Monday, August 13, 2007

A Dog's Life

My dogs have two left feet. They also happen to have two right feet, but there is no denying that they have two on the left side.

Unfortunately, Cosmos has developed quite a limp on his right foreleg. Couple this with his bad hip from an old break which did not heal correctly (before I adopted him), and he's not getting around very well. When we go for walks lately, his limp becomes really pronounced, and he's clearly in pain. He stops frequently, holds his leg in the air, and looks at me plaintively, asking me to somehow magically get him home without having to continue. And all the while, Sunny pulling at the leash to go faster. So today, I decided to break up their field trips.

Because Cozie has been walking so slowly, I've been taking power walks on my own. My power walks, of course, are not all that big a deal given my medical issues, but for me, they are quite something. This morning, I decided to take Sunny - on his own - with me.

Of course, the beginning of the walk was the usual... fight the collar, mark his territory. Mark it again and again and again. The prerequisite poop and scoop. Twice. Sunny always goes two times. And then, we were off to the races.

He loved his walk! Without Cosmos slowing us down, we were free to run from sniff-point to sniff-point at whatever speed he chose to move at. Usually the speed was zoom. Since I've learned in my weight maintenance class that interval training is actually more efficient at burning calories than exercising straight through, I didn't mind. And of course, Sunny loved every minute of it. To go where he wanted to go, at the speed he wanted to go at? And to be, for once, the only dog, it was like a dream come true.
It was in the mid-90-degree range when we went out, so by the time we were done, he was hot and tired, ready for a long drink and a nap. And nap Sunny did.

In the meantime, Cosmos was quite upset at having been left behind. He's used to going with us, and couldn't understand the change in routine. But I had a surprise for him too. A field trip. In the car.

Just as Cosmos has his quirks - like being slow to walk - that make him difficult to take out, so does Sunny. He is dog aggressive. That means that we cannot go anyplace where there might be dogs to attack. It's actually kind of sad. I'd like to take him, and Cosmos, to the dog park, to the Concerts In the Park, to the regular park and the beach and all the places that dogs would like to go. But I'm afraid and for good reason. I will not allow Sunny to be in a position where he might get into trouble. I love him too much for that. But Cosmos has to suffer staying home too.

So today, after bringing the Sun-Sun home, I leashed up Cozie all by himself and led him to the car. You could see a mixture of excitement and anxiety on his face. Usually, the only time he goes to the car on his own is when it's a trip to the vet, and when he's on his own there, it's usually for a bad appointment. Otherwise I bring both boys, no matter which dog is to be seen. And of course, they both had surgery a couple of weeks ago, so a trip to the vet right now cannot be made up for by the basket of treats in the waiting room.
I kept assuring him that he would like where we were going and he could quickly see that we were not driving to our regular place. He started looking happier, but of course, he is still a Dalmatian, and they are anxious dogs. Fortunately, our first stop was only a few minutes away. The Red Barn.

The Red Barn is a store that all animals like. A Feed and Supply store, it's not the traditional pet supplier. It truly is a barn, or should I say three barns in a row. Dusty and old, packed with farm animals (mostly chickens and pigeons) and animal food and animal toys and treats, cosmos quickly knew that he was in heaven. He forgot his leg as he traversed up one aisle and down the next, pausing only to swing his head from side to side on occasion and take in the sights and smells. It's funny, but he knew when we would start down an aisle that he had already visited, and would turn around and lead me down another. That is, until we reached the rawhide bins.

In the old days when I had good dogs that I could take shopping, we would go to the Red Barn specifically so that they could choose out their own treats. Everybody knew the rules; one treat per visit. They would look in all the bins carefully, and then pick up one rawhide item. I would remove it from the dog's mouth, pay for it, and they knew that they were going to get it when we arrived at home. Somehow, my chow hound, my eating-obsessed Cosmos seemed to know the rule too, even though I can't remember ever having done this with him. But he looked carefully, nosing inside a number of the barrels before settling on a rather disgusting roll of hide. I bought two, of course, so that Sunny could have a treat. But it was Cosmos's choice.
With dog food purchased, it was time to move on to the car wash. That was possible because Cosmos is not the kind of dog that makes nose prints on the window. But he does insist that everyone he meets pet him, and that expectation can, at times, be problematic.

At the Red Barn, it's a good bet that everyone there likes animals. Loves animals. When Cosmos would slow down to greet the people, he was rewarded 100% of the time by being pet. In fact, some of them shared treats with him. But it was not the same at the wash. One man ignored him completely, even after he started barking to get attention. Another lady screamed when he got close. But we did meet the one very-nice woman outside who was happy to pet him to his hearts content. And then our car was ready and it was time to move on.

One last stop to make; Walgreen's Pharmacy. This is a particular favorite destination for both of my dogs. You see, they have a drive-through pick up window. In that window is a jar of dog treats. Both boys know about that "magic drawer" that dispenses treats. They both try to climb over my lap and out the driver's side window in an effort to meet and greet the drawer as it extends to the car. It's doggie pandemonium in my car when that happens.

But with Cosmos alone, the action was a little more civilized. He did stand up at attention with an anxious look on his face, and seemed quite relieved when the drawer delivered, as usual. He ate quickly, dropping crumbs all over my newly-cleaned car, of course. And was prepared to settle down when he got a surprise. The drawer asked if he would like another treat. I replied that he would always be grateful for food. And the drawer sent him more food!

Our field trip errands done, we came home and Cosmos did was Sunny did and what all dogs did before them. He went to sleep. Of course, both dogs were at attention when Eric came over with chicken dinner. 100% of the dogs surveyed really like chicken. Roast Chicken. with the skin attached. But then they went out again, and have been sleeping since.

It's hard work to have fun.

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