Link's Walk, Not Mine

When we walk a dog, we need to think about the difference between our walk and theirs, because they are very different. For example, lots of humans go walking to get somewhere. If that's the purpose, they don't pay much attention to the space between them and the goal, just like a dog chasing a cat won't notice anything else, not even the yelling human behind it.

A lot of humans walk for what they call exercise. They could just as easily walk on a treadmill while watching Oprah save somebody, and some of them do. I'm sure dogs find treadmills very, very strange. These walkers care about how long they walked, how strenuous it was, etc. They are like the folks in jogging suits you see on street corners, bobbing from foot to foot to keep their heart rate up while they wait for the light. Just weird. Dogs practice, but they don't exercise.

When a dog accompanies a jogger, he is working, not "getting a walk." He may enjoy working, but it's not his walk. A dog walk is more of a mosey or an amble punctuated by occasional stops and interrupted by mad romps. He'll want to stop and pee on that bush, or at least check for recent visitors. He has extremely important checkpoints that must be investigated carefully. If a tree limb has fallen in a familiar place, he needs to check it out. New stuff is important.

He urges an emergency detour if he spots neighborhood kids he likes to lick. He's more interested in the squirrel that just darted up a tree or the cat staring insolently from a porch than he is in his heart rate.

I recently discovered Bark. What a great magazine! The articles are about living with and understanding dogs, not "What puppy should you think about buying this month?" Got a dog? You'll enjoy Bark.

He'll stop and start, go fast in the dull places and hang out for a good five minutes in a real interesting (meaning "stinky") place. Now that's a dog walk!

I've taken people with me on Link's walks, and it never works out. They don't understand that it's his walk, so they get frustrated, and even if they do understand, they get bored. They lose interest because I'm paying attention to the dog not them. They really don't care if that's the best place to check for raccoon smells and we saw one there one time and it was cool. They don't consider a garbage newly put out a good reason to cross the street. They don't want to stop to savor the howly cars in the distance. They're as bored as a dog watching poker.

I don't answer my cell phone when I'm walking Link, because I need to pay attention to him so we can compromise when his walk is something I can't manage. For example, he prefers to walk in nice cool mud when the sun's hot, and I slip and slide and get clogged up with gunk, so we compromise: He can walk in the mud if I don't have to. He loves to rest on the giant snowcones in winter, cooling off and taking a bite now and then. I dont mind, as long as I can sttay on the sidewalk. We get to stare at the raccoons but not chase them, and we always smell the snail trail fleeing bunnies leave behind. But no chasing.

I want to get home and kick back or get ready for work, but I try not to hustle him. His walk is his main enjoyment of the day, so I'm not selfish about that. After all, he spends the whole day home alone alert for mailmen and intruders.

For me, the fun of the walk is trying to see the world through his eyes.
We go fast if I don't have to run, and we go slow if there's no reason to hurry (like some mean dog heading for us).

For me, the fun of the walk is trying to see the world through his eyes. I look where he looks, and I wonder what he is smelling. Sometimes I think about what it must be like to have your nose, rather than your eyes, be the main way you "see" the world. Imagine a greyish, blurry world with smells so rich it's like swimming, eyes closed, in vegetable soup.

Pully dog? Here are some tips for handling him.
That's how the world "looks" to them.

And a good dog is paying attention to you as well. That's the deal, as Link would say. He does what he can. Sometimes he forgets, and sometimes he just decides to break the rules. But usually the problem is mutual misunderstanding.

It never got through to him that having two legs and being three-plus feet higher at the head made falling down a lot scarier for me that it was for him. But after falling down on the ice a few times himself, he got the idea that I didn't want to fall down and he started compromising too. He goes around ice spots and slows down when I ask him to. That's how good relationships work. I give to you, you give to me, we are both grateful.


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