Every morning, Angus and I head out. We walk past the elementary school, now silent and dark, and toward the deserted park. We cross the bridge and pass the conservatory, once open every day of the year but now locked, with CLOSED signs taped to the windows.
These early-morning walks are long and strange — strange because right now everything is strange. And long because I am working from home. I have no bus to catch, no 40-minute commute to the newsroom. On walks, I can take my time.
So we meander. Angus sets the pace. He snuffles the dead leaves in the woods and stares down squirrels. Chipmunks have emerged from hibernation, and when they skitter across our path, he lunges.
We walk on, and on, and on. He is a great companion in these fraught times. He’s not filled with angst, as I am; he is filled with joy and curiosity at the world, and his enthusiasm helps me feel joy, too. He has become a great walker, dependable and sturdy, like my old Toyota Tercel.
His impulse control has improved immeasurably, and while squirrels and chipmunks still excite him, he ignores all people (as long as they ignore us) and he does his level best to ignore other dogs. (His level best is not always all that great.)
Not that we see many people or dogs these days — everyone, it seems, is sheltering in place.
When we get home I rip off my gloves and, even though I have touched nothing more than a dog leash, I throw them into the wash. Then I roll up my sleeves, scrub my hands and arms up to my elbows, wipe down my cellphone with an antiseptic wipe, climb the stairs to my computer, and get to work.
Angus, my faithful shadow, follows. My husband is also working from home, parked at the desk in the spare bedroom. I hunker down on the sunny enclosed porch off our bedroom, sitting at a plastic table we hauled up from the laundry room. Angus collapses on the rug outside my doorway, taking up most available space, and falls asleep.
Seeing him there soothes me.
In the evening, we walk again, a different route, passing the yard where there are often wild turkeys and deer. Yesterday there were deer, six of them, and Angus stopped cold and stared, refusing to budge even when I chuckled at him and jiggled the leash. Eventually we walked on, and he stopped again, this time to sniff deer tracks in the mud. It was only then that he barked.
Slowing down and experiencing the walk from a dog’s point of view is one of the few gifts of this pandemic. When Angus wants to stop and sniff a tree trunk, we stop and he sniffs the tree trunk. When Rosie gets it in her head that she wants to take a different route, she and Doug take a different route.
I think the dogs are happy we are all home together. We let them out frequently, we take breaks to scratch their bellies, we always feed them on time.
Mary the Magical Dogwalker still comes by twice a week because the dogs love her. Besides, the fact that our workspace is now upstairs in our house rather than downtown in Minneapolis is no reason to take her work away from her.
I miss the newsroom, I miss my colleagues, I miss going out to lunch, I miss strolling to Loring Park over the noon hour to look at the gardens, I miss stopping for dinner or a drink after work with friends.
But as Angus and I leave the six deer behind us and climb the stairs to our back porch, I can see Doug and Rosie in the kitchen, getting dinner started — well, Doug getting dinner started, and Rosie looking for scraps — and I am glad we are all home together, too.
Laurie Hertzel is the books editor at the Star Tribune. She has been writing about life with Angus since he was 7 weeks old.
To read all of Angus’ adventures, go to startribune.com/puppy