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  • We are up before the sun each day, trekking down the road through the marshes that lead to the 300 acre island preserve. No cars, no people, just the primordial squawk of amorous herons in the distant pines. The busy scurrying and skeedaddling of squirrels in the trees.

    Every morning is different, but in many ways the same. My dog Hank and I head out to for the same hour or so routine - sometimes to the marshes, sometimes to the beach. Each day the tide shifts an hour, creating an ever changing landscape no matter which direction we head - east or west. Oyster beds appear and disappear. Reflections are wildly altered based upon depth of water below and clouds above, on the location of sandbars depending on tide. I watch in awe, breathing in the salty air. It's an ever shifting, abstract canvas that never ceases to amaze me.

    My Unknowable God is very present in these moments, nudging me to be quiet and pay attention to the details.

    The fish jump that across the water one day. The snake that slithers across my path the next. The flutter of wings that erupt out of the marsh grasses on certain days when we venture too close. The surfers barely visible in the morning mist at the poles, when the waves are kicking up.

    This is my church, and my rescue hound dog has given me the excuse I needed to rise up earlier than usual and get outside to worship.

    As I mentioned in a previous story, I've never considered myself a dog person. Very quickly I am learning the faultiness in that thinking. Cesar Millan, author of "Cesar's Way" and talks about how people and dogs find one other with purpose. To teach one another something, to save eachother, maybe. Dogs don't respond to voice, they respond to energy. The verbal means very little. They require exercise, discipline and affection - in that order. This is where most pet owners fall down. So all of the cooing baby talk I've heard from pet owners and never liked is actually counterproductive - not good puppy parenting! Alas, perhaps I am absolutely a dog person - in the way that dogs actually need us to be their master. Calm and assertive. Affectionate but mostly in a non-verbal way.

    Hank knows where his place is in this. Alert and tail wagging, he treks along beside me on our long morning walks, and knows... the joy of being led. The protectiveness that comes with being loved.

    As we walk along I think, it's hard to be human, day in and out. To have to smile and constantly cajole, "I'm sorry to be bossy but it's just that perhaps...." God, the apologizing that's so often necessary in order to get what needs to get done. So exhausting - to be a woman and have to work so hard to be perceived as non-threatening. To fit into the pack.

    In the dog world alphas are born, not assigned. If only it were that way with humans.

    "So who rescued whom?" I wonder as I step to the tempo in the crunching of coquina under our feet, the rustle of palms as we brush by at a steady pace. Was I called to save this dog, or did Hank appear here to save me? To show me what I need to be shown? To get me out of my own head and out the door in the mornings, moving quickly, attuned to the things that bring me joy. To the silence of the skies and water and shifting light.

    I note the glimmer in Hank's eye as he jogs along, now off the leash. He'll run off a fair bit but never out of eyesight. He'll get ahead of me and stop, waiting for me to catch up. Attuned and in step, his eyes half closed and smiling, looking up to the sky. It seems he's appreciating the unapologetic freedom he's got for the very first time.

    Me too Hank, me too.
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