Walk the Walk

I had a physical recently and the lab results revealed that my cholesterol level is 300. Ooops. The doctor gave me a stern lecture about needing to eat better, lose weight…you know, all the doctorly stuff that goes in one ear and out the other. At some point it must have become apparent to her that she had lost her audience so she threw a Hail Mary. She suggested I take the hounds for a daily walk.

I must admit, that got my attention for a nano-second and then I went back to thinking about a hamburger with bacon and cheese for dinner. Up to now, I’ve taken the furry kids to the backyard, which is nicely fenced, and let them run their little hearts out. The backyard is very good sized and allows two greyhounds plenty of space to run until they drop. For my kids, that’s about three minutes.

Bettina greyhound on the couch
The idea of taking them out for a walk has been unappealing because we live in a rural area. There are no sidewalks and the cars speed down our road like we were the first turn at Talladega. Not to mention the insanely high population of horse and deer flies. With all the farms around me, and herds of deer lurking behind every tree we are at ground zero. For any city folk out there who may never have been acquainted with a deer or horse fly, let me enlighten you. These flies are the size of a 747 jet liner. They are the Arnold Schwarzeneggers of the fly world. They fear nothing and once locked on target, death is the only thing that deters them from trying to make a meal of you. And they bite. Very hard.

Can you blame me if I didn’t immediately jump at the idea of taking the kids for a walk? (Oh for heaven’s sake, all right! I’m also a bit lazy too. Happy now?) None the less, one day last week after work I threw caution to the wind and called the hounds for harnessing. It had been hot that day but I figured that by the end of the workday we’d be fine because the sun was on its way down and a nice breeze was dissipating the day’s heat. Everything seemed to be in order.

For an inexplicable reason, I decided to leave the house via the front door. This is something that we never do. The front steps are concrete and have a slightly steeper pitch, as well as shorter tread width, than the back stairs. Blue had some experience with the front stairs as there had been a time when we were forced to use the front door after the deck fell off the house (long story). But it had been a number of years since he’d even seen them. Bettina didn’t even know we had two doors in the house. As we stood on the verge of departure, I could see that the kids were a bit hesitant about this new situation. Their solution was to hang back behind me and try to assess it. Mumma, on the other hand, had made up her mind to do this thing so I impatiently urged them to venture forth.

They obeyed. Since they were unsure about these suspicious steps, they did what greyhounds do. They ran. Down the stairs. Fast. I was unprepared for this and thus it occurred to me only while in mid-flight that Bettina was only sporting a 4 foot leash. Since it was going to be more than 4 feet between where I was standing and where she was fixing to land, I deduced that I had a new situation on my hands. Unfortunately, I didn’t deduce the best action to take. What I did instead was start yelling, “WAIT! WAIT!” Blue, by now also in mid-flight, started trying to back pedal to comply with my request. Bettina hit the ground with no leash to spare. She came up short while her momentum yanked me down the stairs behind her. Blue was sandwiched between us. Bettina fell backwards onto the bottom step. Blue came down on the bottom stair and fell on top of Bettina. I came right behind Blue thanks to Bettina’s assist, landing on top of the pile.

Once we sorted out which parts belonged with whom, I did a field triage. Blue, with his paper thin, white dog skin got the worst of it (as usual, poor baby). He had scraped off a section of skin from one hind leg, presumably from the concrete stairs. He didn’t seem to be disabled by the boo-boo so I gave me informed medical opinion that none of us would die from our trauma.

The front door, at the top of those concrete stairs, remained wide open. Having descended the stairs sooner than I expected or intended, I didn’t have a chance to shut the door. It looked a long way away. We had also just discovered that Bettina’s leash wasn’t long enough to reach from top to bottom or vice versa. I went back up the steps as far as I could get. Not nearly enough. I spent the next 15 minutes coaxing Bettina and Blue to not only approach the terrible stairs again, but, in Bettina’s case, to come up a couple stairs so I could reach the door.

I finally managed this challenge. With one arm stretched out fully behind me holding Blue and Bettina’s leashes and my other arm stretched out fully in front of me, I could only touch the closest edge of the door. This happened to be the edge where the door is hinged to the building. The door handle was another few feet beyond that. Knowing I couldn’t bring the dogs back up those stairs, I used my one hand to lever the door mostly closed by inserting my fingers in the gap between the door and the casing. With a final lunge, I grabbed the now much closer handle and shut the door. Whew. We might actually have had to go back inside and just come out the back door like we normally do.

Finally, a little worse for wear, we were off for our walk. We managed to reach the middle of the front yard before a legion of horse and deer flies descended on us. Bettina, Blue and I looked like a small solar system with each of us a planet and the flies a myriad of not so tiny moons orbiting around our heads. The only immediate solution was for me to shoo the flies away from me and the kids, while they tried catching them with their teeth.

As we reached the end of the drive, I stopped at the mailbox where I found a sale flyer for some local hardware store. I grabbed it, intending to throw it in the recycle bin upon our return. But it didn’t take long for me to repurpose it as a make-shift fly swatter. (The irony of my using a flyer to swat flies is not lost on me.) We headed off down the road. Bettina and Blue were madly snapping at flies while their mumma was crazily waving her arms all around using the flyer to desperately try and knock out a few of our tormentors. As I got vociferous in cursing the flies and waving my arms around most vigorously, the kids would stop their walking and watch my antics.

It was at one of these moments that I took a particularly large swing at a fly around Bettina’s face. I miscalculated my parabola and ended up swatting her on the forehead with the sales flyer instead. She reared back with a look of utter horror, hurt and disgust. She was clearly deeply offended that I had struck her and no amount of apologizing and cooing could convince her otherwise. She was making sure to keep both my hands in sight. Thus it was for the remainder of our walk. If I so much as moved the hand holding the flyer, she would flinch and cringe away from me to the extent her 4 foot leash would allow.

We managed to get a few phone poles down the road, moving at a very leisurely pace when I noticed that Bettina was starting to flag a little. Bettina, my just turned two, ball of energy, running in the back yard like a crazy dog all the time girl. Blue was all engines go. I could see no indication that he was beginning to tire. We made our way to the next phone pole and Bettina had begun to lag back behind us a bit. I determined we’d better cut this first walk short and head back.

Blue greyhound in his crate
When Bettina caught up with us, we turned around and headed back towards the house. Bettina went a few yards and stopped. Oh lord. She stood there panting and looking at me. I looked down the road to where I could see our driveway. It wasn’t that far away but at that moment it looked like a long way indeed. There didn’t seem to be much to do but to push through and get back home.

I gave Bettina’s leash a small tug and said in my most encouraging voice, “Come on sweet girl, we’re almost home. When we get back we’ll have dinner.” Blue was all for chow and set off immediately. Bettina dubiously brought up the rear, went another few yards and stopped.

Oh fiddlesticks! (Yeah sure I said that…) This wasn’t good. I stood around for a few moments thinking I would enjoy the drone of the fly horde while I let Bettina catch her breath a bit. Blue stood impatiently looking from me to our driveway and back again. He was drooling slightly. Most likely over the thought of imminent dinner. It wouldn’t be the first time.

I put on my best cheerful mum face and got Bettina on the move again. We made it a few more yards. At this point I was trying to mentally calculate how long it would take us to make it back home at that rate. I had it pegged at sometime right around the next day’s breakfast. Bettina stared at me, stubbornly refusing to be influenced by my promises of food, my entreaties for a break, Blue’s obvious eagerness to get to the food portion of the program or the black cloud of uber-flies trying to make dinner out of us.

I scooped her up and started walking towards home. And by “scooped” I mean bent over with a groan, hoisted her up, staggered around a little and then, when I was sure I wouldn’t keel over, started stumbling in the general direction I wanted to go. This time I made it a few yards and stopped. That was how far it took for the message to go from my arms to my brain informing me that this dog was damned heavy for looking so petite.

Since carrying her home like some fly crazed sherpa wasn’t going to work out, I returned to coaxing (threatening) her towards home. I managed to tug her to our driveway. By this point she was panting heavily. I was worried that maybe, being a black dog; she had overheated and was on her way to heat stroke. Her tongue was hanging far out of her mouth and she had a glazed look. Until, that is, she hit the edge of our lawn and started trotting with Blue towards the front door. Excuse me?

As soon as we were inside, she began dancing and jumping around insisting on the dinner I had promised. I let her have her dinner. Then, just to show her there were no hard feelings; I took her temperature in the time honored way of vets everywhere. She was not excited about having her bum assaulted in such a manner. As a concerned pet parent, I was obliged to be SURE that she wasn’t in the throes of heat stroke. Right?