During our early morning ritual, I speak quietly and murmur endearments to each of the pups. Then comes the best part. The time when I do nothing but listen. To the crunch of canine teeth on dry dog food. To the whirr of the ceiling fan. To the tree frogs and crickets who have not yet decided to sleep the day way. To the songbirds slowly waking and testing their voices with a solitary note which hangs in the air. To the jingle of tags as the dogs release some of the pent-up energy stored from the long night inside.
Eventually the dogs become still and they make their way to me pretending to need head scratches, but in their dancing eyes I always find impatience and eagerness and joy as they send me telepathic messages to move it and get my walking shoes on!
Our walks begin down the same familiar path past the cherry tree and into the wooded trail that leads to open pastures and eventually to the lake for a swim. The dogs thunder down the path and all I see are a variety of tails bouncing and wagging as they taste complete freedom. Once in a while one of my companions will remember I cannot keep up the pace and will pause and turn, looking back over a shoulder to make sure I have not perished in the wood before springing forward again and leaving me in the dust.
Eventually I will catch up to the pups who are no longer so full of pent up energy and I will admire their beauty from a distance. The tilt of their heads as they lift their snouts to pick up a scent. The magnificence of their canine musculature. Their complete and utter appreciation of nature. And I realize how precious a gift they provide me by affording me the opportunity to drink in the tranquility and clear my mind in preparation for the upcoming work week.
Throughout a walk, the dogs race back and forth, dashing in and out of the underbrush to let me know that my protectors are on alert. Occasionally, one will give me a quick head butt to let me know my safe procession through the trails can continue.
Once when making our way back home, in the distance a limb snapped and fell with a crash to ground. My brave and strong companions flew to my side, tails under and heads down, a little glimmer of worry in their eyes. In turn, I placed my hand on each of their heads and assured them all was well. There was a time when I was the hero and defender of a red-headed toddler whose arms circled my leg and whose head was hidden against my pants from anything startling. With these pups, I feel my role as guardian once again.
I have considered studying the art of meditation, but I think I may already be a master of my own style of deliberate contemplation. I was taught to take time to drink it in, the world in its quiet moments before the chaos of the day unfolds. I was taught to experience joy, to relish a good nap, to appreciate a cool drink, to stop and enjoy the warmth of the sun on my face…by some of the greatest four-legged teachers in the world.