Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Confession of a Back-of-Pack Walker

More and more I have noticed over the past year that my dog Sadie (the Superdawg) chooses our walking path.

Moreover, she never chooses the same route on back-to-back days. It has to be different than the preceding day.

If I'd rather repeat the previous day's jaunt, Sadie digs in and refuses to budge. It's her way, or no highway.

Wisdom resides in this sweet face

One day we will go around the corner and visit a lonely black dog that is confined to an empty backyard by an electric fence. We will talk cheerfully to him so that he stops barking, even pat him if he seems to welcome the attention, and then proceed to a little pond a mile or so away, and return.

The next day, Sadie will insist we head the opposite direction -- the longest walk -- and go between two ponds (where there are cormorants, ducks, and sometimes snow geese and swans), then to the neighborhood amenities center, around it and back home. Sometimes on that trajectory, I do have to put my foot down and insist we start back home so we can be sure both old dawgs (one panting, the other aching) make it.

A third route is across the street and along a pathway next to what remains of a woods, minus recent bulldozing for new home construction. Once there, Sadie will dictate whether to go left or right along the trail.

It hasn't always been this way. Best I can remember, in her youth Sadie was just plenty happy to go on a walk wherever I took her. Our wooded neighborhood in Northern Virginia had well-marked paths. Then in Blue Ridge, there was The Parkway -- and neither man nor beast could quibble about direction in such a paradise. Here, I sometimes drive us to the beach, 7 minutes away, for a special day -- and direction is not an issue there, either. The Superdawg gets excited before I ever let her out of the car.

When I let her choose the route, I know I violate all the sacred rules of dog training. The dog must learn to be an obedient member of the pack. The owner must assert the authority -- blah, blah, blah. I am figuring that as Superdawg is about to enter her 15th year of life, she has determined that she has certain seƱior entitlements. Another one is that after supper, she demands that I stay off the computer for a decent interval and participate in what we call "Sadie time," which usually consists of her parading around with a ball or chewstick in her mouth and playing keep-away.

Do I spoil my dog? Sure do. However, we understand each other, and she knows by the tone of my voice that there are times when it is urgent for her to move as I instruct. The arrangement works well for both of us. Indeed, I must say it is kind of fun to find out each morning which route my faithful old dog has chosen for us.

                                                        © Robert G. Holland  2015

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