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Pearl’s still in our heart

Walkin'

Pearl continues to be a great patient as she rehabs from knee surgery.
At 9, she’s no puppy and her leash-free romps on the farm or at the park may be behind her. But she still loves her walks even if she is tethered.
Pre-injury, I loved to get her amped up before taking her out.
“Wanna walk?” I’d ask.
She’d spark and shoot about like static electricity. Then I’d repeat the question at each step of my routine to get ready. By the time my shoes got slipped on, glasses found, hat donned and sunscreen sprayed, the voltage of her excitement surged to storm level.
But there’s none of that now. When it’s time to go, we sneak up on her and get the leash hooked before she knows what’s happening. She takes to it with austere fortitude, trusting us completely with her fate.
Half Lab and half Poodle, she especially loved to chase and pounce near water. Luckily, we live a block away from a quiet, almost desolate park complete with a large pond.
I stopped letting her run on our land with the new pond just in time. The flesh-eating frogs that popped up were an annoyance when they were small but now they’ve grown as big as rabbits and deadly as piranhas. Just the other day, I found a dead deer half in and half out of the water. Above the water line, the haunches of the poor creature looked normal, dead but normal. Below the water there was nothing but bones, perfectly cleaned bones, including a skull with a nice rack. Some people look for shed antlers in the woods; I watch the shoreline.
Luckily, the pond in the park is the home to your usual Iowa wildlife. You know, ducks, geese and carp. The carp are huge; some as big as 3 feet. In the spring, they laze along the shore, and the hilarity began with Pearl’s first pounce. It’s all slapping, dashing, splashing, fun and games... until she catches one. Luckily she never has; coordination was never her strong suit.
Leash walking her isn’t nearly as much fun for her or me. Sabra has got her up to 20 minutes three times a day (I’m the second-string walker). Pearl still pulls at the leash but not as much. This time of year is particularly difficult because the squirrels are out everywhere getting in their winter nuts. She is mostly obedient and heels, but when there’s fast-moving game at hand she goes from simple-minded to single-minded.
In between the walks, Sabra runs her through a figure-eight course for 10 minutes and, most recently, has her walk over a grid of PVC pipes. Next up are trips to Iowa City, where a technician will swim with her in a tank.
While not doing physical therapy, she’s allowed to roam the ground floor of our home. A couple of toddler gates block her from going upstairs or down. If Sabra is there, she stays by her side. When Sabra leaves, she curls up and sleeps by whatever door or gate her human left from.
We sleep upstairs and used to feed her in the basement. In the morning on her way to breakfast, she’d take each flight in one mighty bound but now her bed and bowl are both on the ground floor. Like I said, she’s been a great patient, taking this change stoically.
Just last night, however, Sabra went to bed early and I noticed her looking wistfully at the gate in front of the stairs.
It wouldn’t be a good thing if she tried to jump it, so I ordered her to her kennel. Like always she obeyed, but as she walked by I thought I read in her face she sure was getting tired of this.
Theoretically, Pearl can heal to the point of being off leash again but I’m guessing, by the time that day comes, she’ll be content to just stay on it. Some time in the not-so-distant future, though, I hope she can join us at night at the foot of our bed.
Besides our hearts, it’s where she belongs and we know it.