn your back to put the bread back in the pantry, Astro will jump on the counter and eat your entire sandwich before you turn back around. If my son leaves his food on the table, or the counter, or the couch for just a minute Astro will get his food. This happens AT LEAST once a day, some days it happens at all three meals. Every time it happens, Luke cries in agony saying Astro got his food and lately he tells me Astro needs a time out. I agree, and I need a break from him, so I put him outside. The minute the door shuts and Astro is outside he starts barking. Remember, everything he does is loud so he is barking really LOUD the entire time you leave him outside. It could be five minutes or it could be three hours. Yes, we have tried shock collars, we have tried giving him his own area, we have tried to let him bark it out but in this battle of wills he wins everytime. I live in a constant catch 22 because I can’t have the dogs inside because Astro is always too close to Luke, or eating Luke’s food, or Luke is on top of Ranger, or Ranger is barking out the window at the comings and goings of the street. I also can’t put them outside because Astro will bark for hours until you break down and let him back inside which starts the entire merry go round all over again.
Oh and did I mention they also dig, or that Luke is allergic, and Matt is trying to sleep because he worked the night before. Just writing all of this down makes me remember why I hid in my closet and screamed HELP! I’m being held hostage in my own home by my own dogs and by my own fear. That day I asked God for strength. For the inner strength to set myself free and the physical strength to take my dogs on a walk. And he did. Even though I had told myself that I could never walk our dogs again, I put my son in his stroller and leashed up all 200 pounds worth of dogs and we headed out the door. To my surprise, we survived that walk. It wasn’t the most graceful walk we had ever taken but we did it.
That was about a year ago and I continue to walk both our dogs every day. Have we had some bumps in the road, of course. There was the time when Astro’s leash came off and he ran away. Or the time when I let go of my son’s stroller to keep Ranger from attacking another dog and the stroller, with my son strapped into it, went tumbling down a hill. But we also survived those walks and, fortunately (or do I mean unfortunately), Astro found his way home. Then, there were other days when we stopped at the park and played so hard the dogs were so tired they slept the rest of the day. Or there are walks like this morning, when we stopped to look at the pond and noticed a rainbow. And so this daily ritual which was born out of survival is now my daily outlet and sometimes our daily adventure.
Now, there are still many things about my dogs which I can’t control. I can’t control how loud Astro breathes or stop my heart from jumping out of my chest when Ranger starts barking out of nowhere. I can’t control how my son continues to lay on top of Ranger several times a day no matter how many times I tell him not to. And I can’t control that Astro eats Luke’s food. But, I can control if my dogs get a walk. I can free myself from the stress and anxiety of navigating all the chaos they cause by getting exercise and fresh air while I walk away their crazy. Walking my dogs empowers me to do other things I never thought possible. It empowers me to write and share this blog. It empowers me to keep going, even when I am a fumbling mess. Because, there is so much I can’t control but I can overcome if I have the Faith to step out and walk.