Morning Trek with Tanner

This morning, I decided to mix up my routine. I needed to take my van to be doctored and instead of accepting the usual courtesy ride home, I brought along Tanner, my beloved German Shepherd Dog, so he and I could enjoy a summer morning walk. My motives were multiple. The beautiful morning air lured me outside. I figured I could use some exercise and natural Vitamin D. And, most importantly, in a household with multiple dogs, I was craving some Tanner time. Alone, just the two of us, a girl and her dog. I figured that the leash and experiences that connected us during this outing would help us forge an even closer bond.

With the van checked in, Tanner and I set out. The route back home is straight and busy, a concrete jungle of commercial buildings, roadways, and traffic. But with Tanner by my side, I chose the road less traveled and found myself meandering through the neighborhoods of South Chico, an area bordered by the main road I travel daily, but with an interior I had never fully explored. Initially, I had planned to walk at a power pace, but when I left the busy corridor, I entered a world of quiet and calm; my pace slowed. As Tanner and I walked along, we both absorbed the new surroundings.

Our journey took us to the back side of a senior-living complex; the front side faces the busy commercial corridor I’d avoided. I had always felt a bit sorry for those who lived within since their neighborhood seemed so cold. But beyond the main street facade I discovered a complex of lovely little units. Instead of an impersonal, multi-resident dwelling, I found a colorful, happy place where individuality was evident in porches adorned with flowers and decorated doors. Tanner was enthralled by the smells of one small tree outside one unit’s porch, a signal, I believe, that a small, cherished dog was living large inside. Behind each porch, each door, I knew was a story of love, loss, and labor-core life elements arranged in ways uniquely personal for those who dwelled inside.

Further down we were startled by a din of cooing from beyond a sturdy wooden fence. Tanner stopped, mesmerized, perplexed, and I joined him in his wonder. He sniffed the air and cocked his head as he cautiously approached the fence. What strange beings could create such a gentle roar? Mourning doves? A flock, I supposed, cooing out their morning greetings as this summer day unfolded.

We passed two houses similar in architecture and color, but there the sameness stopped. In the driveway of one was a set of vintage, dusty cars, a likely product of a poorly attended hobby; perhaps the hobbyist’s life had changed so that he or she no longer had the time. Along the driveway of the other was an arrangement of beautiful potted plants, clear evidence of a labor of flowery love. How interesting to see these contrasts in handicraft and hearth.

And so we wove our way home, Tanner and I. Past the artifacts of people’s lives, along the public corridors that allowed us to journey by their private spaces. I felt part explorer, part voyeur, part proud citizen of my little town, filled with ordinary people doing simple yet extraordinary things to translate bricks and mortar, flora and fauna, into meaningful expressions of person and place.

But for Tanner, I would not have made that trek. But for that trek, I would not have gotten off the beaten path. A girl, her dog, and a morning voyage with an unexpected vantage point on a Chico summer morning.

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2 thoughts on “Morning Trek with Tanner

  1. Maria DeCastro

    Thank you so much for sharing these moments and memories, Sarah. This is a heartfelt story, and your connection with Tanner is poignantly beautiful. Each day I feel as though my time with E is limited to hours or even minutes. Largely, you know my story. But for some reason, the struggle becomes increasingly more complicated and exhausting each day. I do not understand much of anything these days. This part is to be expected, as life ebbs and flows.

    But with each challenge, I feel the happy moments I once had with E and the others a distant memory. Almost not real anymore. I do not smile as much. Laughter is rare. And I know E feels my sorrow. He’s my light and love, so the paralysis I feel is foreign and horrifying.

    So per your request, to honor your beloved boy Tanner, as well as your example, I promise to do better, or at least try. To turn the music up and dance with Elliott, like I once did. To walk around and talk nonsense in a boisterous Russian accent–the voice he took as his own so long ago. I swear to get off the damn computer and lie on the filthy floor next to him to rub his belly and soft spots behind his ears–the spots that make him snort wistfully. And so help me god, for Tanner and all other furry babies who we lose too soon, I’ll find a way to force myself into the car to chauffeur E to the river so that no sticks remain lie lifeless and unloved. For your Tanner and for my Elliott, I will make a few more happy memories to match those I made with undying commitment 14 years ago, and 7 years ago, and 3 years ago.

    . And while your final days with Tanner weren’t exactly as you hoped, it doesn’t matter. He was in the hands of rare angel, safe and loved. And you tried so very hard to find him the perfect place of his own. What really matters is that you NEVER, ever, gambled on his well-being, obviously noting whatever it was that wasn’t just right.

    Making it count.

    XO

  2. Lori Kludt

    Oh Sarah, my heart breaks for you. Molly is my first dog, and I never knew he sheer joy she could bring. It may sound simple, but Molly likes to lay very close, laying on the floor having her sweet belly rubbed. She wants me very close, and if I start to move away, she gets closer. If I stop rubbing, she lifts her head up, and looks at me as if to say don’t stop. I will connect with Molly in that way, even if it’s just laying next to her. I will think of Tanner as I do this, wish that his belly is being rubbed in heaven. Blessings to you Sarah❤️

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