“How cute. What’s his name?” I get that several times a day while walking our female Shih Tzu, Abigail. So it is in dog walking protocol: Everyone wants to know Abbie’s name, but no one ever asks mine.
Though fewer people are sheltered at home these days, dog walking doesn’t seem to be waning in my Central California neighborhood — if anything, it’s increasing. There’s the Poodle who is always wearing a heavy coat, even on the warmest days. The German Shepherd, held tightly on a very short leash by a guy who marches militaristically up the street as Abbie and I scurry out of the way. The elderly Schnauzer who can no longer walk, but gets pushed every afternoon in a baby stroller.
When we encounter a person without a dog who wants to pet Abbie, the polite ruse goes like this. Abbie jumps up, tail wagging furiously, and licks their hand. I know this will happen because she does it unfailingly with everyone we meet. “Oh, wow, she really loves you!” I exclaim. And the stranger walks off feeling special.
Some dogs we encounter are aggressive. Every evening we see a large, white mixed breed who growls and strains on his leash. The guy struggling to hold him back always seems mildly embarrassed, shouting “No!” as if he’s never witnessed this behavior before.
Abbie doesn’t enjoy wet weather anymore than I do, so she dutifully wears a red raincoat that my wife Amy made. It looks nice, but somehow by the time we get home Abbie is always soaking.
On daily walks I carry the plastic bag that my newspaper was delivered in. I’m fastidious about cleaning up, as I believe most dog walkers are. But a few folks seem callously irresponsible which is annoying, because as Larry David explained in a recent episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” when the mess gets in the tread on running shoes, it’s really tough to clean.
That said, I’m apparently wrong to toss the bag in the nearest residential trash bin. None other than Dear Abby, Jeanne Phillips, wrote last month: “Readers, encourage dog walkers to take a larger bag with them or wear a fanny pack with multiple compartments to transport their pets’ ‘souvenirs’ back to their own home.”
I had no idea there could be a market for fanny-poop-packs, although I doubt Larry David would ever wear one.
I recently read on The Hustle website about a guy in New York City named Ryan Stewart who claims to be earning over $100k per year walking dogs. Sounds like a terrific job. But I don’t see how Abbie could possibly afford to pay me.
Copyright 2022 Peter Funt distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Peter Funt’s new memoir, “Self-Amused,” is now available at CandidCamera.com.