A LUCKY DOG TAKES A WALK
in a time of pandemic, Celebrating the Ordinary
But it shouldn’t take a microbe to tell us there is a lot more to our lives than Donald Trump.
It shouldn’t be that way. But it is, and as the coronavirus pandemic closes in on our little corner of the Atlantic seacoast in Newport, R.I., I’ve been thinking about many things, but mainly that I’m a lucky dog.
“Phoebe,” you say, “we think of you as a ‘sweet’ dog. What’s luck got to do with it?”
Okay, try this.
I live a couple of blocks away from one of the most famous mansions in the world. “The Breakers” was built by the Vanderbilt robber baron dynasty and has 70 rooms. Up to 1 million tourists pay to walk through it and nearby mansions every year.
“But, you’re a dog, and they don’t let dogs in, so that’s lucky?”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, nobody else is getting into The Breakers, either. Governor Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, unlike Trump, is working hard to keep her voters alive. She's issuing tough love orders about “social distancing,” telling bars to close and restaurants to do only do take-out; advising New Yorkers fleeing to their summer homes to age-in-place for a couple of weeks after they get here, and telling people who favor crowds to "cut it out!"
All I'm saying is that I live in a house the size of a grape, but within walking distance of The Breakers.
On some days, like today, The Grouchy One and I walk to The Breakers and keep going to the Cliff Walk, which is behind the mansion and is another big tourist draw. It’s pretty spectacular, with jagged cliffs and the ocean on one side and a bunch of mansions on the other side, although none as humongous as The Breakers.
All we have to do is walk out the front door of the grape, turn left, keep going straight.
“So, you live in a snooty place. You’re trying to rub it in?
Not my point. It’s a fact that in a small state like Rhode Island, most people live minutes from the seacoast, a park, a forest, a river, Narragansett Bay or something similar. And then there’s the country itself, the United States of America, which turns out be a pretty good place to be. Lucky us.
“Blah, blah, Phoebe. What’s the big deal?”
You can hear it in the phone calls. The Humans have been on the phone a lot while waiting for the full force of COVID-19 to strike, sometimes using what they call the “speaker,” so they each can hear both sides of the conversations, and so can I.
They talk to their “children,” who are actually grownups, and have been for a while, and with other members of the family, in Vermont and as far away as London. And they are talking with friends they used to work with or who were classmates in college. A lot of them are in their 70s and some in their 80s. They've all had other health issues, which is a qualification for membership in the coronavirus “vulnerable” club – Trump’s people use the term "expendable.".
Listening in, as dogs do, these conversations sound pretty ordinary, boring, in fact.
Hello, what are you doing, how are you, am I calling at a good time, how’s the weather, the kids, the grandkids, what’s the weather like, been to the store lately, it’s raining here, again, what are you watching on Netflix, reading any good books, more rain tomorrow and can you believe what Trump said. The usual stuff.
“You sure know how to do boring, Phoebe. Be a good girl and wrap things up.”
That's what I thought, until I realized what’s different about these phone calls is that they aren't as much about hello as goodbye.
At The Breakers, the tall iron gates are closed, a chain wrapped around the iron bars, secured by a padlock. We go to the Cliff Walk. Ocean waves are rolling in, still scary beautiful, even on a foggy day, but no one is around to see that, except us.
On the way back, we go through my favorite park, which is popular with lots of other dogs and their people. No one around today. The playground swings and merry-go-round are wrapped in yellow caution tape, in case a visitor misses the PLAYGROUND CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE sign.
My world is the same, but it's also different.
Back home, The Nice One is having breakfast, and Grouchy begins fixing mine, which means pouring pellets from a container into into a bowl.
Another day, a routine day, a good day, is getting underway but not taken for granted. Tomorrow is a question. Today, I'm a lucky dog.