Walks With Layla   I doubt there will be any more long walks together in our future. It is painful to watch my dog, Layla, go in and out of the house or move from room to room.  There is now a stiffness in her walk that will never go away.   Layla is a rescue dog. She came out of the worst puppy mill in the history of the state of Iowa. Dropped off at the doorstep of a local veterinarian, six weeks old, and deemed worthless because of her handicap. Deaf.  Nine years later, I often wonder who it was who rescued whom.     Our first walks together were to my grandfather’s house. Not even two months old, she would bound down the sidewalk, come to the end of the block, plop her butt down, all her loose skin making her look like she was a misshaped glob of snow melting into the cement, and wait for me to catch up. We would cross the street together. She would then race down the next sidewalk, stop, and wait for me, block after block until we got to my grandfather’s.   Like her, his hearing had pretty much gone. My grandmother had died a few months earlier. Theirs was maybe one of the few love stories I saw play out in real life. Without her guiding light, his flame was flickering. He had let go of so many things. I would see him through the window, sitting in his chair, watching TV. Knowing he could not hear the doorbell and not wanting to startle him by just appearing in his TV room, I would open the door and Layla would bound in.   By the time I got to the room, she had already leaped into his lap. Her paws on his shoulder. His wrinkled, liver spotted hands holding her chest. She bathed his face with every lick she could muster. Then there was that laugh, not really a laugh, but that sound of joy that escapes from deep inside that would come out of him.  And when her head was not in the way, for a brief moment, I saw that sparkle in his eye that had dimmed after my grandma died.  Somehow, this pain-in-the butt puppy did the impossible. For however brief it was, and I know it seemed longer than it was, she brought my grandfather back to me.  Day after day, week after week, until I moved away, the magic of this ritual never failed.   One day she walked out into the backyard and sat outside by herself. It was strange behavior for an animal that cannot stand to be by herself. She just sat there, even when I beckoned for her to come in. A few hours later I got the call that my grandfather had died earlier that day.      She made numerous friends on our jaunts together, along with several neighbors who weren’t exactly thrilled with her introducing herself to them. On one walk in Las Vegas, she befriended a porn star from California, dressed only in a towel, who had accidently locked herself out of her “agent’s” home.  On another in Phoenix, I discovered her playfully rolling around with a coyote. Outside of Great Falls, Montana, she somehow found a bison that she wanted to bring home. I don’t know which one of the three scared me more.     There was that walk in Phoenix, right after we just pulled in and unloaded the moving truck. It was not supposed to be much of a walk at all. I was just going to drop the U-Haul off and hoof it back to our new home. Leaving the older Golden Retriever in the entryway because he was still so doped up on sleeping pills that were supposed to help him with the motion sickness he got on any trip of more than a few miles, my cell phone dead, my wallet on the kitchen counter, Layla and I piled into the truck. The return center was not even a couple of miles away, on Bell Avenue I believe. Throw the keys in the return slot and, if everything went right, we should be home long before midnight.    I learned a lot of valuable lessons that night. Phoenix, like everywhere else, has a lot of road construction. Streets and sidewalks are torn up here and there. What was supposed to be two simple turns turned into a journey that resembled what your IPod ear buds look like after they have been in your pocket.   I also learned that where old people live there are a lot of walls forming gated communities and the streets are purposely built not to be straight. These places were designed by Del Webb to keep the undesirables out, i.e. blacks and Hispanics. They don’t want foot traffic outside of the senior areas. The sidewalks are often mere afterthoughts with no buffer between them and the road.   Here is the most important lesson I learned. If you have a deaf dog, walk against traffic, not with traffic. Walk so your pet can see the cars coming at her. Because if your canine cannot see the vehicle, the first time she notices said automobile out of the corner of her eye she is gone like a gust of wind. Less than three blocks into our walk home, Layla became so frightened she went catatonic, frozen, the lights were on but no one was home. I now had to carry a sixty pound dog, pure dead weight.      I have no sense of direction. With sidewalks blocked off and twisting roads closed, I got lost. What was supposed to be a twenty-minute walk turned into the Bataan Death March. I had no cell phone. So, I could not call anyone. No cash.  So, I could not hail a taxi if one happened to drive by.  Even if I somehow spotted someone on the street to ask directions, how many people are going to want to talk to a person who smells of dog urine and sweat, with a nonresponsive dog draped over his shoulders.  My new street was not exactly easy to find.   One o’clock came, then two. The whole time I could hear Layla’s beating heart and, in the back of my mind, the ticking clock of the older dog’s bladder. Tick, tick, tick. My first blister came at three o’clock, followed by a couple of its friends in the next hour. Around five, Layla became responsive enough to loose control of her bowels. I am now covered in poop, urine, and sweat, exhausted, and limping. I felt like one of the Rolling Stones at that moment.   A funny thing happens if you are tired enough. Your brain starts to doubt all the information in it. I started to question what my address was.  Had I mixed up the numbers? Did I have the street right? Six o’clock came, then seven, and I still could not find my street.  It was then I spied an old woman, who had to be at least a hundred and ten, moving like molasses, hunched over her walker, ahead of me about two blocks down the street. She was one of those women that had shrunk so much with age that she was now half hairdo. I was going to catch her and beg her to help me. At worst she would call the police. One little problem, she was actually moving faster than I was. I wanted to yell, but my lips were cracked and my tongue now resembled leather. She turned the corner. I followed. I then lost her.   I looked to the heavens and as if to question if this was my fate. Looking down, I then realized I was standing in front of my house. Never had my older dog been so glad to see me. I collapsed in my lawn furniture on my front patio and fell asleep. The next lesson I learned was this was not the best impression a person would want to make with their new neighbors, an unconscious man who resembles a character out of Oliver Twist and two dogs, both finally fully awake, answering the call of nature everywhere.    I learned another valuable lesson about Arizona while walking Layla. Viagra is an evil drug. It appears there was a problem in the local parks. When men get back in the game, even when they are hanging out in God’s waiting room, where they should be on their best behavior, they tend to cheat. Well, if you are on a fixed income you cannot afford a hotel room once or twice a week. So, if you are carrying on with a married woman, where do you go to cheat? The parks, especially the dog park near my place. It was like a geriatric Caligula. Now add in an extremely friendly dog that is not on a leash (because we are in a DOG PARK,) that wants everyone to be her friend, into the mix. The next season of American Horror Story.   There so many other walks we took together that I don’t have the space for here. Layla is now nine and has been battling hip dysplasia and arthritis. The other day, feeling a seizure coming on, she came looking for me, rounded the corner, and slipped on the kitchen tile.  Her backend swung out wildly as she crashed to the ground. She tore up her back left knee.  It is hard to justify the cost of the surgery, even if I could afford it, and I don’t know many that can, on a dog whose back half is giving out anyway.     So, we are going to try pain management and hope she is going to stay around for a few more months and years. It just means our walks have gone away.  Still, every once in awhile, I come home and she dances with excitement, bouncing up and down. As if somehow the excitement of life makes her forget all the pain. As she spins, I really wonder who rescued whom.    
Walks With Layla   I doubt there will be any more long walks together in our future. It is painful to watch my dog, Layla, go in and out of the house or move from room to room.  There is now a stiffness in her walk that will never go away.   Layla is a rescue dog. She came out of the worst puppy mill in the history of the state of Iowa. Dropped off at the doorstep of a local veterinarian, six weeks old, and deemed worthless because of her handicap. Deaf.  Nine years later, I often wonder who it was who rescued whom.     Our first walks together were to my grandfather’s house. Not even two months old, she would bound down the sidewalk, come to the end of the block, plop her butt down, all her loose skin making her look like she was a misshaped glob of snow melting into the cement, and wait for me to catch up. We would cross the street together. She would then race down the next sidewalk, stop, and wait for me, block after block until we got to my grandfather’s.   Like her, his hearing had pretty much gone. My grandmother had died a few months earlier. Theirs was maybe one of the few love stories I saw play out in real life. Without her guiding light, his flame was flickering. He had let go of so many things. I would see him through the window, sitting in his chair, watching TV. Knowing he could not hear the doorbell and not wanting to startle him by just appearing in his TV room, I would open the door and Layla would bound in.   By the time I got to the room, she had already leaped into his lap. Her paws on his shoulder. His wrinkled, liver spotted hands holding her chest. She bathed his face with every lick she could muster. Then there was that laugh, not really a laugh, but that sound of joy that escapes from deep inside that would come out of him.  And when her head was not in the way, for a brief moment, I saw that sparkle in his eye that had dimmed after my grandma died.  Somehow, this pain-in-the butt puppy did the impossible. For however brief it was, and I know it seemed longer than it was, she brought my grandfather back to me.  Day after day, week after week, until I moved away, the magic of this ritual never failed.   One day she walked out into the backyard and sat outside by herself. It was strange behavior for an animal that cannot stand to be by herself. She just sat there, even when I beckoned for her to come in. A few hours later I got the call that my grandfather had died earlier that day.      She made numerous friends on our jaunts together, along with several neighbors who weren’t exactly thrilled with her introducing herself to them. On one walk in Las Vegas, she befriended a porn star from California, dressed only in a towel, who had accidently locked herself out of her “agent’s” home.  On another in Phoenix, I discovered her playfully rolling around with a coyote. Outside of Great Falls, Montana, she somehow found a bison that she wanted to bring home. I don’t know which one of the three scared me more.     There was that walk in Phoenix, right after we just pulled in and unloaded the moving truck. It was not supposed to be much of a walk at all. I was just going to drop the U-Haul off and hoof it back to our new home. Leaving the older Golden Retriever in the entryway because he was still so doped up on sleeping pills that were supposed to help him with the motion sickness he got on any trip of more than a few miles, my cell phone dead, my wallet on the kitchen counter, Layla and I piled into the truck. The return center was not even a couple of miles away, on Bell Avenue I believe. Throw the keys in the return slot and, if everything went right, we should be home long before midnight.    I learned a lot of valuable lessons that night. Phoenix, like everywhere else, has a lot of road construction. Streets and sidewalks are torn up here and there. What was supposed to be two simple turns turned into a journey that resembled what your IPod ear buds look like after they have been in your pocket.   I also learned that where old people live there are a lot of walls forming gated communities and the streets are purposely built not to be straight. These places were designed by Del Webb to keep the undesirables out, i.e. blacks and Hispanics. They don’t want foot traffic outside of the senior areas. The sidewalks are often mere afterthoughts with no buffer between them and the road.   Here is the most important lesson I learned. If you have a deaf dog, walk against traffic, not with traffic. Walk so your pet can see the cars coming at her. Because if your canine cannot see the vehicle, the first time she notices said automobile out of the corner of her eye she is gone like a gust of wind. Less than three blocks into our walk home, Layla became so frightened she went catatonic, frozen, the lights were on but no one was home. I now had to carry a sixty pound dog, pure dead weight.      I have no sense of direction. With sidewalks blocked off and twisting roads closed, I got lost. What was supposed to be a twenty- minute walk turned into the Bataan Death March. I had no cell phone. So, I could not call anyone. No cash.  So, I could not hail a taxi if one happened to drive by.  Even if I somehow spotted someone on the street to ask directions, how many people are going to want to talk to a person who smells of dog urine and sweat, with a nonresponsive dog draped over his shoulders.  My new street was not exactly easy to find.   One o’clock came, then two. The whole time I could hear Layla’s beating heart and, in the back of my mind, the ticking clock of the older dog’s bladder. Tick, tick, tick. My first blister came at three o’clock, followed by a couple of its friends in the next hour. Around five, Layla became responsive enough to loose control of her bowels. I am now covered in poop, urine, and sweat, exhausted, and limping. I felt like one of the Rolling Stones at that moment.   A funny thing happens if you are tired enough. Your brain starts to doubt all the information in it. I started to question what my address was.  Had I mixed up the numbers? Did I have the street right? Six o’clock came, then seven, and I still could not find my street.  It was then I spied an old woman, who had to be at least a hundred and ten, moving like molasses, hunched over her walker, ahead of me about two blocks down the street. She was one of those women that had shrunk so much with age that she was now half hairdo. I was going to catch her and beg her to help me. At worst she would call the police. One little problem, she was actually moving faster than I was. I wanted to yell, but my lips were cracked and my tongue now resembled leather. She turned the corner. I followed. I then lost her.   I looked to the heavens and as if to question if this was my fate. Looking down, I then realized I was standing in front of my house. Never had my older dog been so glad to see me. I collapsed in my lawn furniture on my front patio and fell asleep. The next lesson I learned was this was not the best impression a person would want to make with their new neighbors, an unconscious man who resembles a character out of Oliver Twist and two dogs, both finally fully awake, answering the call of nature everywhere.    I learned another valuable lesson about Arizona while walking Layla. Viagra is an evil drug. It appears there was a problem in the local parks. When men get back in the game, even when they are hanging out in God’s waiting room, where they should be on their best behavior, they tend to cheat. Well, if you are on a fixed income you cannot afford a hotel room once or twice a week. So, if you are carrying on with a married woman, where do you go to cheat? The parks, especially the dog park near my place. It was like a geriatric Caligula. Now add in an extremely friendly dog that is not on a leash (because we are in a DOG PARK,) that wants everyone to be her friend, into the mix. The next season of American Horror Story.   There so many other walks we took together that I don’t have the space for here. Layla is now nine and has been battling hip dysplasia and arthritis. The other day, feeling a seizure coming on, she came looking for me, rounded the corner, and slipped on the kitchen tile.  Her backend swung out wildly as she crashed to the ground. She tore up her back left knee.  It is hard to justify the cost of the surgery, even if I could afford it, and I don’t know many that can, on a dog whose back half is giving out anyway.     So, we are going to try pain management and hope she is going to stay around for a few more months and years. It just means our walks have gone away.  Still, every once in awhile, I come home and she dances with excitement, bouncing up and down. As if somehow the excitement of life makes her forget all the pain. As she spins, I really wonder who rescued whom.