Someone in the family -- my dad, I think -- has a T-shirt that says, Plan for the day: Let dog out. Let dog in. Let dog out. Let dog in. That's pretty much how Howard and I spend the day. From the time he follows me downstairs in the morning to the moment I finally climb back up the stairs to bed at night, he is in constant turmoil about where he should be.
He's turning five this fall, and still full of energy. He's a wheaten terrier, and with the breed comes a natural athleticism; people still don't believe me when I tell them I once arched a stream of water from the garden hose at least eight feet in the air and Howard stuck out his tongue, took a leap and almost reached it.
And he's strong. You can't see the muscles so much when he's let his hair go all shaggy and long, but he likes to keep his coat short in the summer and the power is evident. So powerful, in fact, that he's able to open the heavy, wooden front door by jumping at it.
We keep the front door unlocked when we're home during the day, mostly to allow kids to come and go. But somewhere along the line, Howard has figured that out, and what results is brilliant scheme, a display of speed and power that should, at least, get Howard a Nike TV commercial.
Each morning, I open the kitchen door to let Howard into the back yard. He stays there for a while, until it's time for my daughter to walk out the front door to the bus stop. By then, Howard is usually in the front yard waiting to escort her down the sidewalk.
Having seen Grace off, I return to the kitchen to wash up the breakfast dishes. And every day, I am startled by the loud smack of the door opening and hitting the foyer wall. This sound is followed by the thundering footsteps of Howard racing down the hall to the kitchen where, if I've left the wooden back door open, he leaps onto the screen door and exits into the back yard.
Now, I've got a gaping front door. This is how a bird flew into the house recently, and let me tell you, it is not easy to catch a frightened bird that's flying around the living room.
I close the front door and go back to what I was doing. Smack! The door flies open and Howard comes charging down the hall, races to the back door, flings himself at it and runs into the back yard. If I let it, this would go on all day: Howard running a side-yard-front-hall loop and Beth walking back and forth to close doors after him.
Eventually, I go and lock the front door. This always comes as a surprise to Howard, who leaps at the door and is knocked backward onto the front porch. Then he runs around to the back door and waits for me to let him in.
I should count how many times that dog crosses a threshold every day. Dozens, for sure. When he's outside, he's afraid he's missing something inside. When he's inside with me, he's afraid the squirrels are partying without him.
Howard could use a little Zen therapy. Learn to live in the moment; enjoy being where you are; don't worry about anything beyond your nose; stop leaving paw prints on the doors.
We could all stand to learn some of that.
Beth Dolinar is a former Riverside resident and Pittsburgh television reporter who is staying at home to raise her two children. She can be reached at cootieJ@aol.com.