Monday, April 2, 2012

The Dog Whisperer

How would I describe walking my dogs? Parasailing with puppies instead of wind. Trying to control marionettes on speed. Puppy Iditerod without a sleigh. Asian kite fighting with puppies instead of dogs. A ground quidditch match with 2 puppies instead of a flying quidditch ball. I guess I didn’t realize how ridiculous I looked until I saw someone else trying to do it. 
When I first got the puppies it was January and one of the few big snows we had this year. My neighbor was nice enough to snow blow a stretch of sidewalk in front of his house and half way around the block. This was a good thing because since I don’t have a snow blower nor any desire to shovel snow, me and the pooches weren’t going anywhere unless someone else cleared our path. Thanks to the gods of four wheel drive I haven’t had to shovel the drive for 7 years so why start now?
I guess the snow blown sidewalk lulled me into a false sense of security. Being tiny puppies at the time, these two never ventured off the sidewalk because several inches of snow surrounded us on either side. With a narrow path to navigate, they pretty much trotted ahead of me side by side. I smiled smugly and thought how lucky I was I had such perfectly behaved little puppies. Of course then the snow melted and I quickly learned what it felt like to have both arms pulled out of the socket by two hellions driven by their noses to investigate every scent that had lay dormant beneath the snow. I also found out there is not a tree, lamp post, road sign, mailbox, or fire hydrant that these two won’t lunge to and shove their nose in as deep as possible. 
And those gentle, happy, people and pet loving characteristics I so admired in the books on Cavalier Spaniels? That was the understatement of the year. Anything that smiles, talks, laughs, barks, mews or even blinks is like crack to these two. Their tales start to wag so hard their butts shake from side to side and they won’t give up until they’ve licked the objects of their affection to within an inch of its life. Of course it’s not just people or animals they are attracted too either. These two perfect ADHD case studies will become distracted by every car, stray plastic bag, blowing leaf and fallen stick in sight.
A friend of mine has been joining me on my dog walks -or as he more accurately describes it: getting dragged around the neighborhood by the dogs. He being a rookie at Chloe and Talbot walking, I offered some advice so that he wouldn’t end up on the sidewalk like I did the first time I experienced two puppies deciding to go in different directions behind my back then bring up the rear on either side of me only to cross right back to their prospective lanes as they pass -in essence lassoing my feet and ripping them right out from under me. Its a move I like to describe as canine hobbling -Cathy Bates had nothing on these guys.
With this experience in mind, I set off with my friend. Perhaps he’s a quick study or has a bit of the dog whisperer in him, but I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly he picked up on the art of tandem puppy walking. He even introduced a few new moves that, frankly, had me impressed. I myself always thought the behind the back cross worked best when puppies decide to suddenly change lanes behind you without signaling first. He on the other had had an impressive over the head pass off that scored major points with this judge. 
Who knew puppy walking could be turned into a couples sport. A quick “Under!” mid-conversation and and I could duck under his raised arm as my pup darted from sudden right to sudden left. “Over!” and I knew to raise my arm so he and his puppy could pivot sudden left to sudden right because, no, the smells on that side of the sidewalk are actually better than the other side. The only thing missing from our puppy ballet was orchestral accompaniment. In a few short blocks, my friend not only had the moves down, but could even speak the vernacular.  
A typical walk usually consist of some variation of the following key phrases:
“Easy, killers!” means slow down, I’m walking as fast as I can.
“C’mon, guys’” means stop sniffing and move on"
“That’s enough!” means “Seriously, get your nose out of that and let’s move on.” 
“Good, girl!” and “good, boy!” means “thank you for peeing outside even though we all know you are going to pee on the floor as soon as we get home.
“No rocks!” not surprisingly, means no eating rocks. (Who would think chewing on a rock could be enjoyable?) 
“Damn it!” means “I’m sorry I stepped on you but how did I know you were going to go from full throttle to complete stop right in front of me because you smelled something good?”
“No wrestling,” means “no wrestling you can play at home.”
“What are you doing!” means “There are cars coming, dropping to the ground and wrestling in the middle of the intersection is soooo not good right now!”
“Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em,” means you have one last chance to go potty before we head inside.” (See “good boy/good girl.” We all know you will act like you can’t possibly pee again now but will do so as soon as we get in the house.)
“Get the cat!” means “Max, I’m sorry; but with you as a distraction I can sneak back outside and throw away the poop bags.” 
This weekend I witnessed my dog whisperer friend fly solo with both dogs for the first time. The puppies had went to the bathroom before we left, so I foolishly thought they wouldn’t go again; it’s just a short walk after all, so we left the house without “doggy bags.” Of course a few blocks away from home, one of them decides to do it again. Still guilty from the “If a dog poops in the middle of the road and nobody sees it do we have to clean it up?” experience of our last walk, I decided I couldn’t leave a mess in the yard even if it was a foreclosure with grass a foot high. I insisted we stand there for a while and shrug animatedly to ensure that if anyone was watching us they knew we had no other choice but to leave the poop behind. I then marked the pile with a random receipt from my pocket so we could identify the right poop when we came back to clean up and we headed to the end of the block. In a stroke of incredible luck, some litterbug had left an empty paper-towel roll behind. Against my friends plea not to, I returned to the dog pile and scooped it up. Since I was now carrying the dog poop in front of me like an olympic torch, my friend had to take the reigns of both dogs. 
I couldn’t help but laugh, not because I was carrying a dog poop baton, but because I got to see and hear what my neighbors get to watch everyday as I attempt to herd my puppies around the neighborhood and back. My friend looked like a crazed puppeteer, arms flailing as the puppies darted from one side of the sidewalk to the other. They would at times drag him forward full speed as he pleaded “easy, killers,” and then he would cry “Damn it!” as he fell over them because they came to a complete halt at the smell of something exciting on the sidewalk. They zigged and zagged and wrapped the leashes around his legs until he was wound in a knot. He unwound them and they immediately did it again. We made it home and he coaxed them inside yelling, “get the cat!” so he could shut the door behind them. I can only imagine Max’s reaction. “Et tu Brute?” 

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