I turn from my computer and meet Aussie’s eyes, one big, imploring call. I need to be free! I’m your freedom girl, I need to run!

Funny, I think, she hasn’t escaped in a while. I look at her, get back to work, look at her, get back to work. Finally, I go out the door and towards the side gate by the laundry lines, the one with the bungee cord and ladder blocking all avenues of escape. And then I see it. Tim had tightened up the bungee cord around the gateposts so hard that not even Aussie, flattening herself like a piece of cardboard, can get through.

Her eyes narrow, looking hard at me. “That’s good,” I tell her. “That’s how things need to be around here.”

And then I astound myself. My hands reach up to clutch the bungee cord. It’s so tight that at first I can’t move it. But I pull hard and it gives. And then I tie it up again, just one coil less.

The two gateposts are still very tight, I reassure myself.

I don’t look at Aussie, just go back to the house. She’s a dog, I tell myself, she doesn’t know what I did. And indeed, Aussie follows me back to the house, stretches out and takes a nap.

A half hour later I hear the clinking. I look out the window in time to see her tail go between the gateposts. Once again, softly and quietly, she’s managed to get through the rungs of the ladder, flatten herself like a pancake, lift open the latch, push with all her might between the tightly-held posts, and get out.

Harry runs after her, but stops, undecided. He’s smaller, he could get out easier than her, and I watch quietly, wondering what he’ll do. But for Harry, the call of the kitchen is louder than the call of the wild. He turns around and trots back to the door.

Meantime, I’m full of self-recriminations. Are you insane? How could you let her out? What kind of mixed message are you giving her?

I didn’t open the gate, I tell myself. All I did was loosen the bungee cord just a little. I didn’t think she’d keep on probing and probing, that sucker has been locked tight for 3-4 days now. She should have given up by now.

But she didn’t. She wanted to find her way to freedom.

What does that say about me, I wonder.

  1. I’m a crazy woman (most plausible).
  2. I want to do the same thing. I want to free up some constraints, work my way through obstructions, and get free.

Since Bernie died the left side of my body—especially the shoulder and hip—has been very constricted. For the first time in my life, I have pain going upstairs or uphill. X-rays have shown no particular deterioration, so the physical therapist diagnoses bursitis and tendonitis.

I diagnose it as pain. I diagnose it as hardship taking a long walk, an obstacle to running away from home. “The body always prioritizes,” a physical therapist told me after I related how healthy I’d been throughout Bernie’s illness. “As long as he was sick, he came first. Now that he’s no longer around, you’re discovering what’s probably ailed you for a while.”

I know nothing about that. What I do know is that now, 8 months after his death, I’m beginning to experience some of the freedom that comes with not having someone sick at home, not rushing from one thing to another like a crazy woman, not measuring time by the milligram. Instead I actually walk out and look at the gorgeous flowers, even take the dogs out for a second walk when it cools down.

But there’s the pain. If I can’t go uphill, how am I going to go downhill?

I want to regain my mobility. I want to run away from home. Learn from Aussie to probe and probe, feel the obstruction, try to run and get stopped, but probe again and again, till one day I get through.

Run, you crazy dog, I tell her as off she goes, tail wagging in the air. Just don’t forget, dinner’s at 5.