Retirement Routine: Enjoying Life on a Black Lab’s Schedule | outdoors and recreation

For 43 years I had a fairly typical daily routine. Monday through Friday, I got up at 7, got ready for work, went out the door at 8, and spent my eight or nine hours before going home.

Weekends were spent with kids, gardening and, when time permitted, hunting and fishing.

That routine changed about a year ago when I retired from the daily grind. Now I have a new schedule. One that is not dictated by work duties or children’s activities. Today my schedule is now dictated by a black dog named Bailey.

As I sit here and think about this, I wonder how this all happened.

This is what my typical day looks like now:

6.30 am: Bailey wakes up, stretches, goes into the bedroom and stares at me. That means she’s ready for her morning potty walk. Sometimes I’m up and reading the paper, but other times I try to sleep a few minutes longer. Nope, won’t happen.

6:45 am: After doing a perimeter inspection of our little two-acre orchard, Bailey is ready to play. So let’s grab the retriever doll and play fetch. At this time we are working on our commands including hand signals which is old hat to them. It’s fun for her, but it also keeps her fit.

7am: Sometime in the next half hour, after catching her breath, Bailey is ready for our morning horseback ride. I’m not exactly sure how this all started, but now we get in the truck and head into town where I get my morning caffeine and Bailey and I share a chicken strip. When I’m lounging around the house before our morning ride, she’ll come and stare at me until I remember it’s time to go.

7:30 am: Home from our trip into town, I head upstairs to catch up on email or write a book or column while Bailey takes her first nap of the day.

10:00 am: Nap over, Bailey comes into the writing room, sits and stares at me, tells me she has to go for a walk. Actually, it’s also a good reminder for me to get up and move. This is the time when we go to the orchard to mow or fix irrigation pontoons or whatever else needs to be done.

Noon: We will take a lunch break. Bailey gets a snack and within minutes she’s taking her second nap of the day. This nap is going to be good. When I’m tinkering around the house, doing chores, or working on the computer, she sleeps for hours, sometimes until three or four o’clock.

4pm: Time for another walk. Bailey will come and remind me, and here we go. This will be the shortest of three walks in a row, with a further review of the extent of the orchard.

5:00 p.m.: Dinner time for dogs. Our old lab, now defunct, Tessa, was a fanatic when it came to eating at five. Bailey, who may or may not eat, got into the five o’clock feeding time during the Tessa years and keeps telling me it’s time to be fed, although most of the time she lets the food sit in her bowl until the spirit and the hunger moves them.

18:00: After dinner walk. She may not have eaten, but Bailey is ready for our day’s long walk. We will walk through the orchards around us and spend time looking for boulders and squirrels. It’s the most fun time of the day, except maybe for morning playtime.

6:45 p.m.: Nap number three. For Bailey, unfortunately not for me. It’s a short nap, but hey, a nap is a nap.

8 p.m.: Time for another perimeter check. Who knows what creatures have wandered into our garden and surroundings in the past few hours, but it’s worth checking out.

9pm: One last quick walk for the last potty before bed. If Terri and I get caught up in the Mariners game or some other program and Bailey is ready for bed, she’ll come back and remind us it’s time to go out. If we’re not quite ready for bed, Bailey will walk up to her and break down.

After doing this for almost a year now, I think Bailey has coached me pretty well. I’m not sure what she does on the days I’m not fishing. But I think she misses it. It’s a routine, and if I ever forget, she’s there to remind me.

To be honest, it was good for me too. I no longer have to be at work every morning, Bailey’s walk and playtime keeps me energized. And running doesn’t hurt either. As hunting season approaches we will increase our daily play and practice time and the distance of our walks.

My daily routine used to revolve around work and family activities. Today a very punctual black labrador retriever sets the schedule. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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