Esteban and I have had a house guest for the past week. Karma is an ancient chocolate Labrador who has the lumbering gait (and general size) of a bear, but the temperament of a lamb.
At first, I felt a bit impatient on my walks with Karma. Her pace is slow and deliberate, thanks to her creaky arthritic hips. Covering a single block can take 15 minutes—or longer, if she stops to sniff.
But I’ve gotten over it. I’ve learned to embrace her slow pace because it forces me to slow down, too, and observe the world around me. And as it turns out, it also invites conversation.
“That’s a big dog you got there,” said one guy yesterday. Karma approached him slowly, with her tail wagging and her head bowed. It was barely 5 a.m. and I’d already made a new acquaintance: Bill, a printer, who walks to work every day “pretty much year-round.”
And this afternoon I met a young Chinese couple from the student/family housing that’s a few blocks down the street. The man is studying physics; his wife is a biologist. I eyed their progeny in the stroller and imagined two little Nobel Prize winners in the making.
A bit later I heard yelling from across the street. “Did you get a new old dog?” called my neighbor Naomi, who was working on her roof. We chatted for 15 or 20 minutes, though she never left her perch.
Then, I saw my neighbor Erna sitting on her front steps. She was stemming a huge pile of strawberries she and her husband had just picked. Karma immediately began eating the discarded stems. I plopped down on the walkway, across from Erna. We caught up on a year’s worth of news.
In all, it took Karma and me almost two hours to walk around the block this afternoon. It was a far slower pace than I’d usually prefer—but the experience was far richer, too.
Here’s the old girl, in all her glory: