Yesterday I wrote of finding beauty in running. I may have been using a little creative license. You know how zombies shamble and lurch as if pulled incompetently by invisible strings? My strings are fluorescent green, and my puppeteers are the dogs.
Every morning starts with great intentions. I corral each dog and buckle on the harness, heavy webbing and brass tackle for such a light endeavor. Then I attach the leash -- essentially a bright green bungee cord with extra handles. I need those handles. The dogs immediately attack each other in their eagerness to get out the door, and we have to spend a few minutes untangling. Finally, we are off.
I read the health articles, I know about a "gentle warm up". Unfortunately, canines can't read. We're off to the races immediately, crashing down the front steps and going in two different directions, and then two other different directions, until they finally hear my epithets and start in my direction. Half a block of stumbling and I start to get my feet under me, and that's when the first dog has to pee. In medieval times they used horses to pull people asunder. I use dogs.
Off again, but we're at a curb, and for their safety the are trained to sit and wait for a command before crossing. This is an opportunity to compete for who can sniff the most items before I start ordering them to sit. Of course, it's more amusing if one sits, the other stands, and they alternate. By this time I am breaking my first sweat, but not from exercise.
Finally they relent, and this time we're moving, I have a pace, they are looking ahead, we're ON! But really they are scanning for birds and squirrels and imaginary squirds which have the magical properties of both. One sighting and its lunge, flit, lunge and I must shift suddenly into a backwards lean made possible only by the stretchy properties of the bungee leash. And then we're off again, to the next curb.
A few blocks in they finally start getting into the groove, but Stanley is guided by the same unpredictable curiosity as a human three year old. Slow, fast, left, right. We stop and untangle, I shorten the leash to keep him behind me, we start. Fifteen feet, thirty. My heart is starting to beat faster, I'm breathing deep! Then, for the first time that morning, both dogs are in harmony -- stopping abruptly at an invisible marker. I do a remarkably unballetic left turn, right leg and arm thrown out and up, pivoting on left toes, upright only because of my tethers.
Again the air rings with "come on you little shits" and other exhortations to please move together in a forward direction. Speaking of shit, somewhen along the way the dogs do their business, and I am left with a pendulous plastic fistful of poo. I have experimented with holding it as far away as possible, but then it swings ominously and I begin to wonder about the tensile strength of newspaper bags. So I reluctantly cinch it up, dreading a fall because I know I don't have the mental wherewithal to drop the thing before a catastrophic landing. It's like a personal bomb. I have, in fact, imagined using it as a defense should I be accosted on the streets (I'm sure the dogs would be busier looking for squirds than protecting me). "Get back! I've got 8 ounces of this shit, and I'm not afraid to use it!"
So together we lurch and stumble on our little route, a mobile three ring circus. Other runners, and their dogs, have learned to cross the street or wait a block away as we meander across the sidewalk at barely more than a stroll. I exhort them to move faster, we have deadlines! But the only word they recognize is "treat" which is also the only time they obey without hesitation, and a sudden stop/sit would prove disastrous. So I "encourage" them, safe in the knowledge that a high pitched voice disguises the name calling. Many good names start with N: ninny, nincompoop, nimrod, numskull, nitwit, knucklehead. I use them all.
At last we are within blocks of home. I am sweaty and sore from being hauled in different directions. We speed up, eager for water, and then I hear it -- the low growl of a dog behind a fence. Teddy is slower than me, and Stanley is distracted, so I have time (for once) before they charge. I can't tell if they love or hate the unknown one, but both go mad scrambling and barking. Now, however, it's MY turn. I've gotten hold of the extra handles, I've braced myself, and this time they are the ones who go flying, swinging around in their harnesses, feet sliding across the concrete, ears flapping. I feel the sick joy of operating a state-fair carnival ride. When they stop they are miraculously facing the right direction, sheepish with clumsiness, and we finish our "walk" without further incident.