One of the truly wonderful things about having a dog in your family is “the walk.”

During our pre-puppy period (roughly four decades), the wife and I would regularly go for walks together and have stimulating adult conversations about life, about death, about politics, about children, and about what the future holds for us as we enter the last chapter of our lives.

Then with the onset of coronavirus, our future plans changed dramatically. No longer can we plan exotic vacations to faraway places. No longer can we have romantic dinners in intimate settings with gourmet food and paired wines. No longer can we have date night at the movies with popcorn and snacks. COVID-19 took all of that away.

But this pandemic also gave us Charlie, a rescue dog that we adopted to help fill our very long, boring retired days.

Now “the walk” has gone from, “What is Putin plotting now?” and “what the heck is a covfefe?” to in-depth discussions about, “Did you remember to bring the treats? What about bottled water? How many poop bags did you bring because last walk he pooped four times?”

Yesterday we went for a walk along a beautiful wooded bike trail. Things were going along quite nicely until the wife said, “Don’t let Charlie eat that bush, it’s poison ivy.”

Now, I need to take a brief pause here to explain my history with poison ivy. I am extremely allergic to it. If I am in the same county as poison ivy, I will blister up like a toasted marshmallow about to burst into flames. The rash I develop will have me scratching like a hound dog at a flea circus. In eighth grade I got poison ivy so bad that every morning my mom would have to peel my pillowcase off my crusty, seeping face. I looked like one of those horror story monsters that falls in love with the young ingénue who hurls at the very sight of his face. Thank goodness mom had a strong stomach.

So, when the wife innocently said, “Don’t let Charlie eat that bush, it is poison ivy,” I yanked that dog so hard he was actually airborne. He kind of looked like a German shepherd kite high in the breeze with an extremely confused look on his face as to what he did wrong and why was he flying in the clouds.

The wife was horrified. The dog was horrified. I was horrified by what I had just done. But my reaction was visceral. Every cell in my body remembers vividly the epidermal eruptions that occurred over 50% of my body (delicate areas included) and my brain said, “NO!!!” to the risk of getting poison ivy ever again.

When we got back to the car, I asked the wife to wipe down the dog with anti-bacterial wipes before he could get in the car.

“Sorry about all this,” I said to the wife. “I should have told you about my poison ivy phobia before we got married.”

“You’re right,” she said. “I’m afraid this is a deal breaker.”

“How about if I treat you to a picnic lunch in the park with your favorite burger and fries?” I bribed.

“That sounds lovely … but I’ll take the leash. I don’t want Charlie soaring over Wood County ever again.”

Raul Ascunce is a freelance columnist for the Sentinel-Tribune. He may be contacted at