Yesterday the weather was perfect, and my wife was sorely in need of a quiet house for a nap. So I took our perpetual puppy, a black lab mix named Abbi, out for a long walk.
Usually when I want to take her for a long walk, I’ll go to Commercial Street. It’s the most interesting neighborhood that I can walk to and back without developing blisters on my feet. It’s kind of a weird place to walk a dog, since there is really no grass along the whole stretch of C-Street, but she gets plenty of pooping opportunities (pooportunites?) on the way there and the way back.
So it’s not really for her, it’s for me. I’m not terribly routine-oriented, and I like to pepper the routines I do have with some kind of variety. Commercial Street is one of those places that you can walk over and over and see something different every time. Some people would say it has a sense of place. But it certainly helps keep me sane in the mundane.
I just wanted to take a casual post here to share a few observations I’ve made from walking Abbi. Here goes…
The Smell of Weed
Even though Abbi is technically full-grown she still acts like a puppy in most ways. One example of this is her difficulty remaining focused on the sidewalk. We may walk by acres and acres of grass in an hour, but she will find the ONE BLADE OF GRASS that for some reason, just smells amazing. And for a 15-pound creature, she can be remarkably hard to pull away from her discovery.
Another surprise for such a small dog is that she is freakin’ fearless. I used to think she was afraid of heights, but once she got used to us that went away. I even took her across the Jefferson Avenue footbridge, and she readily hopped up the steps, although she occasionally hunkered down into an army-type crawl when she got a sense of the height.
But one thing she is never afraid of is other dogs. Once I was leaving the Front Porch with her, just as a man was walking two Akita dogs down the sidewalk. These dogs are humongous, and it was all the man could do to keep them both in check as they vigorously sniffed out Abbi. And although each of them could have swallowed her whole, she didn’t recoil for a moment, but pulled toward them. It worries me a bit, frankly.
I’m certain that she views most dogs she encounters as potential friends, unless they have two characteristics: 1) they are bigger than her, and 2) they are black. It’s obvious that our dog is not racist, since she is black as well. But she just doesn’t trust those big black dogs, and has, on occasion barked wildly at them if they get too close. One time she lunged for the neck, and I was barely able to restrain her in time. Fortunately her teeth aren’t terribly sharp, but once again, she probably needs to get a better sense of her size if she values her life.
The Puppy Jackpot
I talk a lot about building community, and stepping out of your comfort zone to meet new people. If this is the least bit difficult for you, and I would say that applies to most of us, then get a cute, friendly dog. Abbi draws a lot of attention when she’s around people, even before they learn that she’s full-grown. But when they discover that she is a perpetual puppy most people are astounded. Yesterday someone on the footbridge said I had hit the puppy jackpot. One guy at Missouri State proposed that she was part black lab, part hamster.
One of my other ways of keeping things interesting while walking in a very familiar area is to take the back alleys. Our neighborhood was built up between 80 and 120 years ago, and at the time they firmly believed that most houses should have an alley in the back. The majority of them are gravel, but we’re actually fortunate enough to live in a house with a paved alley. I’ve even noticed a few houses that are located on alleys, and usually have addresses ending in 1/2. When I pass those houses I always wonder what it would be like living in a tucked-away house like that.
But there’s a reason why I like the alleys besides the simple aesthetic variety. I guess it’s because I get to look at the part of people’s houses I’m not really supposed to see. I’ve always been a little bit that way. The funny thing is, I’m not a gossip or a particularly nosey person when it comes to people’s private lives. But I’ve always enjoyed exploring, and finding ways to see what’s off the beaten path, what doesn’t show up on Google Maps Street View.
And in a neighborhood like ours, where there are huge discrepancies between one house and the next, walking the alleys is an even greater exercise in incongruence. There’s so much variety that I don’t even want to give examples. The backyards I see run the gamut from impeccable landscaping with swimming pool to absolute wilderness. One moment you’ll hear automatic sprinklers gently showering an English garden, and the next you’ll hear monkeys and macaws screeching from somewhere deep within the uncharted morass.
Of course, all Abbi notices is the blade of grass that a squirrel peed on.