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The dynamic in our house has changed this week. We are dog sitting for the neighbors’ dog — so now not one but two hounds follow me wherever I go. Up the stairs, down the stairs, into the bedroom, to the computer. My twin shadows. It reminds me of when the kids were young and they tagged along wherever I went — especially to the bathroom.  I thought I had finally escaped peeing with several curious eyes watching. Nope…and the disconcerting thing is that dogs do their ‘understanding’ through sniffing. The closer the hounds move to me to ‘understand’, the more shy and retiring my bladder becomes — or the more blocked my colon is. Good thing Gill isn’t here — she’d be like the Ringling Brothers Circus for the hound noses with her Crohn’s exploits on the toilet!

I have learned that every dog has a different style and side for going down stairs. If you don’t pick up on this immediately, you’re apt to end up doing a face plant on the floor as they walk, first into, then over, you to make it to the bottom. The neighbour dog prefers passing to the left …although, being a large hound, she actually takes up the better part of the step. The Pig often takes up the rear of our little pack, jauntily sashaying from side to side, more or less in the middle of the stairs, her tail high in the air. I know that, when they were young, my kids used to follow me in the same way.I can’t recall what the formation was for my children — but I suspect it was Gill taking the lead, Crazy D trying to trip her and L’il Sis hanging back, waiting for our messy lot to arrive at the bottom, thus making the route free of booby traps.

It really was easier to herd children than these hounds. During many of our ‘forced marches’, Crazy D and Gill were strapped together in a double wide stroller. It took up most of the sidewalk, thus ensuring that we had a wide berth. We looked so imposing that people crossed the street to avoid our parade. Then, for a short period of time, when Crazy D was still a toddler and loved to ‘pull a runner’, I lashed him to a leash, not unlike a dog. People gave me strange looks (except when we lived in Germany…they thought it a perfectly reasonable approach to dealing with undisciplined, unpredictable children) but I saw the bigger picture. To avoid him running into traffic and getting hurt, a little embarrassment was a small price to pay. Actually, there are times nowadays when I’d like to resurrect that leash to keep him falling off cliffs and the like.

Walking the hounds is a real challenge. I tried walking them together once but realized that their view of what a walk entails is very different and is, in fact, a war in the making. Jewel, the large Vizsla, stops at all the curbs, sits and waits for the command to cross a road. She walks along at a sedate clip, very regal in her bearing with her green horse blanket coat, occasionally glancing back for approval or a new command. The Pig, on the other hand, trots with her snout on the ground at all times, her sensitive nose picking up the scent of bunnies under bushes, around the base of trees and random fetid garbage thrown away by school kids. Her snorts make me think of a pig rooting out truffles (hence her nickname, The Pig). When she locks onto a particularly strong scent, the tail goes up, begins wagging furiously and she yells at the bunny in a cry that reminds me of a small child or cat being murdered. Don’t ask how I can identify that sound…

Jewel waits primly on the sidewalk while The Pig tangles me under the bushes with her. When we are finally able to extricate ourselves, we bring half the bush with us in the form of branches and burrs stuck to us both. By the end of the short walk, my arms are considerably longer than when I began, Jewel is wearing an expression that says, ‘Did we have to bring that little ruffian with us?’ and The Pig is triumphant in her smug ‘I almost captured  a big, bad bunny…another almost-notch in my collar’ expression. I am exhausted.

So now I walk the hounds separately…and make sure that they each get the same length of walk, the same number of treats, the same dinner time and nap time with Grandma. Again, much as I managed with the kids. I have reached the conclusion that, no matter how old I am, what my circumstances are, I am destined to be followed by a pack of something. Just call me The Pied Piper…

 

 

 

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