Now that the winter snow has begun to melt, and the frozen dirty white remnants of ice and slush has been reduced to the height of my shoulders, I have resumed my routine of a morning walk around my neighborhood for exercise.
It’s a nice suburban neighborhood. I’m only a couple of miles away from farmlands and a large county park. But for convenience sake I choose to take a quick thirty minute perambulation around the block. The first three-quarters of a mile is up a gradual incline. The last quarter requires me to carry a safety parachute.
It can be a quite a pleasant little walk. I enjoy the sound of the chirping birds that can occasionally be heard beneath the sounds of trash pickup trucks, road repair crews and passing jet air traffic.
I start my walk immediately after the last school bus has picked up its load of unhappy children for the morning. I don’t want to walk by kids waiting for their bus. Hovering parents automatically assume I’m a kidnapper and keep one hand on some hidden weapon under their coats. Or sometimes after I pass these young whippersnappers, I discover my back is covered with post-it notes that say “kick me!” It’s amazing how many people in the supermarket later on actually follow that advice.
For reasons I don’t understand, three out of four homes in this neighborhood own dogs. The big dogs force their owners to take them for a walk in the morning. The little ones just look out the window and “yip yip yip” at anything they spot moving. So as I casually stroll through the neighborhood I activate the sound of barking from each house I pass.
Now the big dog owners have been forced to walk their canine overlords all winter long. They’ve had to trudge through the arctic tundra for the privilege of watching an animal relieve itself. Now that I have arrived on the scene I have disturbed the routine. With disgust they look at me as they are forced to wait for me to pass, or they turn the other way in order to avoid potential liability from their pet using me as a chew toy.
Why does everyone have these dogs? I could see a little dog. A Chiwawa, Toy Poodle or Shih Tzu. (Coincidentally that was the name of a folk rock group in the sixties.) But a big dog needs room to run. A larger yard than those that are in this neighborhood. Maybe something the size of Montana.
Then to add to the joy of walking these beasts, the dog walkers must scoop their pets’ friendly deposits up and carry them with them. Usually in a bright orange bag. I can tell you from experience, it’s embarrassing to be seen carry a brightly colored bag of poop. I can’t imagine having to walk a dog too.
But after passing the grumbling dog walkers I continue on my morning walk enjoying the sound of aircraft, waste removal and dogs barking from windows.
As I approach the hill that leads down to my home. I hear from the last house before a small stretch of woods, a sound that goes “GARLOWGRRWOOF!” This sound strikes fear into my heart. For this is the house, whose owner for reasons that defy sanity, has the rare canine breed, The Mammoth Bear Hound!
I saw it once. Usually it is kept indoors and either trucked somewhere for walks, or it’s only let out at night. But on this day it was out in the front yard. Its master dangling two feet off the ground by a chain connected to its collar of iron. Standing ten feet tall. With a slobbering head full of drool and teeth four feet wide, this beast could swallow me in one bite. Fortunately it appears to be friendly. But I think if I got close enough to feel its affection I would still require an ambulance. I tried to appear nonchalant and calm as I passed. Never making eye contact. As its master pleaded with it to sit, stay, let him down, anything.
I’m happy to report, whatever the eventual result of all the growling and noise was behind me was, I made it home safely. I’ll be out tomorrow for another walking adventure. As I walk, if the noise subsides long enough for me to think, I’ll probably think, “I like dogs. I’d like to have a dog. But I’m not going to get one.”