Greta is suspicious. From the perspective of a mostly Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, the situation looks like this: every Thursday afternoon, her person disappears for several hours and comes back smelling of other dogs.
Greta sniffs me over, and stares at me with her “Something is going on here” expression. She’s right. As I ease into retirement, I’ve done something I’ve wanted to do for perhaps 10 years: volunteer at the local Humane Society, http://www.carr.org/humane/ .
I’ve become a reasonably well trained dog walker. And in just a few short weeks, I’ve met a lot of nice dogs. There was Daisy, a pleasant black Lab who had only a short stay at the shelter before she found a family of her own. There was Baby Girl, a dark brown Lab mix who had come in as a stray, a shy, sweet dog. She has now found a home. There was a little Welsh corgi, who trotted along at the end of the leash although it took him three steps to my one, and Hanna, who looked like a Heinz 57 and was so strong I wasn’t sure I could hold her. Washington is still there, a German shepherd who looks like he could be purebred. He is a gentlemanly walker who could carry off a stroll in a top hat and cane with savoir faire.
Then there’s Appleton. Appleton is a black Lab/chow mix who has all the enthusiasm and energy that only the young have, whether they’re young canines or young homo sapiens. I believe Appleton wakes up every morning and shouts, “Hello, World!” because he just knows that today is the day he’ll find his human. Here’s the link to his photo: http://www.carr.org/humane/dogs.htm Appleton is a leash tugger, but we’re working on that. I told him how old I am and how slim the chances were of my running anywhere with him. Appleton was not impressed, so we’re working on a program whereby if he stops tugging, we go forward. If he tugs on the leash, we go nowhere. Next week, if he’s still there, we’ll try it with treats as well as social rewards.
I reminded myself sternly before I got into this that one dog is all I can handle and that the resident queen of the household gets along better with people than she does with other dogs, although she is much more canine-friendly than she was when we first met. She also gets jealous when I pet the cat, so she would try to dominate a new dog. But if I were going to adopt just one, Appleton would be the guy.
Greta’s expression said she doesn’t think much of this idea that I go out and play with other dogs.
“Look,” I said, “six years ago, that was you. You were spending your days in a kennel at the animal shelter, waiting for someone to love you. I hope someone came and walked you until we met. You would hate it if you didn’t get your walk every day. Dogs need that for stress reduction.”
I did not mention that dogs also need walks because many of them would much rather poop on grass than in their kennels, because they need exercise and a chance to sniff the breeze and know what goes on beyond the walls of the shelter.
And then I took Greta for a walk around our subdivision.