Walk #19: Alone Together

I think it’s a pretty inventive idea, taking the black strap from a piece of old luggage in the basement and tethering the two dogs together. Leslie and I had agreed to watch my son’s dog for the weekend as he and his fiancé headed off to a family lake house in New York State, but Graham forgot to bring a leash. So, if I wanted to walk Sam and Franco together on one lead, it would be important to get creative. I connect the old strap to the two dogs and Sam’s leash to the strap. It looks to be a brilliant solution, a two-for. Ingenuity at its best.

Franco, an ivory colored Golden Doodle, is clearly the alpha, pulling on the leash, leading the way. Sam is dragged behind, the luggage strap stretched out and taut. We take our walk north up out street and immediately the strap tangles around Franco’s front right leg. He begins to hobble, still tugging us forward. Sam’s head is yanked down, her collar nearly wrenched from her neck. She scampers forward to relieve the pressure and snarls the leash around the trunk of a small tree and my left ankle. We are only 500-feet from the front entrance of our home, been walking just about three minutes, and I have already realized my invention is a bust.

Walking two dogs at the same time is a skill that requires far more patience than I have. I consider giving it up entirely, but instead, release myself from the entrapment, readjust the strap, shorten the leash, and try again, continue to walk north, wrangling with two anxious, excited K-9s who, by no fault of their own, lack the discipline and grace to fall into any Clydesdale-like strut and make life a bit more pleasant.

Is it even natural to walk two dogs at the same time? Are dogs meant to be hitched together like this? Yes, dogs are social beings. Yes, they crave the pack dynamic. But as Franco, Sam, and I take the curve in the street and the dogs nearly knot the leash and themselves again, this time around a small garden fence, I wonder if either dog senses my unpleasantness with this two-dog act.

There’s a couple in the neighborhood that walks their two dogs most evenings, they do it together, but separately. He takes the older one on one leash. She has the other. Unconnected. Unattached. Independent. They walk them in the middle of the street, apparently to allow for more room to keep a distance between the two so the dogs can tug when they want. It seems to work. I think about that couple and their dogs when Franco somehow gets the strap caught up around his leg again.

There are double doggy leashes out there. They sell them at the pet shop. They have a mechanism that allows for swiveling. This apparently lessens the chance of tangling. But I don’t have that now. This is quite clear.

It could be worse. At least Sam and Franco are of similar height. Sam weighs less at about 35 pounds. But Franco is not that much bigger. They have similar energy levels, too. So, it’s not like I’m walking an elderly Old English sheepdog with a hyper, nervous teenage Chihuahua. Still, I thought this would be a far easier task that it has turned out to be.

Deciding now to make this a shorter walk than I had planned for reasons of sanity, we take the parallel street and head south, a shorter route home. There are more tugs, more tangles, but we keep moving. Halfway down the street, despite Franco’s pulling lead, Sam abruptly stops. Her legs stiffen; she refuses to move. Franco is jerked back and appears annoyed. Sam looks at me. It’s one of desperation. She wants out of this predicament. Wants untangled, unhinged. She’s had enough of the pulling and the tugging and the knotting, enough of the togetherness. Can’t I just do this by myself? Can’t I do this alone?

And I wonder: are their times when dogs like being alone?

We hear so much about separation anxiety and how healthy dogs are social dogs. But, like us, don’t they, too, need alone time? Me time? Solitude? Wouldn’t Sam love, maybe just once, to be walking the neighborhood by herself, in isolation, without the leash, even without me?

Being by ourselves can recharge us, help us rediscover ourselves, find independence and get away from the grind. But psychologists will tell you that many people would rather take an electric shock to the head than sit in a room alone with their thoughts. No wonder solitary confinement is a form of punishment. But learning to accept aloneness can be healthy. Solitude is a higher consciousness. If embraced, it can be a wonder.

Is Sam looking for a higher consciousness? Probably not right now. She just wants relief from this highly disagreeable walk. But it may be true that even the most social of beings finds that two is a crowd, and that one is not always the loneliest number.

At the front stoop of our house, I disconnect the makeshift double leash and Franco dashes inside. Sam starts to follow, but hesitates for a moment. Standing at the threshold, she looks at me, making sure I am right behind, that I, too, am coming inside, that we’ll all be together, unleashed, individuals but yet a pack, a family, alone together.

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