Fast Out of the Gate

sniffing with stella
Sniffing with a friend.

For almost a year writing this blog, parsing the nuances of Pettigrew’s role in our family, has, I admit, made me feel like a dog whisperer; someone who mastered the human/canine communication, at least with Pettigrew.

That is, until a chance remark from my neighbor.

Out walking with our dogs, we bumped into each other just steps from our homes. The dogs indulged in a leisurely sniff, circling multiple times and initiating a few invitations to play. I commented on how different it had been earlier in the week when our paths crossed. Then, the dogs sped by without giving each other the time of day. Of course, that had been at the start of our walks and today we were both heading home.

My neighbor agreed, noting that his dog always lags on the walk home, often trailing as far as the leash allows. Pettigrew does the same. “Because,” my neighbor added, “she [his dog Sparky] never wants to go home. She wishes she could walk forever.”

head through screen door
Yes, Pettigrew has his own handle to open the screen door! Sometimes, he’s in a rush.

Wait, what? Could this be true? I had always assumed that Pettigrew was hot to trot at the start of the walk. Pulling hard on the leash, eager to hit his favorite sniffs. With the edge was off his ardor, he lagged.

Could it be that he knew when we headed home, even though we walk in a circle and don’t retrace our steps? Could his lagging mean he isn’t ready to turn back?

What does this say about all the other communications I have “read”? Have I been deluding myself that Pettigrew and I share a bond?

The details are fuzzy, but I imagine somehow Pettigrew and I bid farewell to our neighbors and made it home. My mind was working to assimilate this new worldview.

Our interaction with our neighbor and Sparky happened over a week ago. I wrote it up immediately, but it was too close. Too raw.

With the tincture of time I recognize that it is important to hear alternate viewpoints and weigh them against my existing experience. Yes, I can see that sometimes Pettigrew’s lagging steps may indicate a wish to go further, longer. But other times, as I hear his panting breath and watch as he flops down on the sun-warmed patch under the piano, legs stretched out, tongue lolling, sides heaving, I believe his slow steps reflected fatigue.

My neighbor’s observations may enrich my understanding of Pettigrew, but contrary to what I feared, they do not negate the repertoire of communication Pettigrew and I have built in over seven years sharing a home.

I needn’t forfeit my dog whisperer crown after all.

2 thoughts on “Fast Out of the Gate

  1. Yes, it really took me a week to think through it. I had to process being humble in the face of new information that contradicted my belief/understanding and to be resilient to not be black and white in my thinking. Not to be too quick to assume everything was wrong if I had missed the boat on this one thing.


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