I’ve been walking dogs for the last decade, after a 20 year pet-phobic anti-commitment crisis. Returning to the herd with a passion, I‘ve found that my life is bookmarked by incidents involving dogs, my own and friends, total strangers and these days, an online community. All of the dogs that I have owned are rescued, and each has had their own unique personality. And, as every dog owner eventually finds out, a proclivity to different medical conditions.
I think that my body is permanently twisted trying to hold onto the leash while my dogs pull me down the street, across the park, into the “dog store”, or anywhere that has to do with riding in the car or going off property. My youngest one, nicknamed Punkita, is just thrilled to go outside, but the old guy Joey (like a baby kangaroo) needs the walk to loosen his bowels.
I’ve paid for and attended dog training sessions, which are really called something else, but right now the correct title eludes me. Oh yeah, obedience training. Obviously described by a human, not a dog. I would call it show training or performance training, because once the class is over my dogs always revert to their former dog behavior. It’s really irritating sometimes that they won’t obey me like a human over whom I may have some sort of influence. Joey, my corgi husky mix was the perfect dog at those classes, even when I had the lead, but especially when the trainer used him to demonstrate how a perfectly behaved dog should act
Then we leave the class and all hell breaks loose. Those of you that have seen the trailer for the movie Marley & Me can probably picture this scene in your mind. You get home from work, and the little guys are leaping in the air with joy, seemingly because you are home. That’s all they want. You. There. Playing with them, sitting with them. Sleeping with them. Feeding them (there we go), giving them treats, giving them toys, taking them for a walk.
Then they won’t sit contentedly while you visit the restroom, and after a few impatient seconds start to bark; ear shattering barks that echo off the shower walls. You hide your eyes with your hands and turn away, because that always seems to quiet them down for a time, they need to see your eyes and sense you are getting aggravated. Quiet for a second, but don’t say good dog, because that starts them up again.
You stand up, head for the garage where the leashes are kept. You may stop for a moment to drop off your handbag, and just grab your license and a key.
Both of them are now racing back and forth, back and forth, and Pumpkyn is dropping the stuffed frog toy on your foot, throw it mom, throw it mom. Joey is weaving side to side trying to hang on to the urine he’s been holding in all day. If Punkita has to go, and no one’s around to let her out, she heads for the pads I’ve put on the floor of the garage. If she’s held it until I get home, she waits; politely for me to open the door to the patio, before taking care of business.
Most pet stores sell leashes that start at five foot long and they may also be retractable up to 20 or 30 feet. I’ve bought every type of leash and collar there is over the last few years. I finally figured out the best way to get the dogs to behave on leash is to use a very short leash, 12 inch, that you can special order over the internet. I put karabiner clips on the end to make them easy to take on and off, and the dogs rarely pull me, unless they are trying to get to a patch of grass to poop, or they see a bird, or they smell a dead rabbit or a fish head, or kelp, or whatever.
I’ve been a WW member now for about 6 years, and am convinced that my two daily walks with the dogs have a lot to do with my maintenance plan. Every morning at 5am my alarm goes off,
I pull on my pajamas and my flip flops, head for the garage, put on the leashes, grab a big old ratty jacket over my oversized red sweatshirt and punch the button to open the garage door. I head towards the opening as it grows tall enough for me to slip under, make them sit until I walk out first (see I do watch the Dog Whisperer).
This is the funniest thing, since I started this routine, my older dog is constantly letting me go first, like a gentleman at a doorway, everywhere. When I walk from room to room, when we are leaving the bedroom in the morning, when I go outside. He’s not following me; he’s waiting for me to go first. I haven’t figured out if he’s just being a kiss ass or if he is unsure that I’m really going out so is staying behind me to give me a nudge should I change directions or get distracted on the way. But whatever it is, he is letting me go first, for his own purposes.
We head outside and to the sidewalk. Joey pees almost immediately while Punkita waits patiently. I’ve got a couple of doggie bags in my pocket, for the big moment. It is pitch dark outside and the streetlights are still on or are sputtering in the dawn. As we pass by each house, neighbor dogs ring out a welcome or a warning bark. Most owners are just sending the dogs into the yard, not walking them like I do, so some mornings I know we are pissing the neighbors off being out there so early, but there’s not a lot I can do about it since Joey won’t pee In the yard, and Pumpkyn has too much energy so it’s necessary to wear her out a bit before I leave for the day.
On occasion we will see another dog on our early morning walk, and hopefully on leash. Sometimes they aren’t and I have a big old dog running right at me from the darkness. Sometimes the owners are listening to their iPod or talking on their phones and don’t see us approach, and their dogs pull them off balance and onto the sidewalk or street and they glare at me.
Joey stays pretty close to the sidewalk, but Punkie likes to climb up the hill to poop, which requires me to do some precarious balancing in order to hang on to Joey and pick up after he. I am unsuccessfully attempting to convince her that lower is better. We do about a mile each morning, and when we return to the house, I remove their leashes, take off my outer clothing, and get their food bowls, feed them both, and then I start my breakfast and make my lunch.
Monday through Friday after work I change up my routine. I get really bored in daylight and I’m too tired to have to hang onto excited dogs who want to protect me or play with the others we pass in the neighborhood. If I have a meeting they get a short walk around the block. If not, we get in the car and head to one of several places- some where they could be off leash if they would listen to me, and I do give them a chance every now and then to see if they will stay away from the highway, the trains, the street, the dead fish heads, or the burger someone has thrown in the bushes. You can probably imagine how well that works. Great one time, and the next time I’m scared to death because they’ve run off. I keep trying.
Other days I’ll go walk above the flower fields, or by the lagoon. Both are very pleasant agricultural areas with no residences- although there are always other dogs at the lagoon, and skateboarders, drug dealers and hookers, and married lovers above the flower fields.
When I am feeling semi inspired I will drive down to the beach and walk for some time above the bluffs. Or I’ll take them to one of several dog parks within 5 miles or so where they are fenced in and can run off leash and socialize with other dogs.
When I am really inspired I will drive all the way down to Balboa Park or Fiesta Island. Really I should say Fiesta Island first since there we have literally acres to run them, but they can also get off path and into the bay, and if someone is throwing a ball, it can take quite a while to get them back on top and heading home. Once a month or so, I will drive down to dog beach in Del mar, but normally only on the weekends. They both love to run and chase birds and other dogs, roll in the seaweed and dead fish, and smell all the funny smells. At low tide it is really beautiful and it makes me happy to see them so happy and free. There seems to be a dead fish theme here. Perhaps I should change the title?
©2010 Sharon J Corrigan