I haven’t done a dogs and writing post in a while and when I tried to think about why, I decided it must be because I’m not training Cassie as much as I used to. As a new to us dog, we went through a lot of training but now that she’s been with us a couple of years we’ve slacked off. I realized that she isn’t playing as much as she used to. Not that she was ever that much into play time but she did have a few favorite toys she’d take out of the toy box and shake around. I tossed the egg baby for her and she watched me with a total lack of interest. I shook Mr. Monkey and gorilla in front of her face and she turned her head. I lined up all the stuffed animals that made noises and set them off one by one, the rooster, the monkey, the dog, the pig, the frog and the laughing koala that sounds like a baby. She walked away and rang the bell to go outside.

I followed her outside as she made her way around the garden. She shadowed a giant Carpenter bee as it danced from one pink Clarkia to the next then when it flew away she continued down the path to Dogwood alley. I sat on the glider and watched her meander down the bluestone path, sniffing the Monkey Flower, the Yerba Buena, nibbling on some grass. She reached the gate at the end of the path and nudged it with her nose to check, I suppose, if we humans had forgotten to latch it so she could go to her favorite spot in the front courtyard. As she came back up the path I watched the finches dart in and out of the Sambucus which is half-covered in flowers and half-covered in unripe berries. A pair of Mourning Doves poked around the base of the St. Catherine’s lace which was swollen with buds not yet ready to open.

She paused at the arbor at the end of the path and pushed her head through the mass of Clematis and Ribes and Pipevine, then, finding nothing, she joined me on the glider (she’s mastered the art of going back and forth on it.) She pushed past me to sniff the Ceanothus hanging over my head (I’m sure there was a bee involved) and when she pulled her head back, it was covered with tiny blue blossoms. We sat there together for a few minutes. She continued to sniff the air and I watched the doves move toward the Manzanita at the edge of the patio.

One of our resident hummingbirds zipped by and Cassie jumped off the glider to chase it then stopped when I uttered those words no dog wants to hear – “Leave it!” I’m sure I only imagined her sigh of frustration. She traced the path the rest of the way across the yard, (paying no attention to the doves), nuzzling the water from the bubbling rock (earning another “leave it”), sniffing the mulch under the Japanese Maple and then she ignored the path and chose to clomp her way through the ferns and Seep Monkey Flower to the other arbor where the Hummingbird Sage stood guard. She nosed all the flowers, almost ate a spider and then thought better of it and walked down the other sideyard. This side has no plants, nothing great to smell unless you count the garbage can but still, she walked to the end and nosed the gate just once, like she didn’t really want to get out, before coming back in my direction.

She never paused when she passed me, she just headed right up the back step and rang the outside bells to be let in, glancing over her shoulder at me when I didn’t move fast enough to suit her.

I got the idea that this is a path she has traveled many times.

That’s the way it is, sometimes, with some writing, some stories. We travel the same paths over and over again, visit the same characters, the same setting, again and again and we wonder if we are making progress or just chasing our own tails as we walk in circles in the story. I don’t know that we can really judge it (though we try to) when we are in the middle of it all. I think the most we can hope for or the best we can try for is to pay attention because each time through, the view changes a little bit.

My garden isn’t always in bloom, there aren’t always bees for Cassie to follow, and at times there are so many birds in the yard that I make her wait for ten minutes before I will even let her outside, no matter how much she is ringing the bell. But every time she goes out, any time of day or night, she walks the same path, from gate to gate, sniffing the air and paying attention to what is in her world.

I think I owe my story the same kind of dedication.