Editor's Column: You’ll experience more with a dog

You will enjoy Whidbey Island more if you get yourself a mentally-challenged dog and obey the county leash law. This combination means you have to walk the dog every morning, day and night, til death do you part.

The dog I walk actually belongs to my daughter, who had the nerve to leave home a number of years ago. She occasionally says hello to the dog during a telephone call from Asia, but it’s inconvenient to come home and walk the thing. Before that, she was always too busy with middle school, high school and college. So I’ve been filling in for the past 12 years, during which time the dog has never figured out that cars are dangerous. He thinks they’re big toys headed his way, and his instinct is to jump out into the middle of the road and play with them. That’s where the mentally-challenged part comes it. I’ve tried to teach him to wait for cars a thousand times, but every time one passes, he tugs on the leash in an effort to catch it. We don’t have a fenced yard, so I have to walk the dog. The leash has been doing its job for 12 years; when the leash goes, he goes.

Although walking the dog gets tiresome, when I reflect on my life living among the tall trees on Whidbey Island, almost all of the cool things I’ve seen happened when I was walking the dog. Because if it weren’t for the dog, I’d be like most people and never go outside for a walk at 5:30 a.m. and 10 p.m., regardless of the weather. The earlier and later you’re outside, the better you chances of something cool happening.

Celestially speaking, I’ve seen a number of lunar eclipses walking the dog. Last Saturday night, I saw a huge ring circling the moon. Tonight, I’ll hope for a break in the clouds so I can see the total eclipse. I’ve seen shooting stars, comets, twinkling red and blue planets, and smudges of asteroids. The Milky Way seen through a screen of towering fir trees is reason enough to go outside.

Walk the dog long enough and you’re certain to experience the wildlife of Whidbey. One early morning we saw gray whales in Saratoga Passage. The dog is always scaring up rabbits, brown squirrels and chipmunks. Occasionally, he’ll tree a raccoon, or sniff out a curious baby raccoon hugging a tree and staring at us as we walk past. We hear eagles whistling most spring mornings, and glimpse them flying through the trees. A couple of times, an eagle has headed right for us, following the yellow strip down the middle of the road. We could almost touch him as he veered up, deciding the dog, or person, isn’t worth eating. We’ve had angry flocks of crows buzz us and great blue herons flap by overhead. One night, a huge owl with whispering wings flew just above our head, scaring the bejeebers out of us.

We’ve walked through sunny mornings, steady drizzle, pouring rain, torrential downpours, sleet, hail, pretty snowfalls, and driving blizzards. One New Year’s Eve the snow was deeper than the dog, and he had to jump to take a step. Soon it was pouring rain, and the next morning, the road was a river.

The dog’s bones are getting a little stiff after all these years, but he still perks up when it’s time to go for a walk. We’re a lot alike in that regard.

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