It’s Monday night. New Year’s Eve. Work was good. But I’m in this funk that I can’t seem to shake. I really hope I can get myself out of this emotional rabbit hole in 2019. I’m at home lounging in my sweat shorts and tee shirt with Chauncey by my side. Chauncey is a White West Highland Terrier, a little larger than the norm. According to the American Kennel Club’s snooty standards, he should be between fifteen to twenty pounds. He’s a solid thirty but not chubby at all, just a big ol’ farm boy bred in Arkansas. I’m watching the latest popular true crime docuseries streaming on television. Chauncey is getting restless and I can see through the window shades that the sun is beginning to set. It’s time for our walk.
I pause the remote control and get up as he bounces in his usual whimsical fashion. I change into my cargo shorts and slip on my birkenstocks and a hooded windbreaker. Next, I mozy over to the cabinet and pull out a Ziploc® bag and fill it with his treats, which are kept in a cookie jar on the countertop. As I approach the door, I sweep up his leash and my house keys in one swoop. He’s so bouncy that it’s hard to clip the leash to his collar. Okay! We’re on our way. Down the stairwell of my apartment complex and onto the sidewalk. This is my favorite part of my day, every day, as well as Chauncey’s. Here we stroll down the gravelly trail along the Marina del Rey Ballona Wetlands Wildlife Preserve. This preserve is a thin body of marshy water that connects the Venice Canals to the Marina’s main harbor channel to the Pacific Ocean. It’s a quiet path populated by the occasional jogger and dog-walking pedestrian. The homes along here are in a section of town called the Silver Strand, priced from two million to ten million dollars. Celebrities like Ice Cube, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Pink are some of the famous folks known to reside here. The smell of the foliage is sweet and the ambient sounds of insects and swooping herons and egrets make the stroll so peaceful.
Of course, what Chauncey cares most about are the scents left by other dogs on each fencepost and bush. He also enjoys pursuing the foraging squirrels as he comes upon them. At this point, I unclip his leash so he can do his thing unhindered. The walk progresses nicely as we make our way slowly down the half-mile stretch. The path empties out at the channel, where all five thousand boats in the world’s largest man-made marina enter and exit day in and day out. At this point in the evening, most boats are coming in for the night. I walk over and sit at a bench as Chauncey bounces up beside me. From the right pocket of my cargo shorts, I pull out his bag of treats. I stroke his head and back as I feed him one by one, while also trying to pace him so he doesn’t swallow every treat whole. As mama always said, “Chew your food.” So this goes on for fifteen or twenty minutes and we’re both ready for the walk back.
For our return, instead of the path along the creek, we decide to walk along the beach down close to the water. Here we see the sandpipers poking their beaks into the earth for food as the waves come in. The view is breathtaking. Countless footprints from people who came before us, sand dunes, beach houses and the Venice Fishing Pier in the close distance. As I see Chauncey sniffing on a pile of wet seaweed, a jogger slowly paces past me.
Without much thought, I pick up my pace a bit while simultaneously wrapping both ends of the six-foot leather leash around my hands, leaving plenty of slack in the middle. When I catch up to him, before the jogger can turn around, I slip the leash over his head and around the circumference of his neck. I quickly pivot my body so that the leash is in a criss-cross pattern and the jogger and I are back-to-back. I then stand tall, then tighten and pull on the leash with all of my might. Jogger jabs and kicks as I bend over in a sturdy horse stance in order to create a fulcrum so his weight will eventually do all of the work. The breadth of my elbows is enough to shield my face from his attempts to claw or scratch me. His sounds diminish from a yelp to a crackle to a snort. Then nothing. It takes only a couple of minutes but, at the same time, it feels like time is standing still for days. When he goes limp, I release my grip and hear him boomf onto the wet sand as a wave comes in and sprays us both. It is still two hours before high tide so Jogger will soon be on his journey South, to wash up on the rocks somewhere South of Redondo.
I turn to look for Chauncey, only to see him scavenging through a pile of seaweed with his nose buried in a half-eaten bag of chips left by some litterbug scofflaw. Making a whistling sound, I jog a bit to catch up to Chauncey and clip his leash so we can finish our walk. We mozy down the remainder of the beach to the pier, then turn East down Washington Boulevard, passing a strip of bars, restaurants and coffee shops. As I pass my regular haunt, I fist-bump the doorman as he greets Chauncey and me with a smile.
We continue up the block and enter Starbucks. In the spur of the moment, instead of my usual Caffè Latte, I order the seasonal Gingerbread Crème. We arrive back at our abode and I change back into my lounge wear. I flop back onto the sofa, unpause the television and resume my evening. My knees are shaking and I’m euphoric. I feel drunk, high and transcendent all at once. A nirvana beyond description. I feel better than I’ve felt in a very long time. A peace rushes over me. Who knew just making one small change to my routine would get me out of this funk?! To see if I can keep this feeling going into the New Year, I think I’m going to try a different drink on the menu tomorrow night as well!
(NOTE: Some of the above may or may not be fictional)
Now, I’m going to finish my coffee.