When we occasionally leave the house for an outing, he always comes along. Whether it’s a trip to the store, x-c skiing or snowshoeing in the woods, jackjumping at Lincoln Gap, ice-skating or ice boating on Lake Champlain and small ponds, these are all opportunities for him to run circles in the snow or take off for whatever he finds amusing. A couple days ago we went Alpine skiing and left him at home, and I had to reassure myself it good for him to be alone for a half day. We actually felt guilty as we backed down the driveway, him peering out the window with a mixed expression of sadness and disbelief.
These days many more humans with their dogs circulate around the neighborhood roads and hiking trails making for plenty of canine interactions. Reggie now has more friends that he sees regularly than I do. To rub salt in that wound, he doesn’t wear a mask or socially distance from his dog friends. To the contrary, he wrestles with them, breathes heavily in their close proximity, and shares slobber coated sticks. Unlike the rest of us, he has not become a paranoid germaphobe.
Reggie and his buddies experience pure bliss making a game of out-pissing one another on the highest snow bank, parked car tires, tree trunks, grave stones, and leach field caps. They live and play in constant nirvana without the assists of Deepak Chopra, feng shui, hygge, or yoga zoom classes. Downward dog, interval sprints and living in the now? No problem for Reggie and his pals.
The perks of the pandemic for Reggie doesn’t end with his social life. His diet has been upgraded from plain dog food to kibble with Cabot Greek yogurt, meat scraps, eggs, veggies and other treats. I don’t know if he’s always been picky about his food and I just didn’t notice before or that he has learned how to shape my behavior with his big golden eyes and cocked head. These days, I’m not quite sure who’s training whom.
Yet, while Reggie’s life has been pretty sweet, he’s had to make some sacrifices during Corona.
First, his trips to the vet aren’t as fun as they used to be. No more lollygagging in the waiting room with other cats and dogs, who he finds intensely interesting from an aromatic and behavioral standpoint. (Cats are of particular interest to Reggie, though he is deathly afraid of them after he tried to play chase with the grandkids’ cat who backed him against a tree and pummeled his nose good before letting him escape.) Since I have to wait in the car in the clinic parking lot, I can only assume the staff still gives him a million treats. He’s in and out of the office in no time flat, when he'd be happy to hang out there all day.
Second, our annual fall road and hunting trip “Out West”—CANCELLED. For our dogs and us, upland bird hunting is equivalent to Disneyland for a five-year old kid. It’s all about the dog and running big in fields, forests and ranches that are the size of Rhode Island. Birds—pheasant, ruffed grouse, Hungarian partridge, sharp tail grouse—all fair game for Reggie to find, point and hopefully retrieve if we make a good shot. He gets an extra hot dinner to make up for the added spent calories. He sleeps on the couch with a blanket in the RV instead of his dog bed on the floor. Driving out to Montana or Minnesota he meets many new people who love dogs and give us permission to hunt. He rides with us in the truck, hanging his head out the window taking in new scents. Hopefully, this fall we’ll be able to resume our western hunting trips.
Finally, people don’t stop by the house anymore to lavish treats and scratch his ears. Strangers who are out and about are a little more reluctant to pet him, maybe worrying that we might object.
With all of the sage advice for weathering the pandemic, my favorite is to be grateful for what you have. So everyday I thank my lucky stars that my dog’s great life on the whole got even better during this past year. I don’t consider this at all a small, inconsequential, or mundane thing for one of the best dogs in the universe.