As I was walking out the door yesterday for a walk around the lake near our house, Jeremy said: “Go find your dog.”
We don’t have a dog. I’m quite allergic, actually, which ensures that we’re the only people in Boulder County who neither have a dog nor are waiting for one from the Humane Society. He was referring to an incident over the summer, which, of course, didn’t involve a dog, either.
I like to carry my mala and do mantras while I walk. I do them when we’re hiking, too. I’m so out of breath from trying to keep up with Jeremy that I couldn’t talk with him much if I wanted to. The Japanese Shugenja have their mountain waking tradition, and I have some modified (and surely less dignified) version of it.
One day over the summer, I was on one of my mantra walks around the lake. I was carrying a mala with big heavy beads, because I’d been caught in an afternoon storm the day before and my less conspicuous mala was drying out. The marroon beads had bled an eerie red onto my hands in the rain, and the whole thing still felt damp the next day.
So, I’m walking along with my heavy mala, minding my business, doing my silent mantras, and an older gentleman (why are older men always ‘gentlemen’) rides by on his bike and says as he passes:
“Where’s your dog?”
Huh? I didn’t get it. Maybe I heard him wrong. Maybe he though I was someone else, someone he usually sees walking her dog. Oh well. I’ll keep going, keep doing my mantras. Eventually, he came around again and yelled with a grin:
“I still don’t see your dog!”
Okay, this isn’t a case of mistaken identity anymore, is it? He’s seen me twice now, enough to know I’m not his friend who has a dog. Should I tell him about my allergies? Trust me, I’d say, I would not could not have a dog, not in a bog, not for a jog.
The third time was the charm for both of us. Turns out the poor guy thought my mala was a leash. He thought I had my dog off-leash — not allowed on the trail — and the first time was just looking for the canine as any cyclist would. The second time he must’ve been confused, and the third time he slowed down, paused, joked about my empty leash, and then:
“Oh, I’m sorry, that’s religious, oh, and that’s serious, I’m sorry.”
And then he was off.
It took me a while to be comfortable with carrying my mala in public, but it seemed as though I’d embarrassed someone else with it instead. I wish he had’t ridden away so quickly. I didn’t want him to feel bad, because I didn’t feel bad about my empty leash. I wish I’d had a chance to tell him it’s okay, we’re all carrying an empty leash, looking for missing dogs, or God, or something we’re not allergic to.