A Walking Sideshow

I can’t imagine there is anyone who spends any time around dogs and really pays attention to them who isn’t constantly entertained by them. When I got my first dog I saw all the funny and interesting things she did and thought I’d get used to it within a month or so. But in the 13 years we spent together, she never did cease to entertain me.

A.J. … well, when it comes to dogs that are entertaining, A.J. seems to be a walking sideshow. Today was a perfect example of that.

We went for our typical walk this morning, which took us into a large park. We were walking along a trail when up ahead we saw a cute little bundle of brown curls standing there staring at us. I didn’t see a person around so I gathered A.J. closer to me and stopped to see if the dog’s personality was as cute as her curls. Then I heard someone call out “Nemo!” A man came around a bend in the trail, saw us standing there, and asked “Is she friendly?” (Yes, A.J. is always “she.”) I said yes, and as the man moved forward little Nemo came running up to say hi. She was very bouncy around A.J. while I chatted with her owner. A.J., being on a mission (as he always is when on a walk) gave her a cursory greeting then stood politely looking off down the trail. Nemo’s owner then said “Okay, let’s go.” Nemo trotted off after him, and I started walking with A.J. Almost immediately I hear a shout, turned around, and there was little Nemo back for more. I stopped and petted her while her owner came back. He called her again, we all started to walk off…and there was Nemo again. This is an on-leash park, but her owner didn’t actually have a leash with him and finally just picked up little Nemo and we all went on our way.

We walked a little farther and passed a man who was jogging. A little ways behind him was a big white dog idly sniffing along the trail. The man turned and yelled to the dog, who slowly walked past us in his direction. This dog did not seem the least bit interested in jogging. About 15 minutes later A.J. and I had stopped under some trees so A.J. could hunt for squirrels. (More on that in a moment.) I saw the man come around a bend, still jogging. I didn’t see his big white dog anywhere. He kept looking back, but never slowed his jog. I was wondering where his dog had gone as the man followed the trail around a loop. On the other side of the loop behind some trees is a field. When the man reached the other side, I saw his dog walking over to meet him. It seems she had decided to simply cut across the field and wait for him on the other side. Definitely not a dog who’s interested in jogging.

In this park there is a small stand of trees off to the side with the trail on one side and a fence on the other. There are a lot of squirrels in the park, especially around these trees, and A.J. is always very interested in them. I typically take him over to the trees so he can sniff around looking for the squirrels. Usually I attempt to dutifully follow him around the trees, hanging onto the leash and ducking under branches as he trots back and forth and around in circles looking for squirrels and tripping me up. This week I finally decided this was ridiculous and I just let go of the leash. A.J. didn’t miss a beat. He just dragged his leash around, frantically sniffing around the trees. I did this again today, and I stood under the trees watching A.J. run from tree to tree and back again. Eventually I saw a man with a dog approaching in one direction, and a couple with two little dogs approaching from the other direction. A.J. was very intent on what he was doing, but I decided to pick up his leash just in case he noticed the other dogs. As I started to walk him out from under the trees, A.J. jumped onto a tree and started to climb.

I let go of the leash and heard laughter coming from the trail – the couple with the small dogs was watching A.J. He got about four or five feet up and decided to jump back down. I picked up the leash and continued walking. As we passed the couple (still laughing) the woman asked “Is there a squirrel up there?” I replied “I’m sure there was at some point.”

So there you have it. The cute little brown dog who kept coming back to play, the big white dog who did not want to jog…and the dog who climbed a tree. All of them fun and full of personality. But the one who made complete strangers laugh out loud? That’s my walking sideshow.