When I was a kid, if I ever made the mistake of complaining to my dad about a chore, Dad would remind us of the fact that when HE was our age, he had to get up at the crack of dawn and pitchfork down hay for his family’s horses. He always made sure to mention that the horses ate breakfast before he did. I was thinking of this at 7 in the morning the other day, as I stumbled down the side of the road with Janey without as much as a drop of coffee in me. It was percolating half a mile back in the warm kitchen, and I have to say it’s my preferred way to wake up, although I guess taking an icy blast of winter wind right up the nostrils works, too.

There are a lot of nice things about living alone. One of the downsides is that all the Janey care falls to me now. And it’s a responsibility that I take seriously. (That doesn’t mean I sign over all my rights to complain about it, though.) The horses ate first. Janey gets her walk before I get my coffee.

We’re getting a routine down on the four days a week that I have work. We take a morning walk before I leave the house at about 7:30. Usually, I set up something I call The Janeycam to keep an eye on her while I’m out. I was worried that spending so much time without me would freak her out, but it turns out she’s an expert at chilling.

So while I’m at work, she naps and snoozes and dozes and, in the early afternoon, climbs on the couch arm to bark at the mailman. Sometimes she naps in the same sunspot as Juno. So far, the only time she’s shown distress is the day when I left the sink running to stop the pipes from freezing during The Arctic Blast, and she howled for half an hour. (My working theory is that she heard the sound of water and thought it was raining inside, and she hates rain.) I get home at about 7 p.m.

For those of you doing the math at home, that’s a 10- to 11-hour shift depending on the day, most of which is spent on my feet. The last thing I want to do when I get home is power-walk a mile up and down my hilly neighborhood.

But power walk a mile I do, because Janey has a whole day’s energy stored up. She doesn’t just want a leisurely stroll. She wants to book it the whole way.


I hated the night walks at first. But slowly, I’ve started to find things I like about them. (Or I’ve developed Stockholm syndrome.) My neighborhood is quiet in the evening, quiet enough that I can hear the streams bubbling full of melting snow. It’s rural, and residential, and not a useful shortcut to here or there. I wear a reflector vest and carry a flashlight, of course, but I can hear a car coming half a mile away. Some nights recently the moon has been so bright that I’ve clicked off the flashlight and we’ve walked by moonlight alone. (I turn on the flashlight if I see a car’s headlights in the distance. Safety first!)

It’s a common misconception, but the night sky isn’t black. I’m not an artist, so I can’t name its exact color, but I know it can’t be black, because when I look up I can see the black outline of the pine trees tall and wild outlined against the sky. And the stars. The stars look like God spilled glitter during a craft project and didn’t do a good job cleaning it up. And there’s something beautiful about nights when it’s too cloudy to see the stars, too. I saw an airplane’s lights make beams in fog one evening, just like my flashlight was doing, only a mile in the air.

It doesn’t stay quiet forever, though. Our neighborhood is well-stocked with dogs and at this point, I can tell them apart by their barks. Like any good self-appointed guard dog, they alert their owners when a stranger passes by in the dark. Impressively, Janey doesn’t bark back. My mom thinks it’s because she’s saving her breath in case she needs to run away. I think it’s because she’s just such a good girl. Of course, given that she disturbs everyone’s evening by her presence, I’m not sure my neighbors feel the same way about her.

I live on a long, sloping hill, with a streetlight at the top and at the bottom. In addition to dogs, most of the houses on the street have porch lights that guide me like a string of tiny lighthouses. The house with the old pitbull, the garage with the little spaniel mix, the home at the crossroads with the indeterminate number of Boston Terriers, the neighbors with the two German Shepherds. Their BORK BORK BORKs guide us all the way back down the hill to home.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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