The dogs and I on our morning walk

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WE have never pretended to be imaginative on our morning walk -- the dogs and I. We turn left from the front gate, past the last house on the next block, and into the hills. A bathrobed neighbor, retrieving her morning paper, calls, ``Watch out for coyotes. Saw one up by the vacant lot last night.'' Going downward on the slope, we nod recognition to a group of huddled construction workers. They talk quietly as they wait in the predawn cold to begin shaping the skeleton houses on the terraced lots.

Keesh bolts forward, pulling on the leash with indiscriminate zeal for squirrel, rabbit, bird, or bug. Taffy keeps pace briskly. I notice an early lupine beginning to bloom at the curve in the road.

We pass the blue Pinto wagon. A man drives his two hunting dogs to that spot nearly every morning. Unleashed, they obey him with excruciating precision. Sometimes we see them moving on the adjacent hillside. He and I wave a distant acknowledgment. Occasionally he will point toward coyotes slinking away from the road off into the canyon.

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Often we meet the lady in trench coat and hat walking a matched pair of well-bred Airedale terriers. Or the small, somber man with the large, unleashed Labrador who will not obey him.

We take a looping side road in order to see a special view of the snow on Mt. Baldy and the hills below. At the bend, we turn and start back. About that time the sun rises, and we halfwalk, halfrun all the way up the last hill.

At home, there's biscuits and water all around as we unwind gently from our exertion. Afterward the dogs grow sleepy. Taffy curls up in her basket, and Keesh stretches out at the front gate by the time I must leave and drive to my office miles away.

Sometimes during the day I see their faces before me in the very midst of business. Taffy, the white Cockapoo -- eternal puppy, cautious, timid, skipping like a lamb for me as freely as she did when my grown children were in grade school. Keesh, the stray keeshond who attached herself to us on a morning walk and never left -- exuberant, gregarious, blustering, guardian, always the unexpected.

Then the telephone rings and meetings extend and reports pile up. There are unplanned projects and urgent interruptions and routine correspondence. There's the whole continuous sequence of interactions with people and paper and machines. Then, finally, a rounding out of the workday with a last shuffling of files and click of the desk lock.

In the soft weariness of day's end, I move with the momentum and rhythm of homeward-bound traffic. Through the darkening streets, lights begin to appear in homes and apartments. Bikers shoot past on the right side, and a bewildered cat hesitates in the street before returning to the curb it just left.

As the traffic thins, the hills begin. I consciously do not hurry, prolonging the long pull up to the curving summit and drawing out the western sky view, dark and red with lights in the distance.

My car swings around the corner and into the garage. The dogs are at the gate. The house waits to draw us in.

A hundred years ago (or was it yesterday?) we were a quartet. Remembrance of the past is here and not here. We move into the immediate, the now -- rushing, reaching, jumping, leaping, grasping, holding. Together.

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