Some thoughts on neighborhood dogs

Last week I had lunch with Wendl and Barry, a couple of dear, long-time friends (“couple,” meaning both two of them and married) at a local Indian restaurant. Conversation turned to dogs.

I’ve been noticing for several years that a lot of people, especially older women, were taking their dogs for a walk in a way I consider most peculiar, as well as counterproductive. The dogs themselves were not doing any walking. The women were pushing the dogs, as if the dogs were little children, in doggie prams.

It had taken me, oh, about a couple of minutes to realize the strollers these dogs were transported in were not human-baby carriages. They were apparently made exclusively for dogs.

What is going on here?

I’ve never had a dog but I’ve been related to plenty of them. When the dogs I know go out for walkies, the dogs walk. Their owners walk with them, holding them on leashes.

Isn’t that the purpose of dog walks? I mean, the two creatures, human and canine, walk each other. During this walk, the dog is cheered on to pee and poop. “Good dog!” say the owners, as if the dogs made a reasoned choice to evacuate. “Hm,” think the dogs. “Do I choose to poop here at this small patch of earth? Or maybe I should save it until I get inside? But if I wait to get inside, my person won’t give me that hearty, ‘Good dog!’ that thrills me so much.”

Dare I ask: if your dog is too old to take a walk on its own four feet, shouldn’t you be thinking of something other than buying a doggie stroller?

My friends told me that when one of their Westies had gotten old, they’d carried her out but once out, put her down to do her business. They had not acquired (at what expense, too?) a special carriage for her.

Is this movement toward being conned into spending a lot of money you don’t need to spend on dogs going around the country? Or is it particular to sophisticated city neighborhoods? I’m trying to imagine a family of rural Labs being summoned by their person to get into the stroller. No. Cannot be.

We three segued into our least favorite dog breeds, our Active Avoidance Dogs. They told me about a chow they’d known, a verifiable menace, which killed at least one other dog. I told them about how I loathe pit bulls and Rottweilers, and how I walk widely around them whenever I see them on the sidewalk.

And I told them a tale about one of those Active Avoidance Dogs I’d encountered in my old neighborhood.

I’d seen a big white dog from my window, going on walks with his owner. Then one day I ran into the two of them. The dog’s owner, who introduced himself to me as Geoffrey, was in presence the opposite of his dog. He was warm, friendly, good-looking with a black beard.

I was standing a couple of feet away from the dog when I asked Geoffrey, “Is that a pit bull?”

“Yes!” he said with ungodly enthusiasm. “His name is Captain and he’s very friendly! Do you want to say ‘hi’ to Captain?”

I murmured something Geoffrey (wrongly) took as eager assent.

“Here’s how to say to ‘hi’ to Captain,” Geoffrey continued. “First, show no fear. He’s real friendly and if you show him distrust you’ll hurt his feelings and maybe he’ll growl, maybe not. Just stand there. Right.

“Don’t come to him — he likes to make the first move. So don’t bend down. It’s kind of forcing yourself on him, he’s a private guy, he just might do quick little nips at your nose in warning. You’re doing great, by the way, you’re just standing there great, very erect.

“Pretty soon, I’ll tell you when, you can slap your tummy and call out, ‘Here, Captain!’, like that, and he’ll jump right up with his feet on your stomach and say, ‘Hi!'”

I murmured again, circled far around Captain, went home and wrote all this down.

Then, Wendl told us about the day she was walking Heather, her Westie, when they ran into a man walking his Westie. Based on the Westie-to-Westie connection, Wendl said hello, figuring the two dogs should meet.

“This is Heather,” she said to the other Westie’s owner. “What’s your dog’s name?”

“Arnold Schopenhauer,” said the man, rather coldly, and ended any possibility of doggie communion.

(Do click on that link above. I might have to investigate philosophers’ hair styles, as well as composers’.)




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