Though I love “all creatures’ great and small” I have a soft spot in my heart for dogs. Growing up in an abusive household, our family dogs were all about unconditional love, love that I sorely needed. They made me laugh by chasing car tires rolling down the street or going after squirrels.
Because I spent most of my adult years living in apartment buildings where pets weren’t allowed I didn’t recue one. Though that changed in the mid 2000’s, I was too busy in my career as a contracts and procurement specialist working in the DC defense industry to properly take care of a pet. Then, when I was laid off in 2009, it became a matter of money concerns – between food and vet bills dogs can be expensive!
However, I took what most people would term bad luck at losing my job and had the more positive attitude to turn it into an opportunity to become a best seller author. And in doing so would frequent the local parks in my area for meditative walks and to write, and getting my doggie fix when crossing paths with fellow canine lovers.
Carrying around dog treats in my pockets to hand out to my favorites and there were a number of them. Pit Bulls or Pugs, Lab’s or Doodles, it didn’t matter. As long as they were friendly I always had neck and butt scratches and a biscuit or two for them. There were some who would disappear for months but they always remembered the Biscuit Lady even though they may have met me only once.
And that’s how I came to know and fall in love with a very precious yellow lab named Seamus. During the summer and fall in 2011 I’d watch him romping through a picnic area with two or three sticks in his mouth and followed by his guardian, a lanky British woman. As I do with all new dogs I meet, I asked her if it was ok to give her dog a treat, which she politely said yes.
From that day forward Seamus and I became the best of friends. When I’d catch a glimpse of him running at Mach 1 towards me I’d start my “Doggie Dance”, what young people nowadays call the Harlem Hustle. He’d come to a screeching halt with dust flying in the air, his tailing wagging his whole body, anxiously drooling as he kept switching his attention from my face to my pockets filled with treats. If I didn’t act fast enough or if I was sitting, he’d nudge my pocket with his nose as if to say “Bitch, what’s up with my treats! My parents haven’t fed me in days, can’t you see I’m starving to death!”
From that point on I was in love with this adorable, handsome hound. And that’s when our adventures began.
Over the years I’ve discovered that dog’s, like humans, have very unique and different personality types. For instance, in my area there are many ducks and geese who love to eat the grass in the picnic area of my magic kingdom (local park) when the Potomac River algae and aquatic plants are in short supply. They’ll eat, crap, and nap on the land.
And dogs, unlike most humans, LOVE it when they do doo doo! The technical name for this disgusting trait is called coprophagia and there are a myriad of reasons why dogs do this, ranging from having parasites or worms, to getting key nutrients and minerals not available in their own food, they are anxious, nervous or otherwise upset, or more likely they simply like the taste of poop.
In the discovery phrase of this phenomena, I found that the predominate sex of this habit happens to be male – look surprised – so it was with shock that I had to let the local marina owner know that his very sweet female black lab named Belle would gorge herself on all the shit the was kindly deposited by the local geese and ducks! When I informed him of her nasty habit he laughed, saying that most dog’s have this trait. But then again, I met a Norwegian Elk Hound named Freiki that could care less about water fowl fecal matter. Go figure.
Other than Freiki, Seamus didn’t eat the numerous piles of crap, but he loved to roll around in it! After going for a quick swim in the river he’d come back on shore to shake off the excess water, then slam his newly clean furred body on the ground, face first, with his hind legs pushing him along a trail of poop, switching from one side of his body to the other until he was completely covered in smelly filth.
He then had the audacity to run back towards me, smiling and laughing the whole way for a neck and butt scratching session and biscuits!! The first couple of times he did this I backed away as he was so disgusting and instead started throwing the treats away from me and making him fetch them until his guardian continued their walk. Or, if he was in my care, I’d make Seamus go for another swim.
It took a good 6-8 months before his guardian trusted me enough and asked if I’d be interested in taking care of Seamus for a weekend. I happily replied YES! And that’s when I regrettably discovered that he was one horny hound, needing to sexually harass any and all dogs in sight, not an iota of LGBT bias in his bones.
One morning I was walking Seamus in his local park when we came across a young couple with three HUGE dogs – 2 black Newfoundland’s and a German Shepherd. We let our dogs off their leashes so they could romp and play while we discussed all things canine.
After a few minutes of chatting things became too quiet with the dogs so I turned around to see what was going on and almost fainted! About 50 yards in front was an undulating, gyrating doggie Oreo cookie with Seamus the cream center and the German pacing back and forth trying to figure out how to get into the action!
As I raced across the park screaming to end this pubic porn before I went blind, I heard the young couple giggling in delight at my mad dash. Apparently they were of the opinion that all of this was too amusing to stop so after rescuing Seamus and slapping on his lease, we quickly walked away as if nothing had happened. Nothing to see here folks, go on your merry way please.
But this wasn’t the first or the last time his tiny pink pepper would poke out to meet and greet other dog’s anuses. Another not so amusing encounter involved a very pretty little black mutt named Mousey. But she didn’t want anything to do with him and on the plus side, she ran faster than he did when chasing after the ball I was throwing. The times he was able to get near her, she’d roll over on her back while nipping Seamus’s flappy cheeks. She was a foxy little thing.
This went on for over 20 minutes as Mousey’s guardian repeatedly and creepily suggested “wouldn’t it be cool to see doggie porn.” Being disgusted with human porn I wasn’t about to go blind by watching doggy sex, up front and personal. The final straw was when all of his attempts to mount her failed he started “dry” humping the air with his head tilted back, eyes closed, and tongue hanging out looking like he was in serene bliss!! I had never seen that type of behavior before or since then, thank the gods. As before, snapped on his leash and took the ball back as I waved goodbye to Mousey and her porny owner.
NEVER MET A SQUIRREL HE DIDN’T WANT TO MAUL
What is it about squirrels that drive dogs crazy? With the exception of Freiki, most dog’s that have crossed my path have this innate passion to chase down and rip squirrels to pieces. Given the choice of some dog biscuits or wrapping their jaws around a squirrel’s neck, they pick the latter.
And Seamus is leader of pack when it comes to this exercise, but he has a variety of ways that he does it. For instance, one afternoon after finishing our walk we headed to my “special” spot in my magic kingdom so I could read and write while Seamus played with his sticks or swam in the Potomac.
As we were both getting settled in Seamus’s ears perked up as he spotted a squirrel about 20 feet south of us along the shoreline. Like a lion in the Serengeti, he began to raise his hind legs and started to slowly push himself ever closer to his target, thinking he was keeping a low profile. At the precise moment the squirrel caught Seamus in his field of vision the chase was on! But as with most of his attempts this one escaped with fur intact.
But the funniest incident was one day when either a very bold or a very stupid squirrel had the cojone’s to walk along the river bank right in front of us! Seamus wasn’t going to take that shit so he was off like a rocket. Somehow that Sciuridae made it up the tree just before Seamus was going to snap his neck. But that little ball of gray fur was pissed, yelling at Seamus for a good five minutes before calming down. I swear I head more than a few squirrel cuss words coming from those little lips.
Another time there was a squirrel teasing Seamus by pretending to be occupied by gnawing a nut and seductively twitching its tail with a come hither mannerism of “Can’t touch this bitch” kinda attitude. He stood to the challenge of his manly hood with his left front leg cocked staring this rascal down then he was off!! But, as happens frequently, this squirrel won the day again.
But it wasn’t just squirrels. This magic kingdom is filled with all kinds of wild life – raccoons, beavers, deer, opossums, and …… foxes. Another quiet, sunny afternoon in the park I caught a glimpse out of the corner of my eye something reddish blond in color headed in our direction along the shoreline. All three of us looked up at the same time with a “What the fuck are you doing here” expression on our faces!
A millisecond later the race was on! I was scared shitless because foxes are known to be rabies carriers. So I jumped out of my chair hauling ass after Seamus, yelling at the top of my lungs to get him to stop but it was of no use. It wasn’t until he reached a woman a several hundred yards down that he knew he lost this battle and came back to me.
Even though his endeavors had failed, Seamus was wearing his happy face proud that he had chased that fox out of “our spot”.
A VERY SEAMUS CHRISTMAS
Christmas is my favorite time of year after spending the previous eleven months looking for just the right gift for those I love and care about. So I was delighted to hear that my favorite pooch’s guardians were going to English for the holiday and asked me to take care of him. Of course I said yes immediately then began to plan a very extra special Christmas with Seamus as best ornament of the season.
When the day arrived to pick him up I asked if he had any holiday attire. When she whipped a red velvet collar with jingle bells I was over the moon until she said that was all she had for him! No funny hats or coats or anything else related to Saint Nick. Being in a very cheery holiday mood I went out shopping to pick out doggie reindeer antler and candy cane themed hats and other assorted apparel.
Seamus became the talk of the town that season as I drove around while doing errands or going for walks. It never failed that others would go “Awe, what a cute dog” when he was sitting in the backseat of the car awaiting my return from shopping or meeting other dog owners on walks.
One day I received and email from the woman asking how Seamus was doing so I sent her some pictures of him wearing his doggie reindeer antler and candy cane hats. She was mortified, immediately writing back that it was undignified for her precious registered dog to be seen in public with those “things”. I assured her that even Seamus couldn’t stand wearing those hats and clawed them off in seconds, so no worries about anyone other than my roommate and I would see them.
And though Seamus is a big boy, weighting in at around 80 pounds, he didn’t knock off one ornament off the tree or rip open any gifts under it, many of them for him. One of his favorite toys was a small frog squeaker toy. He would chew on that puppy for hours until it become too much for my roommate or I so we’d have to take it away.
That is it was his favorite until one day when he put it by me and went to get a drink of water. However, when he came back to sit by my side Seamus must not of seen the squeaker. As he sat down on it, froggy gave out of frightful squeak that made Seamus jump two feet in the air, giving it that “what the fuck” look only a dog can do.
Blaming the frog instead of his forgetfulness, he attacked froggy with a vengeance, thought he never did puncture it or the device inside it. But until recently, when a tiny terror of a terrier destroyed it, Seamus had many happy squeaks with his toy.
OTHER TAILS ON THE TRAIL
One day after taking Seamus for a walk I ran into a neighbor of his, Arthur, a tiny Jack Russell terrier. When his guardian, another British woman, asked if I was Leslie, I said “Yes, but how do you know me?” She then stated that his owners had raved about me taking care of Seamus and wanted to know if I would be willing to take care of Arthur when she and her husband went out of town.
Knowing that JR’s are hyper and barkers I was reluctant to answer her right away as I scoped out her dog. He was very small, quiet, and walking with a limp. She had brought him outside to check on his paw to discover that he had a small cut on a front one. Because of his behavior at the time I thought sure, I can handle this little guy with no problems what so ever. Biggest character assessment I ever made in my life be it human or otherwise!
After we exchanged information I received an email a few days later with their scheduled travel dates for the next 6 months, with the first trip occurring just a couple of weeks later. Arthur arrived early Monday morning with his tennis balls, racket, food, and coat. Upon entering my apartment he spent the first hour or so sniffing every nock and cranny. Apparently it met with his approval because he proceeded to rule the roost from that day forward. Or attempted to at any rate.
To ease his transition, I did what I do with most of my canine guests and gave Arthur the small rubber frog squeaker toy to play with. But much to my chagrin, his jaws of death amputated the frog’s ears and legs in record time of under a minute. So I went with plan b and whipped out a tennis ball. Another big mistake because once I threw it and he retrieved it, placing it at my feet, and when I didn’t pick it up faster enough for Arthur loudly he barked at me!!
This was not the dog I had met the other day. As I scolded him that I’m the only Alpha in this home he started barking again with an attitude of “Bitch, get with the program! Throw the ball or else!” And the little fucker did the “or else” by nipping me!! At that moment my Star Trek alter ego persona kicked in with a “Red alert Captain, we’ve got a problem”! This dog is bat shit crazy!
And I did have many of them over the course of the next 5 days. When he misbehaved I’d put him in my bedroom and close the door for a minute or two, which is hours in dog time. He’d come out a much more subdued mutt, but only for a short time before his Lex Luthor persona kicked in again.
Don’t get me wrong, Arthur isn’t a stupid. In fact he’s extremely bright, and therein laid the problem.
That’s because he had figured out that he was faster than me so he would dash out of the room faster than I could close the door! His last day in my abode I had gone grocery shopping. As I was unpacking apparently I was taking too long for him and he started barking “Where’s my human food bitch, I want some of that turkey, ham, and cheese”. As soon as I turned around to scoop him up he raced under my kitchen table knowing full well I couldn’t access him there.
But in hindsight, Arthur’s “quirks” also made me laugh with amazement at times. He’s a very smart dog and learns quickly, but Arthur is a stubborn piece of shit. Yes, he pisses on other dogs, makes the energizer bunny look like a tortoise, doesn’t understand commands like sit, stay, down, and chewed on my cow, rabbit, and fox fur coat.
But my last impression will be when his male guardian was pulling up as Arthur was “playing” with two other small dogs. He was pissing all other them, and I apologized profusely but their guardians said “No worries” as their dogs pissed on him. Nothing like learning the hard way!!
I met Tyler a couple of years ago on a trail along the Potomac River. He is a HUGE mixed breed, a cross between a moose and a reddish brown lab, weighting in at about 120 pounds. But he’s also a gentle giant who loves nothing more than swimming, chasing balls, and slobbering when he see’s or smells me in the area.
One day I was about ¼ mile ahead and around a bend on the trail in front of Tyler and his guardian when he started crying. Ellen couldn’t figure out what his problem was so she let him off leash and off he dashed in my direction. When the ground started quaking like a 2.5 tremor I knew he was near so I quickly turned around to be greeted by a cloud of dust and drool.
Don’t get me wrong. I know Tyler loves me not just for the biscuits, but for the butt and neck scratches as well. What’s great about this trail is that several years ago a local boy scout troop built and installed several benches for us old people to sit and rest our backs before going on the end of the trail and back.
So after getting his treats, I’d sit down on one of the benches to give Tyler his beloved scratches. Unlike Seamus who likes to stick his nose in my crotch as I rub his neck, Tyler goes from side to side, pacing back and forth so I don’t miss a spot he deems scratchable.
Though I offered to dog sit Tyler, his guardian told me on more than one occasion that she didn’t feel I could handle him. But in early 2014 she had a change of heart and asked if I could take him for walks so she and her husband could go out of town. My heart leapt 12 feet as if it were Ace, a very special and very smart border collie. “I would be honored!” I replied.
The first time I picked Tyler up he was reluctant to get into my 2000 Concorde as he didn’t like, to him, the tiny backseat that wasn’t as roomy as his SUV digs. But with the encouragement of treats I finally got him in and headed to our magic kingdom. I normally start my walks by the parking lot near the restrooms in the picnic area and work my way towards the trail in Dyke Marsh.
Because it was very cold that first day, I let Tyler loose to roam the massive park. He gave me a funny look of “’You mean it? I can go run all of this?” I waved my hands and he was off and running like a banshee out of hell! He ran in a huge circle several hundred yards wide and stopped to give me another funny look of “Are you sure this ok?” to which I waved my hands again, and again he ran off but this time to the shores of the river.
Tyler has a unique talent of being able to find balls anywhere along the trail, whether they be tennis, soccer, and once even a bocce ball. This time he ran up to me with a very nice soccer ball. If he were a soccer player he’d be a goalie because every time I attempted to kick it he’d be right up front so I had to find ways to trick him.
It took me awhile but I finally remembered that he knows the command heel and runs behind his guardian to her left side and sits. This technique worked beautifully with soccer balls! But once we reached the Dyke trail he started doing something I found rather odd. He’d purposely nose the ball into the woods, give me a look of “Is this ok”? I’d shrug, so he continued to go deeper and deeper until I’d start to walk away ‘cause I wasn’t going in there to get it for him. That’s when he’d grab the ball and start running
He kept doing this until we reached the marsh area …. and he starts doing the same thing there. This made me nervous though because I knew that river rat’s, snakes and beavers are in there. Additionally much of the marsh isn’t solid ground, just mats of reeds so I grew more concerned the further out he went.
But all of this didn’t faze him so he kept nosing it deeper and deeper into the reeds and pussy willows, again, looking up occasionally for approval. By now I would just shake my head and told him “I’m not going in there so you better make sure you can retrieve it.” And he would just as I started walking away.
And though I haven’t walked him since I always enjoy our encounters on the trail, with me doing my decidedly undignified doggie dance as he runs faster than Superman can fly with the biggest, slobbering grin a dog can give.