The Dogless Dog Walker
Dog walking is easy, when you're walking imaginary dogs.
Lisa Gates |
Posted: January 9, 2015, 11 a.m. PST
"Did she pick up imaginary poop?” was my friend Liz’s response after hearing the story of an odd encounter with another dog walker in 1995 or so I thought was a dog walker.
After only six months of being a professional dog walker, I was versed in reading people as they approached my dog group, whether there were clear indications to leash my dogs, preparing for a scowl or look of disdain for dogs and dog walking or a friendly hello and chat about the wonderful, well behaved dogs. There are the vainglorious moms who power walk dressed exactly the same, everyone in black spandex with black tops, unfriendly to dog walkers and dogs. Heaven forbid a dog sniffs their sweats marking them with a wet nose and that never associate with the help attitude. Or the Forbes 500 dog owners dressed in faded jeans, hoods, old jackets looking almost homeless but friendly to everyone on the trails, especially dog walkers because like the Kennedy’s they appreciate dogs and people who love dogs enough to make it a profession. There are women walking with children who grab their kids panicked the Golden Retriever might attack, when in reality, the dog just wants to clean off the crumbs on the kid’s face. But on this particular day, and never again in my 19 years of walking, I experienced a unique situation.
I took six dogs to a park frequented by dog walkers, although at the time there weren’t many of us around. It was a new concept to the area. I was throwing the ball for the dogs on a hill. At the top of the slope, there was a path lined by trees where I could see people hiking but not clearly as the trees blocked portions of it.
Suddenly from the tree lined trail above, I heard a woman calling for her dogs to come, adding the word cookie enticing them to return. She seemed to have a bunch of dogs and I assumed she was a fellow dog walker. Of course, the Lab in my group heard "cookie” racing up to get on the distribution list. I yelled sorry, assuring her that he was friendly. She laughed not responding and remained chatting to her dog group. Then she bellowed at her dogs not to run down the hill. I hollered "it’s ok, my dogs are friendly and I am a fellow dog walker” thinking we had a bond, comradeship being in the same business. Maybe, I will make another dog walker friend. But no dogs came bounding down as she continued to howl "come back. Do not go down the hill.”
Suspicions developed when no dogs ran down and I noticed her dancing around on the trail but again, I had a partially blocked view and was not quite sure what she was doing. I gathered my dogs, heading up the hill to grab the Lab who was enchanted by the animated dog walker. I reached the top, finding a woman with no dogs. She waved to me, explaining they were headed to the beach for a swim since her dogs loved to swim. But before she ventured to the beach, she said "treat time,” motioning to the dogs as if she was offering each of her charges a cookie. Of course my food mongers joined her but were confused by no cookie hand outs as they nosed her hands and pockets making sure she wasn’t holding out on them.
At this point, I was not sure if I should mention she had no dogs or just let her skip cheerfully away with her pretend group. She seemed joyful with her situation and so I decided not to reference the no dogs situation. She waved goodbye, running down the path with her imaginary group of happy dogs, leaving me wondering if this is what happens if you dog walk for too long, although it wasn’t a bad reality.
Years later, I shared the story with one of my employees who joked about a dog walk without dogs eliminated all the blame that dog walkers endure now-a-days. No missed poops, picnics destroyed, birds chased but we both agreed despite the headaches of a stolen sandwich, we would not trade our pack for hers, except for maybe the imaginary poop.
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