A woman and her ancient border collie shuffle along the icy path toward the lake. The woman is crabby. This is the kind of weather she dislikes the most--raw, windy, icy, the temperature hovering just around the freezing mark. She has dressed hastily, and she is acutely aware that she looks like a clown, or perhaps Ronald McDonald: She is wearing a bright yellow coat, peacock-blue gloves, and a red hat. Underneath is not much better; she is still wearing her pajama top.
She is tired. She has spent the tenth or eleventh (she has lost count) night sleeping on the hall floor with the border collie. "Sleeping" might be too strong a word for it. The border collie spent the first couple of hours of the night panting, then got up at 1 a.m. to go outside, then wouldn't come back inside. She finally lured him back into the house and he jumped on the futon and slept sweetly the rest of the night with his head on her leg.
She has spent most of the morning trying to get the border collie to eat something, anything, for breakfast. She tried kibble, she tried canned food (so yummy and smelly! she cooed, and the border collie actually rolled his eyes before turning away), she tried chicken broth, she tried pumpkin, she tried boiled rice and canned chicken. The border collie settled for most of the grilled chicken breast that the woman's husband had made last night, for her lunch today.
So she is crabby as she walks along in the wind, slipping on the ice despite her little crampon-grippies, trying to pull the border collie into something resembling a trot.
He is also crabby because his legs hurt (his minder forget to give him his Metacam that morning, though she did give it to him after the walk, for all the good it'll do him then) and because he is hungry. He has recently discovered People Food, and now his minders keep trying to force kibble and canned dog food on him, and he's having none of it. He knew they were holding out on him, and he was waiting....waiting. Finally she produced the chicken breast that, if she had only offered a half-hour before, would have speeded everything up. He ate it, and he belched, but he was still hungry and he was still crabby.
Besides, just as he was enjoying the succulent roasted juicy bits of chicken, she leaned down, parted his fur, and --he braced himself; she's done this before--stabbed him with a goddamn needle. She does this every time he eats anything, stabs him with this goddamn needle. It's like she doesn't want him to enjoy his food.
He slips along the ice--he doesn't have those crampon grippies like she does, and the sidewalk is treacherous in parts, so he tries to climb into the crusty snow along the edge. She tugs at him. "It's not icy here," she says, testily. "It's fine."
His vision isn't what it used to be--damn cataracts--and for all he knows she's lying to him. He pulls away, sinks into the crusty snow, collapses slightly, regains his momentum. "Goddamn snow," he mutters.
They get down to the lake path and, as they do every morning, she tries to turn left, and he refuses. Puts on the brakes. He wants to go to the right. What doesn't she understand about that? Every morning they have this fight; it's practically a tradition. The snow to the right smells much better, has been peed on by many more dogs.
They turn right, and he trots along, triumphant. "Goddamn dog," she says. "You are way too much trouble. And we are spending entirely too much time together."
He cocks his head, looks at her a moment, and then says, "Whatever you say, Ronald."
Touche. He chortles a little, and they walk on.