I AM SOMEBODY, (only when I travel with my dog) BY JOHN WATTS

I AM SOMEBODY, (only when I travel with my dog) By John Mister W.

The motto “let them know whose boss” does not apply much as it relates to my views on dog walking.  For I consider it a uniquely symbiotic relationship–this matter of walking with a leash between me and my pet, not some chain of command for producing some desired outcome, due to necessity.

This leash has come to mean freedom to my dog, Ranger, and myself.  Just like hearing a can opener to signal meal time, he stirs to life when he sees me grab my sandals and reach for the leash.  I stir to life too.

Having a pet dog also opens me up to the world around me.  I remember a vivid example of how a dog can boost one’s status, some years back on a road trip out west.  I had stopped at the COLORADO WELCOMING CENTER after crossing the border.

My first thought was to stretch out and exercise after my long driving stint.  So I took my dog on a leash for a walk around the premises, which had plenty of room for tired motorists to move around and decompress.  At that very same moment, out of another car, a small kid shot away from his family on a direct beeline for us–all because he had seen that I came equipped with a dog.

The kid was gaga!  He started by asking if he could say hello to my dog and then asked me if he could pet him.  I complied with his request and was relieved that Ranger behaved himself as he was run at from all kinds of blind, startling angles that kids frequently will do.  As we walked away the kid kept pointing at us and kept calling out to Ranger until the sound was no longer audible.

I felt like a celebrity by proxy and was pleased with my winning ways around children.

Minutes later I dropped Ranger back in the car so I could go inside for some brochures and travel tips, and happened to once again pass the same kid.  I smiled and said hello, bolstered by my recent “breaking the ice” meeting that we had just enjoyed with my dog.

But this time he just stared at me.  There was no double take or even a flicker of recognition.  The magic was gone.

I was now just another stranger to this kid–just another anonymous adult.  I had lost my special status with no dog on the leash connected to me.

I might as well have been invisible to him; as unremarkable as any other passing figure.

This was yet another great “lightbulb going on” moment.  “Aha!”–I thought to myself, “Despite all my considerable charm, it MIGHT just be about the dog!”

This special status applies to all of my travel excursions.  My dog gives me extra motivation to walk outside as well as a shared camaraderie.

My entire line of canine pets, (cats were always too aloof to be seen in public with me; much like teenage girls at the mall eschewing their parents) always served to legitimize my presence out in the community (and make me feel more like Superman than Clarke Kent).

We live in a very insecure society that is driven towards the unthinkable happening and the dilemma for citizens in considering whether to file crime reports on “suspicious activities.”  A man walking on his own with no visible function can be quickly viewed with suspicion—in other words,” This guy has too much time on his hands!”

The LOITERING countdown begins ticking off pretty rapidly in many people’s eyes when a window shopper continues to not look like a viable costumer for long.

Given this climate–a man like myself who enjoys perching on a hill to gaze at the stars or look up at the clouds might be viewed as questionable or even threatening.  Yet, pair this same suspicious looking man with a dog on a leash and WALLAH!—instant credibility and sympathy wells up and the man is seen in a much more reassuring light; performing a legitimate duty.  He goes from potential criminal to possible transcendentalist in no time.

The disturbing talking that I was previously doing alone by myself, (without even a working cell phone in hand) now looks downright lovable when I am talking baby talk with my pooch.  “let’s go bye bye!”  “Wanna biscueee?”

My pets have afforded me the same comfort level as the lonely man feels when he finally has a date in a sit down restaurant.  No longer must he limit himself by only eating at McDonalds.  No longer must he dread eating alone at a table meant for two with a big, penetrating spotlight overtop his head.

Suddenly by simply being accessorized with a dog and a leash, I have a function and pass appropriately throughout the suburbs without raising suspicion.  Many a pretty lady will comfortably stop and remember me from earlier visits—simply because we are ALL members of the same dog walking club together.

Psychiatrists attach fascinating theories behind the phenomenon of what a cathartic release it is for shy people to talk through their animals with each other.  I have chatted with dog owners in my neighborhood for nearly a decade and never once strayed from the much safer practice of just greeting and identifying the dog’s names, while conversely never daring to learn the owner’s name.  Knowing other people’s names would ruin the spell of course, as we all know it can lead to too much thinking and maybe a need to form a committee or escalate to something more dramatic, like attending dog parks together.

Despite all these advantages, truth be told, when I am out with my dog on a walk, I never think of being functional.  No–I am eternally young and hopeful and everything that is spring!  I am far more than just functional!  I am thriving!  The kid is integrated with the adult and feeling full of mischief and freshness.

Hope springs up unconsciously to solve every problem or burden that loaded me down before the walk began.

Kids and the opposite gender, and every person from every walk of life all LOVE me when I am walking my dog!  And it restores me to myself quite naturally, without any rehearsal.

And if, in the process, dog walking gives me a more respectable cover in the world’s eyes—so much the better right?

Because I LIKE to loiter!

I like to perch on a grassy hill and hug trees intermittently while I pretend to be pursuing the FUNCTION of merely exercising (because it is good for me) which in turn, allows my dog to go number 1 and number 2 outside and not in the house (also logical and functional)

Just don’t ask me to arm myself with the additional function of being a bag holder for a dog constitutional when I am out hugging trees.  I don’t need to be that functional!


About John Watts

I like to write transcendental community based essays and stories along with photo journalism pieces.
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