I am a mess around dogs lately.
My dog, Milo, died last year. My husband, Peter, and I decided that, given the travel we do, getting a new dog was not a sensible thing to do. (Although I’m not sure what being sensible has to do with dogs.) So, I am without a pet and—while it is sensible—it is also a little lonely. But nearly every day on my walk I encounter a dog and, while I feel a little sorry for the dog’s owner, it’s not my fault: I need my dog fix.
I recently read an advice column (you don’t want to know how many advice columns I read) that suggested it was rude to talk to a dog and not its owner. This had never occurred to me. I usually ignored the dog’s owner entirely and went right into conversation with the dog. But I don’t want to be accused of rudeness, so now I try to say something perfunctory to the owner before talking to the dog.
“How’s it going?” I say, without waiting for an answer.
Then, “OH! Are you going for a WALK?! Do you like the snow?! Are you a SNOW DOG?! Aren’t you a GOOD snow dog! Yes, you are!”
The owner stands by, embarrassed.
Walking in the woods, I frequently encounter dogs off leash. They run ahead a few yards to scout things out. Then they see me. Suddenly, they are not so brave—especially when I have hiking poles. Hiking poles are worrisome. There is this strange human, talking happy nonsense, but she has long appendages dangling off the ends of her arms. She’s a little scary.
The dog looks behind, “Is my boss coming? Should I turn back?”
Usually they wait for their owner to catch up. I say, “How’s it going?” then the dog comes running to me. “She’s a friend! She knows my boss!”
I meet all kinds of dogs. There is a huge Bernese mountain dog who weighs as much as me and is still a puppy. He’s very excited to see me—but afraid of my poles—so he dances in a circle around me. There are a pair of greyhounds who are much too busy smelling things to linger very long. There are a couple of rescue dogs (one with only one eye) who break their owner’s rule and jump on me every time we meet. I love them all.
Peter’s idea is that we could get a “timeshare dog” and share it with other people who can’t manage a dog fulltime. I like the idea, but I’m not sure how it would work out. Part of the appeal of having a dog is knowing he is always there, always waiting for his walk.
Sometimes I still walk into the living room, where Milo used to sleep, and look for his black and white head to rise when he sees me, “Are we going for a walk?” When he knew we weren’t going anywhere, just the tip of his tail would thump the ground (thump, thump, thump!) his way of saying he was happy to see me.
I went to my writing group the other day and discovered my host was fostering a stray Chihuahua. She slept on my lap the whole meeting.
I whispered to her, “Here’s what we’re gonna do: when no one’s looking, you jump into my bag and we’ll do the skedaddle!” She looked up at me with her sleepy Chihuahua eyes as if she were considering it.
Oh man. I need a dog.
Till next time,
Carrie Classon’s memoir, “Blue Yarn,” will be released in April. Learn more at CarrieClasson.com.