Saturday, October 1, 2011

"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night"**

As the dying days of Indian summer give way to the chilly breezes of autumn, more than just the leaves are falling. The hours of daylight are rapidly diminishing, making it more and more difficult to wake up in the morning. The mercury is beginning its slow descent towards winter, forcing me to switch out my summer and winter wardrobes. And, at least in these parts, the rain has not stopped coming down for days on end....

...Sigh... Goodbye summer...

Many things end with summer. We wrapped up our softball league a couple of weekends ago. Soon we'll dismantle the patio furniture, take down the gazebo, and move our bikes to the basement. We'll have less white wines chilling in our fridge and default more and more to reds. And the slow cooker will replace the barbeque as the cooking method of choice.

Many things also begin with the end of summer. The harvest begins in earnest, and hubby and I benefit from bountiful farmer's market stalls. New seasons of our favourite shows - this year it's The Good Wife - begin, giving our PVR a major workout. And of course, the fall coincides with the holy trifecta of sport - football, hockey and baseball - so that my t.v. is permanently bouncing between TSN and Sportsnet.

But one thing remains ever constant. The Beast's breeding demands exercise. No matter what Mother Nature is sending our way.

We take the Beast out twice a day. And not for 10 minute spins around the block either. He has way too much energy to release. He is out for about an hour in the morning and an hour in the early evening. Mornings are relegated to either a run, a bike ride (when weather permits) or a nice long romp through the arboretum, sometimes followed by a visit to the dog park. In the evening, we usually strap on his backpack and take off to discover new streets in the neighbourhood, always stopping in one of many parks for a rousing game of fetch. Our little athlete requires nothing less. The proof is in how happy, adjusted, and (for-the-most-part) well behaved he is in the home (until the doorbell rings, anyway, as evidenced by his most recent display just 10 minutes ago when a friend and her daughter stopped in for a visit...).

But back to his high exercise demands. We knew this would be the case when we chose to adopt a member of the Aussie clan, one of the more energetic dogs out there. Indeed, this is why we chose this breed, so that I could have a companion on my runs. I've also come to look very forward to our after-work walks. Hitting the road with the Beast helps me to reset my thoughts and switch from work mode to family mode, something I used to have so much trouble doing that I would find myself staying wide awake at night thinking about work. And there is nothing better than hitting a local dog park and watching the Beast having the time of his life out-pacing all of his best friends, wrestling with his favourite German shepherd, and leaping in the air to catch his ball. I really enjoy this new routine! (Of course, losing a few extra pounds as a result of my own increased activity doesn't hurt either...)

Yet...

...I can't deny that as the cold and wet autumn settles in, I am finding thoughts such as "Oh, we can take a shorter walk this morning" or "Surely if we just skip one walk it won't be the end of the world" or "We don't really have to stop in at the dog park today" creep into my head.

A big part of it is because I hate the rain. Like I mean, really, really hate the rain. Much as I love cities like Vancouver and London, I don't think I could live there without slitting my wrists. Grey skies are depressing! I hate the rain so much that I would take a day of minus 30 with clear blue skies and sunshine over a day of plus 15 with rain.

And for the last four days, it hasn't stopped raining. I have had to go for a run in the rain. I have had to go for evening walks in the rain. I have had to play fetch in the rain. I have had to do many, many things, for many, many days on end that involve standing outside in the rain getting soaked. (I've also spent a lot of time worrying about how dirty my house is as a result of wet, muddy dog...) Whereas if I didn't have a dog, I would forgo the run for another day. I would stay inside and read a book or watch t.v. after getting home from work. Or I would stay at work and get stuff done there since it wouldn't be worth being outside. In short, I would put my life on a hold for a little while and hide out.

But that's the thing. Unlike Major League Baseball, there are no rain delays when it comes to taking care of your pet. I can't just pull a tarp over our favourite walking paths in the morning and hope that the skies will clear up and the ground will be dry by the time I get home from work, with a promise that I will take the Beast for an extra long walk then. No way. He needs his twice-a-day exercise routine, and he needs his socialization. Pure and simple.

The Beast didn't have a choice in the matter of who he decided to come home with. He wasn't given a list of prospective dog owners to choose from. He couldn't interview a bunch of us and say, "Hey, I need someone who can live with a lot of erratic barking whenever someone comes near the front door, and someone who is willing to take me outside for at least two hours a day so that I can run around and burn off some craziness. No need to apply if you aren't able to deliver that, Mister!"

No, we chose him. We decided that we wanted to bring him into our home, because we felt confident that our lifestyles were suited to having a dog like him in our family. We can't renege on that promise when the skies turn a little grey, the sun hides for a little longer, or the temperature starts to drop. Having the Beast with us is a 365 day-a-year commitment, because he has 365 day-a-year (somewhat-high-maintenance-at-times) needs.   

So it's a good thing I bought those rain boots, but I'd better invest in a better rain jacket and probably a pair of rain pants, and while I'm thinking about it, a rain hat, because carrying an umbrella when walking a dog is a pain in the ass.

And I'd better brace myself for another long, dark Canadian winter, because he's gonna need his exercise then too...

... Gulp



**Inscription on the James Farley Post Office in New York City (and a good way to describe how I feel about my obligation to comply to the Beast's exercise regime...)