On a Leash in the Shade

It’s been damn hot in the Midwest.  Hot enough that I worry about taking three young kids out in the elements the same way I would when it’s thirty below. So, I’ll admit it. I’ve skipped dog walking at the Humane Society. Dog walkers take dogs on a bike trail that is under a wide open canopy of sky. Not a tree in sight. And dog walking hours are between 3:30 and 6 p.m. By that time of the day, I want to hunker down in air-conditioning and wait for the sun to set.

But last Friday, I decided to pack up my wee ones and go anyway. It was hot, yes, but not very humid. It was bearable. We would endure … for at least twenty minutes … a walk with a dog and call it a good deed done.

Still, I wanted other options. The Humane Society’s building is located on a frontage road of a busy highway. Walking on that road wouldn’t be safe for three kids. So, while we were checking in, I asked the volunteer for other ideas. Where could we go with our dog besides that bike trail? She said we could play with the dog in a fenced area in the back.

Fenced in area?  Who knew?

We met Wilbur, a four-month-old terrier puppy, put him on his leash, and started out the door. Once we made our way over the dirt path and weeds, we found a rectangle of chain-link fence the size of a two-stall garage.  Signs hanging by the door credited Lowe’s for donating the fence and Home Depot for donating the foot-deep mulch.  A few toys littered the ground and a small park bench sat parallel to one wall of fence. I was thrilled. My kids could have the freedom to practice walking a dog on a leash without the worry of him running away.  Plus, and here is the real bonus, the whole area stood under the shade of mature trees.

Melisandra picked up one of the dog toys, a rope shaped like a bone. She yelled, “Fetch” and threw the toy a few yards. Wilbur chased after the toy but was choked back by the short leash. He looked up at her as if to say, What the hell? Before she threw the toy again, I told Melisandra to run alongside Wilbur, so he wouldn’t get choked, but she’s seven, and tossing a toy and keeping slack on a leash requires extra practice. Wilbur soon lost interest.

Baby Reece sat in the stroller and watched all these affairs quietly until Wilbur jumped into her lap; she let out a few bewildered get-this-furry-toy-off-of-me screams. Once the puppy left to play elsewhere she returned to smiles and toes propped up on the stroller tray. No therapy required.

Corrigan tried to walk the puppy along the perimeter of the fence. She went a few feet then paused in fright.  “Help,” she said, as if this little dog had the height and strength to take her little preschooler self down. She retreated to the park bench to sit until she found the courage to try again.

Wilbur had big triangles for ears that perked up when we called his name. He licked Melisandra’s face; she giggled. A common exchange between kids and dogs I had forgotten. I don’t wish to be licked in the face these days, but I love the sound of my kid’s giggle. I loved how her laugh left her body without any effort or pretense.

Being in the shade, we stayed longer than twenty minutes. We played long enough that even I started to pretend a life with a dog in our family. I wanted to pick up all eight adorable pounds of Wilbur, put him in my pocket, and take him home.


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