When Lola conceded to getting a family dog, she knew exactly what she was getting into. A family dog, as the script reads so often, becomes the responsibility of the parents. “Jazz” was just a pup when she came home. She was hand selected by Lola’s daughter – the reason for the dog in the first place. The journey home with Jazz was rather uneventful, though very emotional. There was a palpable buzz of excitement in the air … finally the family had a dog! This request had been in the works for nearly ten years. Lola was not sure how she finally gave in – but she did. And now, Jazz was the latest member of the family.
The morning walk with Jazz had become a routine which pleased both Lola and her husband. The children had long ago abandoned the walk with Jazz. In fact, they had abandoned almost everything about Jazz – particularly the goodies that she left behind the back yard. It was a good thing that the youngest member of the LePage family knew his allowance was pretty much tied to feeding Jazz – or Jazz would have been sole property of Lola and her husband. Jazz loved her morning walks. She began expressing her pleasure as soon as Lola came downstairs – but only if Lola was not wearing the over-sized housecoat she had purchased for her father shortly before he passed away. Lola was a bit pragmatic in that way and, well, maybe a bit sentimental too. If Lola came down in “clothes”, Jazz would rouse herself from the mat at the front door immediately. She ran to find her “baby” which, as soon as she had it in her mouth, gave her the ability to speak.
“Grrrrrrrrrrr,” she’d emit. “Argghhhhh grrrrrr,” she would continue. You know the kind of gutter noises that dogs make to vocalize their pleasure – kind of hard to describe in words, but you know the dog is happy.
“Want to go for a walk Jazz?” was the question that would set her off into a flurry of jumps and leaps and turning circles.
“Oh, how nice it would be to experience the same simple joy of anticipating a walk as the dog does,” Lola thought to herself.
Lola tied the laces of her all-weather boots and away they went. Jazz could barely restrain herself from bursting through the front door first, but, she knew her place and she held fast until Lola had left. Like a rubber band snapping after a taunt pull, Jazz sped through the door to the sidewalk. She was wild with anticipation of the walk. Unleashed, untethered, unabated. While Lola loved how excited Jazz was, she was always slightly nervous about walking the dog unleashed – city by-law and all you know. Once, Jazz and Lola had been walking in the woods when a doberman and its owner (unleashed – the doberman not the owner) had encountered a little poodle and its owner (leashed).
“That dog has to be leashed, you know!” screamed the poodle owner.
“This is public property, lady” retorted the doberman owner.
“That means you need to obey the by-laws of the city!” argued the poodle owner.
“I can take my dog unleashed on public property”, argued back the doberman.
Lola could hear the conversation continue as she turned around and planned a different route. The poodle owner scared her. From that day on, Lola was ready to encounter poodle owner with an “excuse” for the unleashed Jazz.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, I must have forgotten her leash. My memory has never been the same since chemo.” she would reply. Honestly, her conscience poked at her every time she thought about playing the cancer card. Would that be dishonest to claim memory loss? No. Would that be unethical to play the cancer card? Well. Not really – having cancer has to have some advantages – too many disadvantages to not take advantage of the advantages. Is that playing on people’s heart-strings? Most definitely. The response would, no doubt, stun the recipient. And that would serve its purpose. At least until Jazz and Lola had passed by. Lola knew no one would question as her hair was still very short and very grey. At best, even if she were challenged about cancer, she could claim senility as a little old lady.
“I think I spend too much time thinking about these things,” Lola thought to herself.
The morning walk was wonderful. Lola had energy. And on days like these, Lola felt, well, almost normal. The birds were so loud they almost deafened Lola from her self-talk. Cardinals, chick-a-dees, wood-peckers, red-winged blackbirds… so many birds. And they sang all at once. It was amazing.
Over the pond, through the woods, down Tiffin, and back via Elizabeth Street they went. This had been the same route Lola and Jazz had taken for several years. She knew when she would be cold, she knew when she’d heat up, she knew when she’d be winded, and she knew when she would feel on top of the world. This – this route was about as predictable as anything in her life. The snow had melted to reveal the garbage left behind from winter. Thank goodness there would be a spring clean soon. The buds on the maple trees – the soft maples – were swelling. Soon, there would be a “haze” of green.
Lola and Jazz reached the front door. “Well, Jazzy-girl,” encouraged Lola. “Another walk down. What a good girl!” And Lola wasn’t sure if she was referring to Jazz or herself.
It had been good to have Jazz on the walk. She was a good dog. She was a friendly dog. And, although she was last one to concede to the family dog, Lola was glad Jazz was around.