Sunday, August 2, 2009


In order to sleep at night I need to move around a lot during the day. I am not up to running yet, and with my Lyme-tendonitis there are limited things I can do—biking outside is not OK, but riding the exercise bike is; walking up steep hills or hiking is impossible, but stairs are OK. (Go figure,)

The best workout I’ve found while I’m staying with my parents in Washington DC is to walk to the US Capitol grounds, a mile from my parents’ house, then bust my butt up and down the huge flights of stairs just installed for the underground visitor’s center. (They look tiny in this picture, but believe me, they're not.) If I make it up and down twenty times, plus the two mile walk, that’s a good workout. Considering before I started the antibiotics for Lyme I was tired at five blocks, whole thing makes me pretty happy.

Today I brought the family dog, Kramer. When she comes along, I tie her leash to railing at the top step and give her a pat each time I come up. Today I was on my eight ascent, taking the stairs two at a time, when a Capitol cop at the foot of the stairs stopped me.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” (I hate being called ma’am. It hasn’t been long since I was getting carded buying cooking wine at Trader Joe’s. Now I am a ma’am.)

“Excuse me, ma’am,” he said, “you can’t leave your dog by itself there.”

“But I’m not leaving her,” I explained. “I’m just going up and down the stairs for exercise.”

No matter. Apparently from the vantage point of some cop on the huge plaza at the top of the stairs, there was an abandoned dog whose owner kept showing up from time to time to pat it, then abandon it again.

“She’s considered an unattended package, ma’am.”


“It doesn’t matter if it’s a backpack or a dog, it’s still an unattended package, and you know what a threat unattended packages are for us.”

I was torn between being horrified at the thought of-- what?-- feeding explosives to the family pet?-- and laughing at the preposterousness of it all.

I was about to point out that a skinny dog whose owner is always in sight of her, whose owner is in fact returning at sixty second intervals while she exercises, is not an abandoned backpack, but I thought better of it. Lots of crazy people come to the US Capitol, and some of them try to kill tourists and the Capitol cops themselves, so there are rules and the job of the cops is to enforce the rules. Even if this guy could see perfectly well that I was just a goofy girl (or should I say lady?) who lived nearby and was trying to walk her dog and get exercise at the same time, he had to follow the rules.

I unhooked the leash from the railing to head for home when I had an idea.

“Kramer, do you want to go up the stairs with me?” I asked. I didn’t have high expectations. Kramer weighs in at thirty pounds, and although her wippet ancestry has made her quite a sprinter, she has a neurotic aversion to stairs.

Well, she bounded up those stairs lickety-split. I think she found being compared to backpack so insulting she had to show the guard a thing or two. I had to hussle to keep up with her, and even the down leg, usually the most unnerving for Kramer, posed no problem. After about seven rounds, her tongue was close to hitting the granite pavement as she dragged behind me. I decided to call it a day.

The guard had been watching us the whole time, just in case Kramer exploded, I guess. When we left I thanked him and he gave me a wave.

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