Growing up with two border collies, walks with a dog to me always meant focus and intensity. To border collies, a walk is work — and you don’t mess around with work, unless the need arises to herd your people together or to ensure bike and stroller tires don’t get too uppity.
And then we adopted Miri.
As you probably can tell, Miri is part border collie, but she is also Great Pyrenees, Akita, Sharpei and a whole bunch of other things (or so the test we paid way too much for said). Perhaps it’s because she was found starving in a field, or perhaps it’s a trait found in one of the other breeds she’s got mixed in there, but walks for Miri are far less about work and far more about finding food in even the most unlikely corners of our neighborhood. And by food, I mean something she can chew, which may or may not actually be edible.
This means our walks are always entertaining. Often, I play the, “Is this the pre-poop sniff or the about to eat something that will require gastrointestinal surgery sniff” game, as well as the also fun, “Guessing what she’s sniffing in dim light” game. Winners, both of them. Never a big fan of yard work myself, I have come to hate people who leave their grass long and don’t rake their leaves, for these are Miri’s “Mystery Grab Bags.” Down her nose will go, disappearing deep into a pile of decomposing leaves, only to reemerge with a dead bird carcass or worse, moldy fast food. Even higher on my hate list are homeowners who, for some reason I cannot even begin to discern, discard chicken bones — chicken bones! — on their lawns, as if that’s the most natural place for them. And don’t get me started on the people who discard their jackets just because it gets hot. I shudder to think what lies beneath those earth toned folds.
But worst yet is the map she keeps in her mind. Sure, I might avert chicken bone disaster one day by jerking her away just in time or even pulling bits and pieces out of her mouth, and I might even continue to do so for several days forward. But one day, I will be distracted crossing the road, absorbed in a podcast, or talking to a friend, and Miri will pull the map up in her mind (“From: Miri’s Current Location, To: Thing She Shouldn’t Eat”) and before I know it, that octopus leg/rodent carcass/bag of chips has disappeared, never to be seen again (if we’re lucky).
This is my best attempt at rendering a mockup of Miri’s Map of the World:
Naturally, it changes with the help of racoons, who dutifully scatter garbage across the neighborhood, and with the addition of new carcasses, which other animals drag into the most highly trafficked areas (how polite!). The only thing I can do is update my own map as frequently as possible and hope that one day leash training is more than that thing Cesar Milan says. In the meantime, I think it’s time for Miri’s walk.