There’s a quote I keep seeing on the internet, especially on websites for gyms, tattoo parlors, and personal trainers:
“The human body is the best work of art.” — Jess C. Scott.
If this is true, my particular canvas has gone to the dogs. Literally.
Our first dog, Woofie, began with Minimalism. Woofie was a rescue with some training, and he was only 60 lbs. when we adopted him at 6 months old. He walked fairly well on a leash, possibly because I carried a lot of treats in my pockets. If Woofie would sit nicely while we waited for another dog to pass, or refrain from jumping on every human who wanted to pet him, he got a reward.
bribery training worked on everything but puppies. The joys of romping with another puppy were far greater than the lure of food. Even bacon. If we saw a puppy, I had to hold Woofie back with muscle.
Fortunately, I had a lot of muscle, thanks to years of lifting weights and dancing (back when my body was safely in its Degas art period). But restraining him was more difficult when Woofie filled out, reaching ninety-plus pounds, with a deep chest and huge paws.
One Golden Retriever’s owner looked at my bulging biceps and red face as I hauled Woofie away and said, “You should try a gentle leader leash.”
I did. Woofie employed his favorite protest move, lying on his back and refusing to budge. The gentle leader was retired.
We ran into a Yellow Labrador puppy. That owner suggested a harness.
I got one. On our first walk, I stepped on one of the ubiquitous round seedpods in our neighborhood. It rolled under my foot. I fell. All harnessed up, Woofie’s internal husky took over. I got dragged ten feet. The skin I left on the sidewalk moved Woofie’s art into the Abstract Period. The canvas (i.e., me) now resembled Jackson Pollock’s reddest work.
The harness was retired with extreme prejudice. (I MAY have doused it in the alcohol I used to clean my scrapes and set it on fire.)
A Rottweiler’s owner suggested a pinch collar. I declined to use a restraint that resembled a medieval torture device and resigned myself to the extra arm workouts.
Then we got our second dog, Fey. Fey was a former street puppy. She attempted to drag me to every trashcan she could find. But she was far less stubborn than Woofie and not nearly as strong. It’s also easy to train a once-starving dog to walk next to you once she figures out there’s always food in your pocket.
Unlike Woofie, Fey ignored other dogs – unless they came at us. We had at least six encounters with big, loose, aggressive dogs. Two were pit bulls. One was a Rottweiler. Another was a Belgian Malinois. The others were mutts.
All of them recognized Fey’s no bullshit attitude. They attacked Woofie.
Fey believed no one should beat up Woofie but her. She promptly sank her teeth into the offending dog’s ear and shook until each dog ran off, yelping.
Even without those unpleasant encounters, walking the dogs together was a challenge. On my left, Woofie wanted to bound ahead and find friends (or at least squirrels), while on my right, Fey wanted to sniff and pee every 20 paces. My arms got stretched like something out of Marvel Comics Realism School. Sadly, I was not Mister Fantastic. I was Miz Strained Ligaments.
Most of our morning walks were at least 3-4 miles, with a stop at an enclosed field about halfway. There I would let the dogs off-leash and stretch while they chased birds or each other.
The field was the size of a soccer field and then some. Yet one day, while running at full-speed and looking over his shoulder, Woofie managed to ram the only object standing in the field.
Right in the knee.
I went down, swearing and promising the dog a fate most dire. Like the pinch collar.
It was only a bruise – albeit a big one. I found a stick and limped home like one of Bruguel’s Beggars.
Next week, we ran into three little yappy dogs with issues on our side of the street. The owner must’ve had the same Napoleon complex as her dogs, because she headed straight for us, never mind that her dogs were barking, lunging, and growling.
I hurriedly pulled Fey and Woofie up the hill next to us, less worried about trespassing than about the little dogs being eaten by Fey.
Unfortunately, the grass on the hill was wet. When the yappers went ballistic and tried to climb the hill after us, Woofie lunged. Fey lunged. I slipped.
As we rolled down the hill in a heap. I yelled, “Jesus fucking Christ you moronic fucking dogs, I told you to sit and WAIT!”
I hung onto the leashes as we skidded to a stop on the sidewalk, still bellowing, “If you take one fucking step toward those goddamned yappy little dogs, I will kill you both!”
Fey and Woofie didn’t move. They hung their heads as I sat up, feeling my bleeding cheek.
The Napoleonesque Cohort, confronted with a cursing canine avalanche, had retreated to the other side of the street. The dogs’ tails were between their legs. They were finally, mercifully silent in the face of my dogs’ Expressionistic masterpiece: