Our Chinese Immigrant Welcomes Me Home
Xiao Lao-lao (shee-ow l-ow l-ow, or Little Old-old) is our 6-pound Chihuahua immigrant which I brought over from China 3 years ago. He was a stray I found on the streets of Chengdu but with a serious disability: He had lost his lower jaw due to a previous injury and had no upper teeth. His emaciated body proved he was in need of a lot of love and care, which I gladly bestowed upon him for 4 months. After searching among my Chinese friends for a suitable home, I had no takers. Thus our little Chinese immigrant found his way to Marshall, Illinois, where he has a home with my parents.
Every time I return to the U.S., there is Lao-lao waiting anxiously for my return. He squeaks in delight, squirming with joy and begging for pets, at every reunion when I walk in the door. (He’d bark but as he is orally challenged, that proves a bit difficult.) It doesn’t seem to matter how long I’ve been gone. He remembers me as his rescuer and his first mother, and I expect it will always remain so.
Lao-lao’s Exercise Routine
Walking Lao-lao for his daily exercise has always been my mom’s job, especially since my dad hasn’t been physically able to do much outdoor activity for several years. Now that he is in the hospital, currently in the rehab ward for the next 3 weeks, I have taken up the dog-walking duty to give my mom some much needed rest before we head off to the hospital for the day.
The wicked summer heat has been somewhat of a detriment when it comes to walking Lao-lao. Our walking routine is scheduled with a 4:30 or 5 a.m. rise for both of us, after which we spend 1 hour cruising the narrow streets of my small town. We set off in darkness but by 5:30, the sun has slowly risen to lighten the way and begin heating up the day. By that time, I’m ready to head off to the local outdoor pool for the early bird 6 a.m. swim. And Lao-lao? He’s tucked himself back into his blanket nest, covered up to expel the chill from the air-conditioner blasting on full.
Our Walking Route
Lao-lao is quite the agreeable little creature when it comes to getting up so early. His sleepy demeanor when I pick him up from his cozy blanket nest eventually wears off once the leash is on and he’s deposited on the sidewalk outside of our house. He gives a full head-to-tail shake. Spit flies in every direction. Without a lower jaw to hold in his tongue or his slobber, that’s pretty much what I get every morning right before our walk.
After discarding his drowsiness, we’re off.
We march down Hickory before turning the corner at 11th for a straight shot to our main street, Archer. We buzz the gut to the courthouse, always pause to greet the big black shop kitty wide awake in the window, before taking a swing around the square by my brother’s law office. (I can’t help but stick my hand into his flower boxes to make sure the geraniums are fully watered. They are, thanks only to his secretaries.) From there, it’s onward to the edge of town, past Cork Medical Center, the fairgrounds and the swimming pool, before heading back to Route 1 and home, our 1917 two-story Queen Anne.
Other Early Morning Risers
Since my town is next to the Indiana border, and a time zone, we are 1 hour behind those living 15 miles away to the east of us. When the dog and I set out at 4:30 a.m., quite a few lights start going on in the houses we pass because many are employed in Indiana and are getting ready for work. We are careful to cross the road as cars tend to whiz by in a hurry, not expecting anyone to be out and about at this time in the morning.
We have one runner whom we meet close to 5 a.m. on the other end of town, and an elderly man trudging along the same route at 5:15. In one fenced in yard we pass, the tri-colored corgi and his brotherly companion immediately dash from their doggie door to give us a robust, rousing “Hey!”. I’m not sure the neighbors appreciate it but Lao-lao and I are happy enough with the greeting.
And for the last leg of our journey, I always give a friendly wave to our favorite early morning riser – a slightly overweight, bib-overalled gentleman with a John Deer hat. He’s always lined up his empty lawn chairs near his garage, positioned himself in one of them and then waits for our parade of two to go by. Later at 6 a.m., on my bike ride down to the pool, I wave to him yet again and often a third time at 7:30 when I head back home after finishing up my water workout.
A Nice Smalltown Feeling
When you live in a small town, you get to know one another’s routines quite well and look forward to meeting everyone, even in the wee hours of the morning. I have less than two weeks left and will continue on the dog-walking duties until then. I just wish this heat would give way to some pleasant breezes. We can only hope!
From Marshall, Illinois, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your day.