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February 15, 2009

Take A Walk

Frankie took his first walk around the neighborhood this year. Up to now he has been limited to walks around the gecko room, to and from the side yard, from the gecko room into the back yard and recently it's been warm enough for Frankie to actually walk around his yard.

Physical limits to Frankie's "get around" can make Frankie cranky. It does worry me when Frankie seems to accept his limited walking time and his limited space. I know it's time for "The Big Walk."

Frankie really likes The Big Walk. The Big Walk means getting out of the house and out of the yard and walking around block in our neighborhood. The course is routine. We go down the drive way, turn left on the street, continue down the street, make a slight left turn at the bottom of the street, and continue up the street. After that it gets a bit tricky. Without me he would end up in someone yard, garage, or other places I don't want him. Regardless of what he thinks, he needs my assistance. And I insist.

So on the day of The Big Walk the weather is exceptionally warm. Frankie had been in his yard grazing and basking since 8:00 a.m. The time is 10:00 p.m. and I completed all morning chores. I decide to take him on The Big Walk.

"Want to go on a walk?" I ask Frankie. This is a phrase I absolutely know that Frankie understands. No matter what direction he is facing or what he is doing in the yard, this question will cause him to turn on a direct course for the gate. Occasionally he will look at me as if to say, "You aren't teasing me, are you?" I repeat the invitation to walk and the reassured tortoise starts his steady walk in the correct direction.

As Frankie walks from the yard to the gate and down the drive way, I gather essential supplies: a bottle of water, a skate board, and a handful of straps stuffed into a messenger bag. By the time I have the alarm set and door locked Frankie is half way down the drive and ready for the first left turn.

Frankie's pace is not as quick as a dog: a large dog, small dog, or even a three legged dog. A eighty year old grandmother could out walk Frankie even if the lady had crutches. I would say that Frankie has the pace of a three year old child. I have learned to take the steps of a three year old child which is about one-fifth the stride of a small woman in orthopedic shoes. You would think we would get no where but don't count Frankie out.

The legend of the tortoise and the hare is based in reality. Frankie is one serious walker. He is concentrated, persevering, steady: a tortoise with a mission. Nothing stops him. . . . . . except perhaps dandelions and carrots. Children, parked cars, pot holes, piles of leaves, garbage cans, and even my feet are all things to plow through. Frankie walks a straight line and pity the object in his path. This is another reason Frankie needs me as a guide: to get him safely around obstacles.

This being the first Big Walk since last year, I wonder if he will remember the normal course we always take. Frankie answers this with seeming complete knowledge of said path by requiring no course corrections. . . . .up to the regular point where Frankie and I always disagree as to the direction we are go proceed. He would like to go straight forward, over a curb and into oblivion which is a short bit of weeds and then a twenty foot drop into an undeveloped area of the neighborhood. I have been so tempted to let him discover the foolishness of this so called desired course of his but the "mom" in me always insist on forcing a turn.

Forcing a turn means blocking his path with my legs and feet. He will bump, step on and attempt the basketball fake on me to proceed his intended direction. The fight for control over the direction is as brutal as any professional sporting event. If I start loosing the battle I bring out reinforcements: the skateboard (you were wondering about the skateboard weren't you).

If Frankie refuses to quit fighting and take my direction I put him on the skateboard. The skateboard has a pull rope attached so once he is loaded up I pull the skateboard and him back to the desired path. The straps are for extreme situations. I will wrap the straps on so Frankie can't slip off. I can pull him up steep inclines without him falling off the back. The skateboard has saved me many, many times. Once I get Frankie re-orientated to my direction, I will take him off and we will proceed with The Big Walk.

This day being the first Big Walk of the year and first in several months, we only go half the route. We return exhausted (okay, I return exhausted) and Frankie is ready to hit the back yard for some serious grazing. I can't wait for a nap.

We've been gone for thirty five minutes. It's a walk that I can do all by myself in eight minutes.

It's not called The Big Walk for nothing.

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