When you adopt a dog, you and the dog form a unique understanding. You will walk the dog, because dogs demand exercise, and the dog will walk, thus ensuring that you, too, get a work-out. In a country with ever-increasing obesity rates and a down economy, dog walking is a win-win for your body and your bank account – no costly gym membership required.
Unfortunately for me, my dog, Galen, may be the only dog on this earth that does not enjoy going for a walk. There may be some toy breeds that dislike walking because their little legs can’t keep pace with their humans (not being a veterinarian, this is pure speculation), but Galen is a 21-month-old, 60-pound black lab/Australian shepherd mix. She is rife with energy (and she has long legs).
The day we adopted Galen, I carried the tiny eight-week-old pup out of the Agway Garden Center where she, her siblings and several cats were up for adoption. I set her down in the parking lot, snapped on her leash and headed to the car. Galen didn’t follow; she simply sat down. No problem, I thought, too young to walk on a leash.
As the weeks and months passed, little changed. I would attach Galen’s leash to her collar, get halfway down the driveway… and she would sit down. This tendency toward being a homebody was a blessing when she was loose in the yard, but frustrating when I wanted to walk.
My vet counseled me to take the reins of our relationship. And I did. But our walks weren’t very pleasant. We’d walk a few yards, Galen would sit, I would tug, and we’d walk a few yards, Galen would sit, I would tug, and we’d walk a few yards… I was not burning many calories, and she was not releasing any of the puppy energy she was using to terrorize my children. (More on Galen the Terror when I write the forthcoming post: Daycare Saved My Marriage.)
One day, rather than a forced march through the neighborhood, I decided we would walk to the horse farm down the road. My previous dog, Gryffin, loved taking that walk with me. Galen and I barely got a quarter of the way to the stable when she didn’t simply sit down; she turned her body toward home and lay down. I waved the white flag. If this was a battle over who was more stubborn, she was clearly winning.
On our retreat home, we passed a cow pasture. This day, a very large brown and white cow was nestled up against the fence which stands about a foot from the road. As Galen and I approached, the cow turned its massive head toward us and mooed. Galen froze. No amount of pulling or prodding would move that dog forward. I had to pick her up – by now she weighed more than 40 pounds – and carry her home.
Of course, I could strap on my iPod and walk by myself. Lots of people who don’t own dogs do just that. But when you have a dog, you have an understanding: you no longer need to walk alone. You get to go with a friend. Unless your friend is Galen.
My family has learned that although Galen does not like walking on a leash, she does enjoy hiking off one. In fact, she’s a pleasure to hike with, because she doesn’t stray from us or the path.
She simply leads the way.