Hounding the Pavement
● By Style
Photos courtesy of Tom Mailey.
If you’ve ever seen a five-year-old learn it’s Christmas morning, or they are going to Disneyland and all they have to eat for the whole trip are candy canes and cake, you might see the kind of reaction my dogs have every time I utter the word walk.
They could be dead asleep, two rooms away, but when I say walk, they’ll come bounding up to me like the next contestants on The Price Is Right. I’m actually bracing myself right now just typing the word, because I’m not so sure they can’t read my mind.
We have two dogs. Bella is a seven-year-old chiuweenie. When she hears walk, she’ll rear back repeatedly on her hind legs, her front feet pawing at the air like a miniature version of the Lone Ranger’s horse. Instead of the God-awful sweaters my wife sometimes makes her wear, I think she should have a little custom-made saddle.
Bella and Diamond at play
Bella isn’t a ball-chasing kind of dog. I’m not sure if that’s because she’s too stupid, or too smart. Her idea of fun is hitting the empty field behind our neighborhood, where I unclip her to do what she loves most: protect the world from dangerous jackrabbits and pheasants of ill repute. With her nose to the ground she takes off through the brush—until the culprits are flushed from their tangled hideouts. More than once I’ve had the holy living crap scared out of me when a long-eared rabbit or colorful bird suddenly explodes from a clump of grass in front of me to escape our hoagie-sized hellhound. Bella will chase the animal for a few yards before halting with her diminutive chest puffed out and rather smug look on her face. Then she’ll glance back; I can’t tell if she’s thinking “You’re welcome” or “Did you see that? That was awesome!” Probably both.
Diamond, on the other hand, is our elderly white lab. She’s going on 14 now, which is pretty much “assisted living” in dog years. Diamond used to get as worked up as Bella before a walk. Her tail would wag so hard it became a happy weapon that bruised shins and knocked knick-knacks from end tables. Now, even though she’s got arthritis and more lumps than a beginner’s mashed potatoes, she still likes to go. At the sound of the word she’ll pad over to me gingerly, her tail flitting back and forth with as much enthusiasm as she can muster and an expression on her face that can only be described as grateful.
If she were a person, Diamond would need a HurryCane. But boy, back in the day, she could outrun the wind. Unlike Bella, she lived to chase a ball. I had one of those tennis ball flinger-things that could rocket the ball 75 yards away with ease, and she could almost reach it before it stopped rolling. Then she’d gallop back, her ears flapping behind her like two flags in a windstorm, and plop it at my feet. That could go on for hours. As she got older, the catch sessions grew shorter until gradually, sniffing became her new hobby. Getting to the field as quickly as possible is no longer important (she used to pull our boys on skateboards like a suburban sled dog). Now all she wants to do is stop and smell the roses…and the lawns, the fire hydrants, the neighbors’ car tires. And pee on most of them too, which I guess is dog for “DiaMoNd Wuz HeRe.”
In fact, I should take them for a walk right now. Or maybe, all this time, they’ve been taking me.