I’m just the leash-holder

Posted by Gail Gabrielson at 25 July 2013

Category: Charlie, Memoir

Sometimes when Charlie the Puggle and I go for our morning walks, I feel like all I’m there for is to pick up after him. He knows the way. We take a left out the door and go for a block, sometimes two, and then head for the park. He decides whether we go for one block or two. Me? I’m just there to make sure his leash doesn’t get tangled in anything.

We take the same route for a couple of reasons: First, I roll out of bed, throw on clothes and tennis shoes, slap on Charlie’s halter and leash, and out the door. I’m barely awake. Secondly, by taking the same route, I know which trees Charlie is going to “claim” and where he’s going to need to sniff.

That sniffing drives me crazy at times. He’ll get a whiff of weed killer, and examine it on the dandelion or pigweed, and then make the proper calculations so that he can target the exact location of the chemical and cover it with his own chemical. Sometimes, he takes so long sniffing, that I wonder what’s there. I start checking and I don’t see anything. That’s when I start tugging on his leash. If it’s no big deal, Charlie usually moves on. Sometimes, he digs in and refuses to move.

Anyone who’s seen or petted Charlie knows that he’s a big boy — all muscle. He looks like a pug on steroids, minus the smashed-in nose. When we weighed him at the vet’s office, he was 55 pounds. He’s likely 60 pounds now. I know, because I have to pick him up to get him into the bathtub. He’s learned not to squirm, because then I’m more likely to drop him. So when Charlie stands his ground, he’s immovable.

That’s why I feel so useless on our walks. He leads the way and stops when he wants to. When he does his thing, I’m there to bag it and dispose of it.

I have found another role I play on our walks: I’m Charlie’s conscience. I lead him away from temptation. I keep him on the straight and narrow. I dissuade him from marking people’s flowerpots — especially when the homeowner is standing in the yard watching us. I keep him from following his nose into places he shouldn’t go.

And I keep him from wandering off. Yesterday we noticed two dogs at large across the street where we were walking. A bigger dog and a smaller dog (I think it was Sparky) were circling a fenced yard, clearly stalking something inside. Charlie stopped in his tracks and looked, giving me time to see what they were all excited about. It was a big orange cat slinking around in the yard, protected by the chain-link fence.

Charlie gladly would have helped the two other dogs in their mission. I suspect he would have tried digging under the fence or tried jumping the fence. “No,” I said as I wiggled Charlie’s leash to catch his attention, “we’re not going over there. C’mon, let’s keep moving.”

I use the phrase, “let’s keep moving,” when other dogs are barking at us through their fences and windows, and I want to get the heck out of Dodge. I think Charlie knows what it means. But then again, it might be the tone of voice I use — slightly frantic, but not quite hysterical. Dogs are good barometers of emotion that way.

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