Have you ever spent an entire day with your dog? Just the two of you. No one else. Eight hours of dog and man. Side by side. All day.
Recently, I did just that.
An entire Sunday from 10am until about 6pm was all Sam and me. We had errands to run, a car ride to take, and a little dad-do stuff at my son’s house while he and his wife were away. Sam and I were together through it all.
I talk to Sam a great deal. The usual stuff — “What’s up, girl?” “Get the ball.” “Time to eat.” “Stop sniffing, let’s go!” “Stop smelling that! What is that? Ugh. Get away!” But it was on this recent day alone together that the conversation branched out. It was like what happens to you and a friend on a road trip. We simply got to talking. Here’s how it went.
“Sam, can the Cubs pull this out?” The game was on the car radio. “Their pitching is really suspect. Especially that bullpen.”
Sam appears to roll her eyes. She might be a Sox fan. Tennis is likely her game anyway. All those neon green tennis balls in the yard should have been a clue.
“Got to make a Home Depot run, Sam. You can come inside with me. You know there was a time when these stores wouldn’t allow you to join me.”
Sam is in disbelief. Who would restrict time between a dog and his master? And I’m on a leash, she thought. Geez!
“I’m starving. Want a taco?”
I don’t offer a piece of the taco I have now. Her belly has been a bit touchy lately, so not a good idea. But she watches me very closely as I eat. I end up slipping her a small bit of cheese.
“What’s with the car window thing and dogs?” I ask, her head stretched out the passenger-side window. “What is that all about, Sam?”
She looks to me only for a second to acknowledge my question. Then it is right back to the window. I think I hear her growl something about “freedom.”
“So, Sam. What do you think of the flooring? I think they did a nice job, don’t you?”
A crew had recently completed refinishing the hardwood floors at my son’s house. I don’t think she liked the work much. Far too slippery for dogs.
“I never asked you if you were okay with being the subject of my book. The book is coming out next year. It’s about you and me, Sam. Walks with Sam. You okay with that?”
Sam looks me up and down, as if assessing my presence and ability, trying to process what I had said, as if contemplating what trust between us I may have violated.
“Sam, it’s all good, really. You come off really wonderful in this book.”
Dogs can’t obtain legal representation, can they?
There are other conversations. Too many to mention. And after hours pass, on the way home, one last question:
“What did you think about this, Sam?” I ask as I drive. “An entire day with me. I don’t think we have ever done this before. Just you and me. What are your thoughts?”
Sam is curled up in the passenger seat. Head between her paws.
At the stoplight, I reach over and scratch her back. She does not move.
She is fast asleep. Out to the world. It had been a long day of listening to her master babble on.
Some might say it’s impossible for dogs to understand our words—other than “come” or the dog’s name, only hearing blah-blah-blah, the wonk-wonk of the teacher in the Charlie Brown TV cartoon. I would suggest that a dog may be simply like a cowboy—soft-spoken, taciturn, measured, reluctant to join in a lively conversation. But there is one thing for which I am certain—dogs are pretty damn good listeners.
Walks with Sam: A Man, a Dog, and a Season of Awakening is forthcoming from John Hunt Publishing, UK in the fall of 2020.