Thursday, February 22, 2007

87. Whose walk is it anyway?

There is an Internet e-mail that circulates with the "Ten Peeves Dogs have about Humans." They are cute and silly, such as number five, which lists as a ‘human' peeve as, "Any haircut that involves bows or ribbons. Now you know why we chew your stuff up when you're not home." The other peeves are just as fun.

I have, however, often thought about what is listed as number three, "Taking me for a walk, then not letting me check stuff out. Exactly whose walk is this anyway?"

I know the mere mention of a walk sends my three dogs into a wild frenzy. They scamper in circles, including over the furniture, up and down the stairs, and back and forth with each other. The mere mention creates such an upheaval that we have eliminated the word "walk" from our vocabulary except in the context of "taking our dogs for a walk."

Such excitement does beg the question, whose walk is it anyway? One Internet site, suggests the following as the first of ten tips for walking your dog:

"Train your dog: Formal classes if they are available. Start while the dog is a puppy and continue until the dog can be trusted off leash. The AKC Canine Good Citizen certificate can be earned by your dog, which indicates a level of obedience and training attained."

I do not know about other dogs, but I know mine could not care less about an "AKC Canine Good Citizen certificate." I mean what would they do with it? Show it to their friends, or hang it on the wall next to their beds? What would I do with it, I mean really, who cares? What is it with humans and their obsessive desire to have their pets obedient to them? Somewhere along the way, an unruly animal was taken as a personal reflection of its owner. My dogs behave sometimes, and sometimes they do not. When they do behave, it is because of our relationship, not out of the fear. When they do not behave, I regard it as dissent- and rarely a fellow admires dissent more than I.

So I am discouraged when I see dog owners feverishly training their dogs to walk correctly- whatever that means. I understand that the constant pulling can be a bit troublesome for both the dog and the owner. But some dog owners seem determined to have the dogs walk methodically next to them, so much so that it looks as though both are walking on a treadmill. My dogs do like to check stuff out. They like to make note of those that have been their before, while at the same time marking their place in history. They also like to notice their surroundings, greet other dogs and get to know the neighborhood kids. Of course, we try not to be rude; we stay out of the neighbor's landscapes and clean up after ourselves.

I usually walk our dogs at the park, however, and when I do, they are on a fifteen foot lead. This gives them a large radius in which they can stop and do their things while I keep walking. If I get too far ahead, the dogs enjoy the brief gallop to catch up. In between they are completely engaged, enjoying the world of nature. For me, it is more fun to watch them in their environment. And as a former biology professor of mine quipped, "I think they should be able to do what they want." I agree, after all, it is their walk.

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