Charlie loves people but is afraid of things. Like wind. And paper. And stuff like loud noises, stones, squirrels and lots of other things we encounter on our daily walks. All these things make Charlie go into escape mode. Charlie has a smallish head and really thick neck fur, so any collar tight enough to prevent escape typically makes his little Chihuahua eyes bulge out even more than they already do. The vet suggested that we use a harness. That’s when we discovered that in addition to the tricky head/neck ratio, the length of Charlie’s front legs from the shoulder to the elbow is so short he can easily slip his elbows right out of a harness. I was afraid I was going to have to get a hank of rope and a Boy Scout, but finally found a harness that’s more or less escape proof. It has an adjustable ring of webbing that goes around his neck, another that goes around his middle and the rings are strung to each other with two more strips of webbing. He can still get out of it, but I usually have enough time to grab him first. The only problem is that once the harness is snug enough to prevent a quick escape, he looks like he's wearing a thong.
This morning, I harness up DaBoys and out the door we go on our 6AM walk. It wasn’t long before we got stopped by lots of new stuff to sniff and tinkle on. Charlie in particular wanted to investigate every blade of grass along our route. It’s not easy trying to keep up with one dog who loves to run (Sammy) without dragging along the other dog who loves to dawdle (Charlie). What typically happens is that Sammy will see Charlie sniffing something interesting, so he runs back to join him but Charlie is ready to move on so he runs ahead and if you watched me for any length of time you’d think I was trying out for Dancing With The Stars what with all the arm extensions and fancy footwork going on.
When I got to the corner of Parkview this morning, Charlie found a WAD OF GUM! THAT HAD BEEN RUN OVER A GAZILLION TIMES AND WAS STUCK TO THE ASPHALT! and just plain refused to move his little behind out of the street. I finally turned for home and started tugging, figuring he’d give up. And sure enough, he stopped tugging.
It took me a few seconds to realize that I was walking down the street trailing two leashes and only one dog. I looked back and there’s Charlie, harness-free and tugging at that wad of gum in the middle of the street.
Sammy now realizes that Charlie has gotten hold of SOMETHING REALLY SPECIAL and bounds over to join him, which makes Charlie stand his ground and growl. I walk over to pick him up, but he skitters backwards. I’ve played this game before - after this, there’ll be no catching him.
I look at the increasing morning traffic and a stone of cold fear hits my chest. I’m afraid he’ll scurry into traffic if I continue to chase him, so I yell “Go home!” and take off running for the house. We sometimes end our morning walks with a brisk jog anyway so I’m hoping Charlie will join in. Sammy loves this game, and he shoots past me in no time. He doesn’t even slow down when he reaches the end of his leash and yanks the darn thing right out of my hand. I start taking big steps trying to stomp on the loop. Charlie looks up and starts chasing us back to the house. So far, so good. But we must have been quite a sight: one galloping dog trailing a blue leash down the sidewalk being chased by a panicked, stomping woman holding a bag of poo and an empty red harness followed by a naked furball chewing a wad of used gum.
Sammy set a pretty good pace for us and I was getting worried about making the turn into our driveway. I could just picture him running straight past our house, out of the county, across the mountains and into the Pacific Ocean before he even got winded. But he checked his speed just enough to make a wide arc through the front yard and even managed a graceful leap over the hostas before landing on the driveway and continuing his run to the back door. I, however, am not a canine running machine with four legs and an athletic build made for track meets. My feet got tangled up when I tried to turn into the driveway while the rest of me continued in a forward direction. I rolled through most of the lawn before coming to a stop just in time to see a gum-chewing Charlie run past me down the driveway. When I got up, the poo bag was plastered to my chest and my foot was caught in Charlie’s empty harness. I hobbled down the driveway toward DaBoys, picking mulch out of my hair and trying to get myself untangled.
Sammy was on the top step still trailing his leash, tongue hanging out of the side of his mouth with a “That was FUN!” look in his eyes. He wasn't even breathing hard, and his tail was wagging the wag of a supremely happy puppy. Charlie was sitting on the bottom step, panting but still chewing like mad. I sat down to catch my breath and put Charlie under my arm. Sammy started licking my ears. After some wangling, I finally got the wad of gritty, tar-laced gum out of Charlie’s mouth. Both dogs were jumping all over me and licking me in that weloveyouweloveyouweloveyou way dogs have that told me they’d just had their BEST MORNING WALK EVER. I opened the door and let two (count 'em: one two) happy puppies back into the house.
I’m hoping tomorrow morning’s walk is uneventful. And I’m considering a harness with a side of duct tape for Charlie, my little gum-chewing Houdini.