I walked three dogs today. The first dog was a wonderful dog, Hutch. I think Hutch is probably the first dog that I’ve ever done well at walking. He walked in a straight path, I scratched his back, and then we returned. Then I walked Clyde, then I was so exhausted from walking Clyde that I walked Friendly, who is a sweet and calm dog.
This is Clyde, dressed in his proper attire. His canine bio states that he is “good on a leash” which is the biggest lie I’ve ever heard. Clyde pulls on the leash constantly. He also barks a lot. That second reason especially is why he’s the dog that’s been in the shelter the longest. One of the other volunteers told me that Clyde had already been out but that he needed “special enrichment” — basically, he needs to spend extra time away from dogs, with humans. He barks a lot because having other dogs stresses him out. He needed to be taken away from the other dogs and petted a bunch. That sounded like a good time to me.
I spent about ten minutes nearly getting my arms pulled out from their sockets. So I started trying to pull him in the opposite direction he was yanking — not trying to get him to stay on a path, just trying to not get him what he wanted. Maybe if he got distracted by not getting what he wanted? Anyway, after like a minute it was obvious that wasn’t going to work, so I started planting in place whenever he yanked. If he pulled, we would stop walking. That actually worked? He learned very quickly that if I stopped, he should stop, and wait for me to move. Except that whenever I moved, he would try to run ahead, leading to me just stopping.
I returned sweaty about twenty minutes later. The other volunteer, tossing tennis balls for two dogs in the yard, asked me if I had petted him and given him the treat she had given me. I confessed that I had been too busy trying to get him to stop yanking to even pet him. “He needs a lot of one-on-one time.” She understood, and said that behavior like that was exactly why Clyde was on the “enrichment” list.
Once we were back in his kennel, Clyde suddenly decided that he needed some petting. I tried to get the collar off, but Wake County uses these ridiculous Martingale collars that are impossible to get on and off easily. The dogs always interpret my attempts to get the collars off as scritches. So Clyde thought I was trying to pet him, and he began jumping all over me, and then suddenly I was sitting on the ground and Clyde was laying on my lap, happy as a clam.
I realized that Clyde was overstimulated by all the other dogs, and massively undertrained. He was a good dog — he craved human contact and wanted to do good for us. He didn’t seem to hate other animals. He just…couldn’t handle everything. I felt sorry for him. I wondered what would happen if I walked him every day. Would it be like the fox in The Little Prince? If I walked him every day, would he like me best, and start behaving more, and calm down, because he had the same person walk him every day? Would I even be able to get to the animal shelter every day?
I pondered this as I walked Friendly, because she was such a good walker that I didn’t have to focus all my energy on her. What would even be the point, I thought, of walking the same dog every day? What was my end goal? How did I expect him to change? Was I here to save animals, or help them?
That was a strange question. Friendly and I walked up a side street and I watched as she pondered a tree. In my head, the conversation turned, abruptly, between Maggie and Emily. It was an extended conversation, since I had to justify to myself why Maggie and Emily would even be talking about dogs. Neither are particularly interested in animal welfare, unlike their creator. But saving people was a natural interest to Maggie.
Maggie: What’s the difference between saving and helping, anyway?
Emily: I don’t know. I think maybe saving is when you rescue people, but helping is when you get them to rescue themselves.
I hadn’t realized that Maggie and Emily represented my superego and my id. They’ve come so far since I came up with the characters as a junior in high school. They weren’t even friends when I came up with them. They ran in different circles. But now they’re inseparable in my head. I don’t want to hurt them. Maggie is smart, she always does the right thing. Emily always says the right thing, though.
I turned Friendly back towards the animal center. It wasn’t my job to save animals, I decided. I’m only here to help them.