Last week I swore off the local park. I promised myself that, at least in the warmer months, I would take Jackson and Tinkerbell to various local and state parks that offered more of a woodsy experience instead of encounters with irresponsible dog owners and random items of trash that my dogs find much faster than I do. In less than a week, though, I forgot that vow and the dogs and I took advantage of an almost 70-degree day to take a nice long walk together. I blame warm-weather-brain, which is the northern cousin of “vacation brain” so that you forget logic because it’s just so nice outside!
There were a lot of people out and about today as we Midwesterners continue to come out of our winter hibernation. Jackson and Tinkerbell were displaying beautiful leash manners as we walked and I was continually telling them how good they were. As much as we’ve trained, and trained, and trained, and trained some more, when I have both of them together out on a walk, they usually try to pull me the first half mile or so as they each vie to be top dog. Most walks, it takes us all a little while to get in a nice rhythm. But today we were all in harmony, a beautiful three-way mind meld, and I was excited that it was going to be a great walk.
I felt such pride in my dogs as we walked past the kids on bikes who kept trying to ride closer and closer to us, calling out, “hi doggies” each time, their parents nowhere to be seen. Both dogs glanced at the kids, gave a little wag of their otter tails, and continued on without any reaction. This is the result of massive amounts of socialization and introducing them to everything we could think of when they were each puppies.
I felt pride in them when Tinkerbell only gave a little wiggle of excitement when the couple rode past on skateboards, and how she turned back to look at me when I told her “off.” I also felt pride in them when they didn’t even notice the loose dog up ahead on the trail and the woman trying to catch it. I noticed the loose dog, though, and we stopped and waited for several minutes while I watched the dog continually evade the human. I watched as she tried to chase it and grab it, and wished I could tell her that she should run the opposite way and pretend to discover something really interesting, but I was reluctant to approach because the last thing you need when walking two dogs is for a loose dog to enter the mix.
Finally, I gave up going down that path, and we turned in the opposite direction. I heard a low, peculiar rumble and turned to see a woman and child riding up behind us in a little motorized go-cart, a no-no on a park trail. I moved off into the grass, annoyed at her lack of manners and blatant disrespect of the rules of the park. After she passed by, we continued to walk. She went back and forth down the trail several additional times, and each time we had to leave the path to move to the side or else have my dogs run over by an unauthorized vehicle.
We continued on, and when we came across a huge stretch with broken glass all over the path, I threw up the white flag of defeat. We turned around to head home. The dogs know the path that we were on and how we normally go. Jax looked up from his sniffing, looked at me, looked in the direction we would normally have gone, and looked back at me as if to say, “Hey, Mom, we don’t turn around yet, what’s going on?”
Remembering why I had sworn off the park after our last walk with similar experiences like broken glass all over and out of control dogs, I was passed by yet another motorized vehicle, this time a scooter. I moved the dogs off to the side of the path only to find more broken glass. I said a lot of swear words under my breath at that point as I tried to get the dogs away from the glass and prayed for no injuries.
Thankfully, we made it home without any more incidents and I gathered up our paw washing supplies for our post-walk foot bath. “Guys, I think we pick another route until it gets cold again!” I told them. They just stared at me with their tongues lolling out of the sides of their mouths, big Labrador smiles on their faces.
I bent down to swish Jackson’s first paw in the water and apple cider vinegar mixture then picked up his second foot. As I spread his webbing out and swooshed it through the warm water, I noticed a huge piece of chewing gum stuck to his foot.
Yes, chewing gum.
With his foot still wet, I tried to pull off as much of the gum as possible without hurting him. I was annoyed and in disbelief. In all of my years of walking my dogs, I have never once had any of them step in gum. For Jackson to do it was even worse because he has big beautiful paws, strong and compact, which also meant that there was more area for the gum to cover. He also has a lot of fur between his pads that I have been meaning to trim. I lovingly refer to his paws as his “big hairy grinch feet.” The gum was stuck all through his paw fur, and I stood and tried to think through how the heck to remedy this situation.
Thankfully my daughter was home, so I called her downstairs and out onto the deck. “I just need you to watch him and not let him lick his front foot!”
Remembering that oil gets out sticky things, I grabbed our bottle of olive oil. That worked well, and I massaged his foot a second time with olive oil while my daughter kept him from licking it up. “Big man, you’re like a salad, first vinegar water and now olive oil,” I told him.
I was able to peel the gum off, feeling terrible when I pulled his fur by accident. I stood and stared at him with his giant paw covered in EVOO and realized I should rinse it before he went back in the house and tracked olive oil all over our home. I ran back inside and grabbed another bucket of plain water and the bottle of Earthbath shampoo. As I lathered up his foot and then rinsed it, his human sister told him, “Look, buddy, you’re getting a whole pedicure today! Maybe we can paint your nails pink!”
Now, at the end of the night, both dogs are sleeping the good type of sleep that dogs do after a great excursion. They don’t know that the whole experience was less than stellar from my human point of view. They don’t get annoyed by humans doing unsafe things like riding motorized vehicles on paths made for walking and bicycles. They don’t care that people break glass without caring that animals could easily cut a paw on the shards that will soon be obscured by weeds and taller grass. They don’t worry that the kid on the bicycle could easily lose control and run them over. They just know that they got to smell lots of smells, sniff the tall grass in the unmowed areas, and go out and about into the world with their momma. They just know that they had a fun day today.
If I were to look at the walk from a dog’s perspective, it was a great walk. As always we have a lot to learn from them. As their human who worries about them and whose job it is to keep them safe, it’s time to move to a different park, a different route, a path literally less traveled. A path with less gum but more good memories of our time together, so that I too can look back on the day the same way they do, as an awesome excursion together.