Quick note: if you’re just tuning in, Archer is my five-month-old German Shepherd who joined our family last August.
Puppies don’t go for a walk. They go for a sniff.
A few steps up the block Archer stops to sniff grass, autumn leaves, a tree trunk. Sometimes he moves his nose to the ground following a path of scent in a spiral motion that reminds me of a squirrel or chipmunk. It’s as if his nose sees who came before us.
He moves quickly, stays focused. “This is boring,” my daughter says. She’s ten. I tell her to be patient.
“I’m just enjoying a little time with the two of you,” I say.
But when I’m alone with Archer, watching him sniff the same spot he gave an enthusiastic once over on our previous walk, I think she’s right.
With a yank and a “let’s go” command, we move—for another few feet before a scent grabs his nose again.
That’s not just grass growing on the boulevard.
Archer has sniffed out chicken bones, a maggot infested bird corpse, a flattened earthworm, and a pile of vomit, all of which he felt compelled to stuff in his mouth and gobble up before I screamed, “No. Get that crap out of your mouth.” I have opened both jaws to reach in and yank out all things gross and inedible.
In the hundreds of walks I’ve taken in this neighborhood, I never noticed such waste and decay camouflaged at my feet.
Where there’s a puppy there’s a puppy story
I often bring Archer with me to greet my daughters on their walk home from school. It is an excuse to for Archer to practice good manners and acquaint him with lots of people.
“May I pet him?” Sharon asks. She’s picking up her kids, too. Her daughter stays by the car and watches us.
“Yes. I just need him to sit and calm down first.” These are the instructions of the trainer I’ve been working with: no attention until Archer sits. We don’t want to reward his wiggly, jumpy, oh-my-goodness-it’s-so-good-to-see-you behavior. That just don’t do when he is a 100-pound adult.
“Archer, sit,” I command. At home, he sits. Out in the open air, with a chance to meet someone new, I force his rump to the ground and hang on to his harness.
“Sit.” He’s not sitting. He’s focused on getting love. “Archer, sit,” I say again.
“Sit,” Sharon says. “Hey! Sit. You sit.” With each sentence, she starts to sound like she’s disciplining a child. “You sit. That’s right. Sit.” She leans over Archer.
She gets right next to his face like a sergeant drilling a subordinate. “Hey! You sit.”
Oh, it is all too much. Archer jumps up to lick her, but since Sharon’s so close, his nose smacks her in her eye.
Sharon moans. She gets upright again. She keeps her left eye closed a minute.
“Sorry,” I say.
She tells her daughter, “Make sure I take Benadryl when we get home.” She says to me, “I’m allergic to dogs. Oh, I love them, though. My parents raised German Shepherds. My German Shepherd saved my life.”
“Oh, wow,” I say. Now I understand why she’s qualified herself to be an impromptu trainer. I look around. My daughters have walked on without me. I start my exit.
Sharon continues, “I was walking in the desert down south. He grabbed me with his mouth around my elbow—he didn’t hurt me, really—and pulled me to the ground. I didn’t know it then but up over the hill were two rattlesnakes.”
I’m walking as she talks.
“They are protective dogs,” Sharon says.
“That’s what I hear.” And I do hear that one a lot.
“With your girls—do you have two?” Sharon stands by the open door of her car.
“Oh. Well, with your three girls, that dog of yours will be very protective of them.” She gets in. I wave good-bye to Sharon as she drives away.
I see my daughters down the street playing on the front steps, and I thought how glad I was they made it back safe, despite us–Mom and Canine Protector in Training–and our good intentions to walk them home.
Check out other participants writing in November’s NaBloPoMo.