Sunday, June 28, 2009

Leader of the Pack, or not

Bruce and I like to walk. Okay, to be truthful, Bruce and I need to walk. Either way, we get out regularly in the neighborhood, and we always take Biscuit with us. Biscuit is our 100lb+ yellow lab. She is obviously very large, even for a lab. The vet comments on her stature every time I take her for a visit.

Biscuit is quite friendly. She loves to greet the children in the neighborhood, and they love her. She especially loves to greet the other dogs in the neighborhood. She gets extremely excited when she sees another dog approaching at the end of its owner's lead. Normally, this isn't a problem. Bruce always holds the lead when we walk, and he can control Biscuit's excitement.

This week, Bruce worked late. I knew it would be dark when he got home, and I wanted to get a walk in, so I decided to go by myself. No big deal. Of course, I had to take Biscuit. It would have killed her soul to watch me leave without her. I'm not cold-hearted enough to deny her the best part of her day. Translation....I'm a sucker.

The drama started immediately, and a wise person would have taken the warning and stayed home. One does not walk a dog of Biscuit's size and enthusiasm by putting the lead on her collar. The torque on her neck would kill her. We strap a chest harness on her...yes a harness. Imagine hitching a small horse to a wagon, and you'll have the idea. The moment Biscuit sees her harness in someone's hand, she goes berserk. She leaps from side to side, coming a good two feet off the ground. We can't harness her up until she does a couple of laps of joy around the house. As a further expression of extreme happiness, she usually picks up a random shoe and tosses it under the table or china cabinet, creating havoc later when the boy who left the shoe right beside the front door can't find it.

Once again, Bruce is always the one to strap her in. If our family is Biscuit's pack, then the only alpha dog she recognizes is Bruce. Everyone else is simply her playmate. I feed her, so that gives me some sway, but not alpha status. It took a full 10 minutes for me to get her in the damn harness. I had to sit on her to hold her still and get her legs in the appropriate holes. I was sweating before I left the house.

Things improved when we finally managed to exit the house. Biscuit darted frenetically to each of her sniffing points along the way. I followed Bruce's example and kept the retractable lead short while we were in the developed portion of the neighborhood. I wasn't walking fast enough to suit her because she kept looking back at me impatiently, but all and all things were under control.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. That is the sound of the universe laughing at me. Almost all the control we think we possess in this world is an illusion. I've had that lesson demonstrated before, so you would think I understood it.

When Biscuit and I turned into the section of our neighborhood that is not as developed, I gave her some lead. She likes that. She can run back and forth more, making up for the fact that I can't walk as fast as she wants me to. Unfortunately, at about the same time I released the catch on the lead, Biscuit caught sight of a small shih tzu approaching from the other direction. She reared up like a stallion. I tried reeling in the lead, but her momentum was already working against me. Oh laws of motion, how I hated you in that moment. One of my science teacher friends could probably figure out the force of a 100lb+ object hurtling at the speed of joy with no slack on the line. I can only tell you it is significantly more than 100 pounds. I couldn't shorten the lead, and I couldn't let go. I could only try to keep my feet when she jerked my arm out of its socket. There was no time to consider that pain, though, because I was charging down the street at full lab speed behind her. My feet flew behind me like a cartoon character. If the distance had been even one step farther I would have face-planted on the asphalt.

My breathless screaming, "She won't hurt you!" was met with looks of sheer terror on my friends' faces...and thank god they were friends. Strangers might have run, and I don't even want to think about how that would have ended. Biscuit thinks chasing is a glorious game.

Of course Biscuit didn't hurt the dog or the people. She was simply enthusiastic about saying hello. I was the only one who got hurt. The shih tzu did immediately poop in the middle of the street, but I can't really say as I blame him. Imagine seeing an NFL linebacker barreling toward you at full speed. You might poop in the street too.

I tried to be mad at Biscuit, but her big smiling lab face is hard to stay mad at very long. Besides, she just didn't understand the problem. It's fun to see your friends, right? I won't be taking her on any more solo walks. Bruce tried to give me all kinds of helpful advice about what I should have done. Bottom line -- I'm not the alpha dog in this least not in Biscuit's eyes.

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