Cooper is the ninety-pound Golden Retriever who used to live next door to where I worked. He brought his owner and me together in friendship. He would always look for my car in the morning, when his owner would walk him across the parking lot, to have his morning walk in the park.
The mornings when I arrived early and could see they hadn’t finished their walk, I would wait beside my car for him. When he saw me, he would start pulling on the leash, dragging his owner. She would release the clasp of the leash from his collar. I would squat down to dog level, with my arms outstretched to welcome him.
The first time I did this, I had a moment where I thought, “I wonder if this is a good idea?” Ninety pounds of dog was running directly at me, full speed. Cooper was more stocky and muscular than most Retrievers. He reminded me of a Sherman tank. I braced for the impact. He stopped just as he got to me and gently touched his nose to my face. This became our new morning routine.
I kept a box of treats in the office for Cooper. He would get three treats, broken in half. And as dog owners know, dogs can count. I would give him six pieces of treats. No more, no less. If I tried giving him less, he would stare at my hands until I’d given up the last one.
After the giving of the treats, his owner and I would have a conversation. Cooper didn’t like being ignored during our talk. He would keep nuzzling my legs or hands, trying to get my attention. I found it easiest to squat down and pet him while talking. Then he would bend his head down and move toward me to rest the top of his head against my chest. He would stand like that as long as I let him. I’d never had a dog do that before. It felt like a sign of trust and affection. I’ve never seen him do it with anyone else.
There was a severe ice storm a few winters ago. It covered every surface in a thick layer of ice. It was treacherous to walk anywhere. I wore ice cleats on the bottom of my boots to get from the house, down the driveway to my car. I removed them while driving, and then put them on again to get from my car, across the parking lot to the front door at work.
That morning, Cooper’s owner called and asked if I would take him out during my lunch. With all the ice, he hadn’t been able to stand long enough to squat. She was concerned because he hadn’t been able to relieve himself in the morning and she had to leave for work. I told her I would take him out.
Well, the ice had gone nowhere in the few hours since I’d agreed to take Cooper out. For some reason, I didn’t think to put the ice cleats on my boots. First I took him into the back yard, but his feet kept sliding, so he couldn’t stand long enough to do his business. I tried stomping on the crust of ice covering the snow, in the hopes that I could break through to give him a non-slippery surface to stand on. The ice was too thick for me to break through it.
Next, sans ice cleats, I gingerly walked him across the parking lot to the park. He made a valiant effort, but once again, he couldn’t squat long enough to do anything. His feet kept sliding apart. Also, he fell twice while we were walking. I was concerned because he was a rescue dog and his new veterinarian determined that his one front leg had been broken at some point. I didn’t want him falling and re-breaking it. I decided to take him back home for both our safety.
Cooper must have had a lot of pent up energy. It was as though he couldn’t control his sudden outburst. Without warning, he started running across the parking lot. Ninety pounds of dog, running across an icy parking lot with me attached to him by a leash. Once he started running, I knew he wouldn’t stop and there was nothing I could say or do to make him change his mind.
It was like dog zoomies on ice. I had no traction, so I had no control over his movements or my own. I did the only thing I could think to do, to prevent myself from falling and probably getting injured. I squatted down to lower my center of gravity, relaxed my body, and went along for the ride.
And what a ride it was! At one point, mid-ride, I thought to myself, “This must be what it feels like to wind sail. And I’m doing it on ice!” (Later, this led to a Google search where I learned that wind sailing on ice is a real thing. Hmmm...who knew?)
And then he came to an abrupt stop. I still don’t know how he did that on a slippery surface. Wonders never cease to amaze. I paused for a second, still crouched in my low position. I took stock of our situation and breathed a sigh of relief. We were both safe after our mini-adventure.
Cooper had done us both a favor. His wild run across the ice brought us close to the door of his home. We still had to gingerly walk across icy surfaces to get the door. We did and I took him inside. He still hadn’t done his business. I felt bad for him, but not bad enough to risk taking him out again. When his owner got home from work, she took him out and he was finally able to relieve himself! Yay!
Forgetting to put the ice cleats on turned out to be the best non-decision I’d ever made.
© Debra J. Bilton. All rights reserved.