The Human Canvas (#145)

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.

This 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.

Fin d'Arabesque, with ballerina Rosita Mauri, 1877, Musée d'Orsay, courtesy of Wikipedia.
Fin d’Arabesque by Edgar Degas with ballerina Rosita Mauri, 1877, Musée d’Orsay, courtesy of Artsy.

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.

The Beggars - Pieter Bruegel the Elder, courtesy of Wikipedia
The Beggars – Pieter Bruegel the Elder, courtesy of Wikipedia.

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:

The Scream - Evard Munch, courtesy of Wikipedia.
The Scream – Evard Munch, courtesy of Artsy.


Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

17 thoughts on “The Human Canvas (#145)”

  1. As usual you didn’t disappoint (coffee rolling out of my nose, snorts!). I am surprised you didn’t make Andy walk the dogs or at least one of them. They still sound like fantastic dogs.

    1. Aw! Coffee-snortage! A great compliment.

      In the evening we sometimes walk dogs together. But they had so much energy when they were young, the walks had to be long and Andy goes into work early. On the weekends, Andy is likely to sleep in, but he’s kind enough to have breakfast waiting we we get back. I think I also just like walks more than Andy. Or I have greater masochistic tendencies.

  2. OMGoodness, you are some kind of saint, a gift to the dog world. I wish there were more humans like you. Hope you feel better, and the dogs go easier on you.

    1. I dunno, I suspect someone like a YOGA INSTRUCTOR would be far more patient and not swearing like a rejected sorority girl as they lay bleeding on the pavement. 🙂

      But thanks nonetheless.

  3. My boyfriend would be angry with you for writing this post and letting me read it, if he knew. It hasn’t strengthened his case for us getting a (large) dog.

    1. Well, one large dog is not bad, but with two, the dangers go up exponentially. 🙂 Every day walking isn’t a big deal, it’s just bad if you trip with a young, exuberant dog.

      The benefit, though, is that you and your scabs can sleep peacefully. No one will ever get into your house without raising a doggie alarm. Especially not a possum (or the South African equivalent).

  4. Absolutely loved the punchline with this one. Brilliant writing. Art is certainly all around us. Together, Woofie and Fey seem to have a lot of might and power together. I hope they didn’t roll on top of you as the three of you rolled down the wet muddy slope. Maybe it was the obscenities that knocked sense into all of the dogs, that it is NOT okay to drag someone around 😀

    1. Thank you, Mabel!

      They do have a lot of power, especially when they lunge together. People were like, huh, “Have you gained weight since your dancing days?” And I say, “It’s not weight, it’s ballast!”

      And yes, the dogs are indeed cowed by either the swearing or the tone of voice.

  5. We are thinking about getting a rescue dog or two but we are looking at the old and low energy variety – I definitely don’t have the upper body strength to control a strong energetic dog let alone two! I imagine they would keep you fit (if injured!) though!

    1. Hi, Cat! If you want a low energy dog, I’d recommend something with some mastiff. They’re big, but they lie around a lot. 🙂 Even a senior Labrador Retriever or Chihuahua has a tremendous amount of energy.

      I love that you want an older dog. They are the ones least likely to find homes. Can’t wait to hear about your dog journey.

  6. I cringed reading about you getting dragged across the sidewalk! The Jackson Pollock analogy was a little too on point 😉 Sounds like your dogs gave you some mighty fine battle scars. How are they now? Are you still getting a leash workout or do they now always obey your fury?

    I loved the writing style of this post… works of fine art, slice of everyday dog owner life and a happy ending all wrapped up nicely!

    I’ve never had a dog (would love one! but unfortunately bf doesn’t like them…) and I was wondering: do all dogs wake their owner up at 5-6 AM and go for a walk? Might be a silly question I know, but a lot of my friends with dogs always have to get up so early for the walk!

    1. None of the scrapes from my dogs were permanent, but even if they were, I’d say it was worth it, just for the sight of Fey’s happy tail whirling like a helicopter rotor whenever I came home. Or for Woofie’s delighted prancing and crazy antics. There is something so very joyous, uncomplicated, and immediate about a dog’s love.

      But the training isn’t always easy, that’s for sure. Neither is getting up early, but it does give you more time in the morning. And it’s built-in exercise. Some dogs get up earlier than others. It depends on the size of their bladder, I think!

  7. Excellent post, Autumn. Unlike Kate, though, I’m not snorting coffee through my nose. Instead, I’m all tense, worrying about what’s going to happen next. Someone should make an animated movie of all your misadventures. That would be funny.

    When we were in the Philippines, we had two English beagles and a fair sized yard, so instead of taking them for a walk, I just let them run around the yard. Then a friend gave us a pure-bred German shepherd. A valuable dog, I guess, but we hadn’t asked for it. When I found how much she wanted to bite me and how hard she was to handle, I gave her back.

    Congratulations on your determination to give your dogs their daily exercise.

    1. Don’t worry, Nicki! We all survived.

      I have a very large yard for Los Angeles, but it’s probably nothing like your yard in the Philippines. I think my determination is more of a form of “yard preservation” — without going miles and miles, when they were young, those dogs had energy to rip up or dig up plants if they got bored. I tried to wear them out as best I could. My friend JM once took Fey for a hike in the mountains of Santa Clarita in the middle of the day, when it was quite hot. Fey left everyone in the dust.

      Can’t have a dog who bites with little kids. Good call.

  8. Oh, dear. You’re making me feel absolutely okay with not being a dog owner. But hey, at least you are getting exercise and entertainment! 😛

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