I could walk my dog past other people on walks (“Oh, he’s so cute!”), by kids on skateboards (out of nowhere, they come piercing through the quiet evening), through construction zones with jackhammering (Thd-thd-thd-thd-thd), into an implosion of some Vegas-sized hotel and casino (though they’re hard to come by in suburbia), and he could care less. He’d just keep walking, smelling, searching for some scent he’s yet to discover.
Walk by someone walking another dog, however, and he flies into a wicked frenzy.
I get that dogs want to socialize with other dogs. But even squirrels, little kids and, sometimes, cats don’t get a rise out of my pet beagle. One time a bee landed on his nose during dinnertime. He just kept eating.
Hurt a fly? There was a time my dog tried to lick one, but he went right back to sniffing nothing in particular on the ground when the fly moved out of the path he was using to track a smell.
Every day, I consider skipping my dog’s walk. I don’t mind the exercise, and obviously my dog needs it, but I just can’t find that time when no other dogs are on their walks. In suburbia, someone’s always walking a dog.
Do I stay home or do I go on the walk? I constantly ask myself. Maybe I could put him on a treadmill.
Taking the dog for a walk, I always conclude, has more than one purpose. So I take the walk.
The other day, I brought along my wife and our 13-year-old son. We met up with one of my wife’s friends, and our son met up with my wife’s friend’s son. They all socialized. I had the dog, yanking, pulling and scratching his way across the sidewalk to get to the other dogs passing by.
When I’m alone with the dog, I like to be more freestyle on my walks. I try to avoid other dogs. My wife and her friend, on the other hand, wanted to loop the park while the kids played basketball there. Other dog walkers looped the park as well in the opposite direction, and we’d pass each other every time around, sending our dogs into violent fits as they passionately tried to get to one another.
It never failed. We’d cross paths, the dogs would turn on the burners, peeling out in place to get to the other dog, and we with the leashes would hold the dogs back for fear one decided to clobber the other.
My dog, smaller than most, is always up for taking on any monster dog that confronts him. Little dog complex? I don’t know.
Then we’d move on, and both dogs would go back to the walk as if nothing happened, calm as can be. We’d pass for the 100th time, and it was as if they never met—Oh, look who it is. It’s another dog. Do I know you? Let me bark at you. Let me slobber all over you. Let me tackle you.
As we looped the field, more and more people with dogs joined the merry-go-round. Throughout the stroll, the sound of dog nails grinding into the sidewalk could be heard from every corner of the park every time these dogs intersected.
My dog had a particular drive to get up close and personal with a rottweiler on his constitutional with his pets. I felt cruel by keeping him away. The rotweiler’s owners felt the same way. At a turn near the swing set, we hesitated, but finally decided to let the dogs mingle.
We kept our animals on tight, tight leashes. The dogs dug grooves into the pavement to get to each other. When they got in close proximity, they suddenly became still. And we wondered which one would lunge first. We, the owners, were transfixed on our pets. We held the leashes tight with strong focus.
Mosquitos buzzed my face. I didn’t budge. I knew that one false move, and our dogs could be biting, clawing and in full attack mode.
The dogs smelled each other’s butts.
And that was that. They were done.
We moved on and I stopped by the drinking fountain for some water and a sigh of relief. Then I checked my dog’s nails. Yup, these walks, in addition to being good exercise, saved a lot of time and/or money trimming those claws. They were filed down perfectly.
“OK,” I announced. “We can go home now.”
And with that, our work on the walk was finished. So we called it a night.
Read other stories like this one from Michael Picarella in his book, “Everything Ever After (Confessions of a Family Man),” and at MichaelPicarellaColumn.com.