I turn off the alarm, slide out of bed noiselessly to avoid waking anyone, and pull on jeans and a sweater. Buddy is already dancing on his back legs, cheering me on, "Let's go! Hurry, Mom, No time to waste!" I give no thought as to what I look like. Downstairs, I pull my tennis shoes on without untying them; button up my heavy woolen pea coat; slip a bag, my phone and house keys into my pocket; and grab the leash from the hook. Buddy springs up and down, higher and higher, while I unlock and unbolt the doors. We slip outside; the only noise is the retractable leash zipping out and rattling back in.
It is brisk, and I pull the collar of my coat up. We head to the corner and cross the street. We will walk around the school and the park at least once, sometimes twice. Out of all these mornings, which are not consistent, we have seen one other dog walker, one runner, and someone walking home from the El- a police officer I assumed by the hour, the dark pants, and the tired gait of someone ready to sleep. Buddy stays alert for squirrels, rabbits, and people. It is nice to be out alone and feel safe; the neighborhood is full of firefighters and police officers.
As we walk, houses start to come alive, windows light up one at a time, here and there. I have come to love these morning walks. It is so quiet, except for Buddy's leash and the occasional scuttle of leaves across the sidewalk. The trees are losing their leaves but they are not yet bare. While we stop at every tree, I look up into the leaves, illuminated in the soft glow of the streetlights. It is so beautiful, so peaceful, so incredibly still.
Buddy tries to pretend our walk isn't over as he walks past our gate to the house, but he quickly turns around, like a fish on a line, reeled in on his leash. We enter the house as quietly as we left. There are no lights on, the house, my husband and the kids, and even Billy- who would rather sleep than walk, are still dreaming, still snuggled down in the covers. I turn the lights on and start the coffee. It's back to the morning race, but there is a delightful calmness enveloping me. I telegraph a thank you to Buddy.