Jake is a 12-year-old, 95-pound Golden Retriever (or as we call the breed, Permanent Adolescent) who prefers to sleep at the bottom of the stairs or in front of the front door or in the master bedroom right in front of the toilet – three of our most high traffic areas. We’ve tried to make other areas of the house more appealing, but he’ll have none of that. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. At least not an old dog who’s taking a narcotic for hip dysplasia. He’s comfortable sleeping at the bottom of the stairs and in front of the door and in the bathroom, so whatever. We’re not going to argue with him.
Mathilda is a 9-year-old, 75-pound Beagle mix. Larry calls her “Butterball” because she’s 20 pounds overweight. Her diet has little to do with it, though. Mathilda has allergies, and every year for three or four months in the summer and fall, we give her steroids to control her itching. Without steroids (and believe me, we’ve tried everything), she cuts open her face and every other place her nails can reach. In the spring and early summer she sheds her weight…just in time to go back on steroids. It’s a nasty cycle, but she’s a happy girl nonetheless.
Mathilda’s favorite place to sleep is on my living room chair or the loveseat or the futon in Larry’s office. Rarely do we have to step over her, she’s considerate when we ask her to move (unlike Jake who just stares at us), and is low-maintenance in the area of demanding attention. She likes a good belly rub once in awhile, but prefers to be left alone most of the time.
Cooper is a 5-year-old, 70-pound Flat Coated Retriever (a breed developed many years ago as a mix between a Newfoundland and a Golden Retriever). Cooper sleeps anywhere Larry is and is always disappointed when I climb into bed at night. “Maybe tonight they’ll let me sleep here,” is what his eyes say just before we laugh and say, “Um…no.” We have a full-size bed and I’m a pillow pig. I tuck them all around my body. There’s no room for another being, especially not one that’s 75 pounds and sprawls out, not curls up, to sleep.
Each dog has their own idea of what constitutes the best seat in the house. We all have those favorite places, don’t we? Whether it’s in our homes or outside, there are those places that fit us like a glove. I thought about that that today as I sat on what is now my new best seat outside my home:
After switchbacking up the side of the mountain on a different section of the North Country Trail from last week, there was a bench. A lovely, sturdy wooden bench overlooking the forest. Not only did it lend itself as a place to rest and offered a spectacular view, it helped me appreciate, once again, my body and what it’s capable of. I never would have found or sat on that bench when I was 300 pounds. It physically could not have happened. And even though I have two bum knees, I got to the top of that mountain and, more importantly, down again. (As anyone with knee problems knows, climbing isn’t the hardest part. It’s going down that’s a killer.)
Knees willing (and I’ll do everything to ensure their viability), I’m going to visit that bench again next spring. I hope Jake will still be around, sleeping at the bottom of the stairs. I hope Mathilda will be in the process of shedding her weight. And I hope Cooper still thinks we won’t notice if he stays in bed with us. But I won’t count on any of those things. I’ll just sit down in the best seat in the forest, enjoy the view, and let life be what is.
More photos from the hike:
Me at the first switchback holding the trusty walking stick I found at the beginning of our hike. It was an incredibly difficult climb - partly because of the steep grade and partly because the fallen leaves made it hard to see the slippery slopes - but it was so physically and emotionally exhilarating.
Cooper went with us on the hike. How beautiful is he? And he has no clue.
My awesome hiking boots (Skechers!!)
Larry and Cooper on the bench...of course. Larry is Coop's BFF. I sometimes think Coop is Larry's BFF, too. Hmmm...