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Folk Dancing with Labs

Walking around the neighborhood with Jack and Tina has been fun. Easy in fact. I have Jack in heal position on my left, his six foot leash draped behind my neck and looped through my right hand. Tina is leashed to my left hand and walks either to Jack’s left or slightly behind. She sometimes switches to my right side. This is about the extent of the excitement.

Walks in the neighborhood are nice but somewhat antiseptic. We walk at the curb in the street and do maybe a mile. But a walk in the neighborhood is not a walk in a park. Since I have more time, I try to take them to the park after I have hand therapy. I like to watch the expressions of people at the clinic when I tell them I left my kids in the car. My hand therapist is about a mile from the park. Jack seems to know the moment we start for the park where we are going.

Jack and Tina really like going to the park. Regardless of how often we go, it is like going to a new place every time we go. Both enjoy the walk as well as the scents, though they enjoy them differently. Tina is going on sixteen years old. She enjoys savoring the scent as one would a good cup of hot tea. Slowing sipping, and enjoying the fragrance and pondering its implication. She methodically sniffs the scent from one side to the other then front to back, pushing aside leaves and twigs. She examines the depth of the scent like someone reading a book too good to put down until it is finished. Or a backhoe. When finished her head high she prances along until another scent catches her attention and the process begins again.

Jack’s nose starts working before we are out of the car. He is a little kid at Christmas looking for the pony. He seldom stays in one place for long. Reading each facet of the scent is not his style. It is like he is trying to get to the end of the scent to see how it ends. It is if a scent has become hooked in his nose and is reeling him in. Either way his nose is low to the ground and his feet are trying to catch up to it.

A walk in the park is not a walk in the park. On one hand I am leashed to an 85 pound F3 tornado that has an ADD nose, and on the other leashed to a 70 pound snail with a highly sensitive nose, inquisitive mind with the ability to Velcro itself securely in place. A walk in the park is an aerobics exercise akin to the European folk dances I learned at school in the third grade. It is a folk dance with Labradors.

This folk dance has several different sections or movements. The dance begins with a tableau featuring the Labs in proper heal position. The tableau lasts about half the time it takes to read “Proper heal position”, and segues directly into

The Launch. Jet aircraft take off from aircraft carriers using a catapult. At launch, the nose of the aircraft dips down and it rapidly accelerates. Same for the Labs. They hear the beep of the car door locking and their nose goes down and they rapidly accelerate taking in the scents. It would be nice if they would go in the same direction. Usually it is about a one hundred twenty degree arc of travel. Eventually a general direction is established and

The Promenade begins. This is the merrily we walk along section where the intricate steps come to play-avoiding being tripped by rapid lane changing Labs, switching leashes from hand to hand in front and behind the back and overhead twirls of the leash. Staying upright is desired though points are subtracted for falls. Forward progress is interrupted by one of several intermediate steps that are randomly repeated throughout the walk:

The Anchor. Tina latches onto a scent and stops to investigate. Great way to stretch tight arm muscles, mostly because while Tina has stopped, Jack is still moving forward. Once stopped there are two alternate steps:

The Wishbone. Tina is finding she is on the nearside of the scent and is leaning away from me. Once jolted to a stop, Jack discovers a scent juuust out of reach in front of him. He is stretching his nose out, crossing his legs and leannnnning out just a bit further in the opposite direction. I am in the middle. I wish I don’t get hurt.

The Conference. Tina finds the Mother lode and stops. Jack comes back to sniff for himself. Sometimes there is a shoving match. Interestingly Tina shoves harder. Both vacuum the ground, sniff the air, and look at each other than vacuum the ground again. Once the scent has been exhausted, they are ready to move back to the Promenade.

One more step occurs during the Promenade, performed by Jack. During the Promenade Jack is right next to me, loose lead and moving along mostly nose up, but sometimes his nose goes down, he suddenly speeds up, veers off to the side of the trail spreads his legs a little wider and performs The Strafe, peeing on the move for several feet and then veering back to my side with a big grin on his face and gives me that “Got their cornflakes gooood. Hee, hee” look.

I love walking Jack and Tina in the park. Every day the park is different. Every day the dance is different. Every day the walk is different.
 

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Nance once referred to this as a scarf dance, but folk dance is a good metaphor too! I feel your "pain". My friend (who also walks multiples) and I have named what you call the wishbone as the crucifixion. When I walk all four it goes something like this: Blaze has to be first and she will dig in and run, skip, jump over others to get there. Boomer refused to walk on the sidewalk, preferring the feel of grass under his delicate feet. He and Buster are affectionately known as the "pee pee twins" because they have to let everyone know every five feet that they were there. Buster also like to cross behind me and wrap his leash around my legs. BJ stays to my left and walks great until his own or someone else's leash touches him and then he comes to a dead stop. We have periodic health testing at the hospital where I work and I have been told that I have great grip strength - I wonder why :)
 
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