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Wednesday, April 25 Opinion

The Home Team: Going dog-less ... at least trying to

It's been just over three months since our beloved Ricky the Beagle passed away. On April 18, in my column "Goodbye to a good, good dog," I wrote about how Ricky was an important part of every day of my life for 11 years. In the weeks since he died, I've missed his cuddly little presence big time.

On the other hand ... I do have to admit that going dog-less gives you a certain degree of freedom. And adds some pretty big chunks of discretionary time to your day.

Let's take mid-morning, for instance. I don't have to interrupt the flow of what I'm doing to take my dog for a walk. (Or on a driving excursion, as Ricky preferred.) No momentum-breaking stop at Starbuck's. Nope, I can just keep grinding away. Like today, for example. As I write, it's almost 3 p.m. on a beautiful late-summer day, and I haven't even been outside yet. Just work, work, work. God, I wish I could find some excuse to leave the house ...

Overnight, too. I can sleep right through. I don't have to hear that heavy, rhythmic breathing from Ricky's perch on the easy chair, though it was kind of comforting. Very, in fact. No shakety-shake at 5 a.m., when Ricky would rouse himself to go outside and take care of busines. No nails clacking on the hardwood floor of the living room, no taking the stairs three at a time, leading up to a flying leap back into his doggy bed to continue those Zs. No hugs with my sleepy fur-ball. None of that. I can snooze right up to my alarm.

I can also watch "Ray Donovan" on Sunday nights, sans interruption. An entire episode, undisturbed. No engaging little creature nudging my calf, teddy bear stuffed in his jaws, looking for someone to play fetch with. Man, how great is that -- being able to watch TV without having to pause.

Grilling. I can devote my full concentration. I don't have to "box out" some little dog who's searching for an open lane to the hot dogs and sausages and steak. He'd even settle for some discarded tin foil, or a plastic cheese wrapper -- or a lick of the greasy grill when the barbecue is finished. I can be so much more efficient without that distraction.

And I sure have a lot more freedom of movement when I do my errands around town. I can park and run into Walgreens or Athletic Shoe or Barnes & Noble without stopping to lock the doors and crack the windows. And while I'm driving, I have my right hand free, instead of constantly needing to stroke that contentedly snoring, soft and warm little animal.

When I'm holed up in my study working on a column or a blog post or prepping for one of my writing classes, I don't have to run downstairs when the UPS man shows up, because there's no dog barking at him. Nor do I have to spend time with the UPS man joking about how "ferocious" my little guard beagle is. Nor hear about how he's the cutest dog the UPS man has ever seen.

At the beach, I can sit in my sand chair, and just read and relax. No need to go chasing 50 yards to where my dog is investigating some stranger's tote bag. Where he'll eventually find that stranger's lunch. I won't have to apologize for his sniffing and snooping. Or be told that it's OK that he snagged a few potato chips; after all, he's such a handsome little guy.

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And when I get home from a weekend away, I can unpack the car in peace -- without watching out for some wildly enthusiastic, tail-wagging maniac, begging for kisses and hugs and tummy-scratching, and needing me to get down on the floor with him, so he can lick my face endlessly. Nope, I can take my time, and put everything away in an orderly and efficient fashion.

Yup, I've had so much more freedom these last few months. It's been way more relaxing.

God, do I need a dog!

Hank Herman is a Westport writer, and "The Home Team" appears every other Friday. You can keep up with him on his "Beagle Man" blog -- http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman/ -- and on Twitter @BeagleManHank. He may be reached at DoubleH50@gmail.com.