Walking the Dogs in Virginia

            If you are one of my new neighbors and you were minding your own business – maybe sitting outside enjoying the morning, having a cup of coffee – I’m sorry.

            I just walked the dogs again.

            This should be a fairly straightforward event.  A transaction, if you will:  I will take you out, and you will do your business, which I will scoop.  You will get to smell a lot of exciting things, and we will get some exercise and it will be nice.

            But no.  Walking the dogs so far here in Virginia has not been great.  Unfortunately, I fear, it is often a spectacle.

            We – the two Labs, Molly and Sadie, and Daisy aka “Biscuit,” our little Cavalier – had mastered the basic concept of a walk when we lived in Arizona.  We lived on a dirt road; it was very tranquil, and then we walked up to the slightly bigger but still sleepy paved road.  We had our route.  It was good.

            Here, though, it has been a struggle.  That’s because these are Arizona dogs.

            They don’t like it if the grass gets high.  They are used to dirt, rocks, and scrub brush.

            They don’t like wet grass.  This is a big problem, because it has rained a lot since we’ve been here.  Also, there is dew.  Sadie is deeply suspicious of all moisture.  She doesn’t actually speak, but she doesn’t need to.  I know what she’s thinking:

            “Sadie, get over there on that grass.”

            “No.  It is moist.”

            Molly will do her business in the grass, but she won’t do it until I urge her.  She likes these small attentions, as Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice used to dispense so meticulously.

              I try to start out on a positive note:  “Good wee-wee!”

            It goes downhill from there.  Over the course of the walk, as the three dogs attempt to braid themselves as if I were a Maypole, I’m constantly shifting leashes and multiple poop bags from hand to hand as I untangle them.  You know those dogwalkers in New York City who walk numerous dogs at one time?  I have no idea how they do that.

            I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve encountered a fellow pedestrian on a walk who says, “You’ve got your hands full.”  I usually smile and say, “It’s all upper body!”  Ha, ha, the hilarity.  Meanwhile, my mean inner self says, “Big duh, Sherlock!”

            We always start out, at least on my part, with some bit of optimism.  It quickly devolves.  We don’t make progress.  They just want to smell things.  They eat things.  Unsavory and disgusting things.  They pull in different directions.

            All of these dogs have been to obedience school and know how to heel and be well-behaved.  But out here on the street, all bets are off.  Out here on the street.  I feel like Baretta, the ‘70s TV detective played by Robert Blake.  It’s rough out here on the street.  You can take that to the bank, baby!

            After a while, I just want to go home.  I turn into the worst motivational speaker ever. 

            “Make a poop!”

            “Go poop!”

            “Do it!”

            “Do your business!”

            “This is your opportunity!”

            Yes.  I actually stood on the side of the road and said out loud:  “This is your opportunity!”

            Sadie is the best one on the leash, except for the part about deeply mistrusting all damp vegetation.

            Daisy is a puller.  She missed her true calling as a sled dog.  She should be out on the tundra, training for the Iditarod.  She is 24 pounds of motivation, except when she gets distracted by the smells and other items in the grass.

            The real instigator here is our otherwise practically perfect Molly, who is notorious for coming to a dead stop every few feet to sniff new aromas as thoroughly as possible, sometimes snorting like a truffle pig.   She plants her feet and sets her legs with the solidity of a Sumo wrestler.  She will not be moved.

            Another problem:  there is traffic.  There are no sidewalks.  At some places there is brush and we have to walk on the pavement.  When a car or truck comes by, I turn into Frodo Baggins when the Black Rider is on his trail:  “Get off the road!”

             I always try to smile and wave at the passing cars, virtue-signaling and reassuring with my highly visible orange poop bag.  “See? I’m a good neighbor!  I scoop!”

            Once we reach our big front yard, our problems are not yet over.

            This brings me to the deer.  We have at least six who basically live in our yard.  Kenny and Lenny, who are young males.  They don’t have a full set of antlers; just one “spike” in front of each ear.  One spike only.  “One ping only.”

            A female, Shirley, hangs out with them.

            And then there’s Laverne and the twins, who at one point were actively nursing in our back yard.  They are bigger now, but still have their Bambi spots.  (Note:  we also have three squirrels:  Skippy, Skippy, and Skippy.  They have no distinguishing characteristics and don’t get individual names.)

            My phone is quickly filling up with deer pictures and videos.  The animals are beautiful and I like them.  But our yard is their toilet.  I feel oddly intimate with them because, after all, I have seen them eating, scratching themselves, and going to the bathroom.  They’re like relatives doing gross personal hygiene in public.  It’s uncomfortable.

            “Daisy, don’t eat the grass.”

            “Oh, no, sweet mercy, that’s not grass!  Thanks, Kenny and Lenny.  Thanks a lot.”


© Janet Farrar Worthington

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