There have been a lot of them over the years – family dinners, bedtime stories, Friday night waffle night. They have shifted and changed over the years, an inevitability with the birth of each child, with the deaths of my father and my husband, one ritual fading away to be replaced by another. And now that the kids are busy, independent teenagers, most of the rituals are gone. Even family dinner has pretty much gone the way of the Dodo – it’s impossible to plan or predict these days who is going to be home for that five o’clock deadline.
The non-Holiday rituals that remain involve the Viking and me. And the dog.
On weekdays, he waits patiently in his kennel to be let out in the morning, and then goes happily off to do dog things. On weekends, he starts yipping to be let out well before first light. And then he waits right outside the door, whining, or better yet positions himself where he can stare at us through the window. Because he knows, somehow or other, that it is the weekend.
And the weekend means he gets a ride.
Sometime after the perfect morning cup of coffee (another ritual), and maybe breakfast or writing time, depending, the Viking loads up the dog in the back of the weekend pickup truck and we head off to town.
A couple of things I should mention about Riddick. First, he is enormous – one hundred and thirty pounds of something that looks like a black lab but is just way too big. Second – he has a thing about barking. Third – he goes absolutely ballistic when he sees another dog. Not that he doesn’t like other dogs – he does – he just goes temporarily insane.
This is why we tie him up when we take him for his ride. Ordinarily, restraint would not be needed. At home, he stays in his territory as a good dog should, never wandering off. But put a dog in his path and he morphs into a frenzied machine, trying his utmost to leap out of the back of the truck, barking at the top of his capacious lungs.
Imagine, now, that you’re the elderly couple out for a stroll with the family dog in tow, when suddenly, from out of nowhere….
Thus it is that our leisurely morning drives take on an air of adventure. The Viking, driving, scans the streets for signs of dogs, often swerving down an alternate route at the last second in order to avoid a Full Scale Barking Encounter. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, and we watch the drama unfold, half mortified, half amused. And sometimes we laugh at him outright when he is leaning out the wrong side of the truck, scanning the streets for something to bark at, and totally misses a wonderful bark-worthy opportunity on the other side of the road.
There is one other component to this ritual of ours – the lotto tickets. Every weekend we buy them. Every weekend we check for winnings. The fact that we’ve maybe won $15 over the course of several years does not deter us. You just never know when your luck is going to change.
Riddick feels the same. Even when he doesn’t find anything good to bark at, he is ever hopeful. After all, the whole ritual is really just about the ride.
What about you? Do any of your family rituals involve pets?