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Maybe not reading. But definitely relaxing.

“Patient is a 70-year-old male” it said at the top of my doctor’s notes on the MyChart app.  And my first reaction — I swear! — was “Who the hell is he talking about??”

Same thing with my dog.  He’s not getting any younger, either — but I still think of Kemba as a puppy.  From recent evidence, though, I might have that one wrong, too.

Since last Friday, we’ve been weathering the pandemic out in Amagansett, at the beach.  I assume most of you are familiar with Kemba’s beach routine by now; it’s been exactly the same for the last five summers.  First, I’ll throw his ball/stick/bumper toy into the ocean for Kemba to fetch.   Forever.  Really, though, for at least an hour.  Maybe an hour-and-a-quarter.  When I feel I’ve given him a fair and sufficient workout, I’ll plop down on my sand chair . . . and Kemba will then drop the ball/stick/bumper toy at Robby’s feet, and entice him to throw.  And then Brianne.  Then Matt.  Then Greg.  (He never brings it to Carol because he knows that’ll get him nowhere.)  And then clockwise around the rest of our semi-circle.  When he’s cycled through our entire group, I’ll extend my arms, palms down — like one of those Road Construction Ahead reflective vest guys warning you to slow down even though you’re going 4 mph — and say in my “authority” voice, “That’s it, Kemba.  Time to read and relax.”  (Needless to say, Time to read and relax has become a huge catchphrase within our pack.)  And Kemba will actually, reluctantly, settle down.

Until maybe three minutes later, when some random beach strollers walk by.  Then he’ll spring up like a jack-in-the-box, pounce on the ball/stick/bumper toy (as if it might get away), trot over to the strangers, drop the whatever at their feet, and look up, all but batting his eyelashes at them.  Invariably they’ll oblige — for a few throws — then walk on.  But now Kemba is up.  And the cycle starts all over again.

Yesterday, though . . . it didn’t go exactly like that.  Kemba, who’ll turn 6 later this summer, came down to the beach with me, of course.  I threw his current favorite ball, the blue spiky rubber one, into the surf maybe a dozen or 15 times.  Before my next throw, I opened up my sand chair.  My intention was to continue throwing from a comfortable sitting position — something I’ve done with him a million times before.  I didn’t say, “Last three.”  I didn’t say, “All done?”  I didn’t say anything at all to indicate I was getting ready to stop.  But when I sat down in my chair, he came over to lay down right next to me.  There was no doubt about what he was doing.

He was relaxing.

The breeze was blowing through the beautiful long red strands of crimped hair on his ears.  He’d pivot his head from time to time to glance at a passing beach walker or runner.  But otherwise, for 45 minutes, I read.  And Kemba relaxed.

He’s still my good, good dog, of course.  Maybe just not a puppy anymore.


Hank Herman