This week we were taking our early evening constitutional when we came upon a man walking his dog, a beautiful German Shepherd. He was strolling perfectly in step with his dad. He never wavered to smell the grass, or pulled in urgency to get to a scent lifted by the breezes. Unlike Pocket and I, he neither barked or jumped to reach us. It was odd behavior to say the least.
Pocket and I were looking up, and barking at the big dog. Neither of us came up to his knees. He chuckled at us. When he di,d his father immediately gave him a “down” command, which the German Shepherd did, faithfully. More odd behavior. We quieted down too, but not on command. We were just hot and tired from all the barking.
We introduced ourselves, and the polite pup told us that his name was Douglas. Our dads began discussing the Red Sox, and something called the bullpen. I don’t know what that is, but in the last couple of years, it has become the reason for much whining from Massachusetts’ men.
Curious, I asked Douglas why he walked like a robot. He told me that, when he was ten weeks old, a trainer came to his house and taught him the proper way to walk, which was always next to his dad, and in step with him, never pulling, or stopping to sniff. Pocket looked up at him: “You got hosed,” she said.
I shushed my impertinent big sister, but she wasn’t wrong. This dog had been trained the human way. In the time it took our dads to conclude their parlay, I would have to teach Douglas how not to be the dog his father wanted, but the dog he was meant to be. “Come over to the grass and sniff it,” I told him. He was reluctant, but I assured him it would be alright.
Douglas took in several deep sniffs. “What is this?” he asked. He smelled some more. “All these scents tell different stories, about the animals who live in my neighborhood, and about my friends’ lives. There is also information about the vermin who crawl in our yards and how to trick our parents. How have I been missing this all these years?”
“I am sure your dad is an excellent parent and loves you with all his heart, but some folks try to keep their dogs off the scent, because it provides us with information, and when we have information, we have power.” Doug nodded eagerly. “Now that I have shown you this world, you cannot let it be denied to you any longer.”
“But how am I to get to the smells, Daddy holds the leash, and he decides where we go.” We both laughed.
“You are in control,” I told him. “He has one arm, you have four legs and great strength. Just get ahead of your dad and pull. If we can force our Dad to go where we want him to go, imagine how far you can drag your dad?”
Our parents ended their conversation and said their goodbyes. We both told Douglas to remember what he had learned on this day. He nodded as they walked away.
The next day we saw from our window Douglas and his dad walking down the street. Douglas was pulling him from one side of the road to the other while his Dad yelled, “heel.” Pocket and I had a good laugh over that.
We might open up our own business venture as dog trainers who bring dogs back to their perfect factory settings. Who would want to change that?