Last week, the G.P. (Great Provider) decided he was going to head out to the annual Kerrville Folk Music Festival. Dad has been a “Kerrvert” for many years, and wasn’t about to miss the opportunity to play guitar and sing songs about boobs (and folksy topics like shipwrecks and the more depressing aspects of trains) with his friends. The downside is that dogs aren’t welcome at Kerrville due to the face that every single person would bring at least one pet, and the festival would rapidly disintegrate into an all-out Mad Max style canine free for all. Provisions had to be made for Dad’s shovel-headed tank of a dog, Rowlfie.
Rowlfie and Dad are best friends, and the pup is used to going practically everywhere with the G.P. When he’s left at home for even an hour, Rowlfie takes on a mien of tragic desolation so severe that even delicious beef basted dog biscuits are no consolation. The G.P. is a diligent dog walker, and poor Rowlf is convinced that if he isn’t allowed his swaybacked stroll for at least five miles/day, he’lll flat out die.
When Dad leaves, it’s my job to provide daily walkies. Keeping dogs in fantastic physical condition is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they’re super happy, more obedient and tend to live longer. On the other, they’re incredibly strong with insane amounts of stamina. Stadler (my pup) is used to running 8 – 12 miles per day, towing me along on Gertrude (my bike) while I cling like a lamprey and scream things like “NO KITTIES” at appropriate intervals.
The major problem with double dog duty is figuring out how to exercise them enough without killing myself. My solution was to try to walk them together. I own a leash made specifically made for this purpose. Essentially, it’s a glorified waterski tow cable with two lines coming from the handle rather than one. It seemed ideal.
Walking two extremely strong dogs on the same lead presents some physical challenges. You have to sit on your heels and haul backwards with both arms to resist the drag, and it takes miles to tire them out. Additionally, Rowlfie has declared total war on all cats, and sometimes will hit the end of the leash with what the G.P. calls, “just a hell of a jolt.” It’s a tough gig. I don’t know how dog strength translates in terms of horsepower, but I’m pretty sure they could pull my car. I’m considering starting a really cute towing service – “Puppy Tows.” It might solve a lot of problems.
I swim a couple of miles at the YWCA most days, so every Sunday, I treat my poor chlorine fried hair to a rosemary and coconut oil mask. It seems to help, and it smells nice. Because I didn’t want to waste water, I decided to take the dogs on their evening walk with the tonic still on my head. Two showers seemed excessive, and acting as the equivalent to a parachute slowing down a space shuttle causes me to sweat like a stevedore. The walk started out normally, 158 lbs. of dog dragging me, my heels leaving dents in the hot asphalt. However, as the 90 degree day warmed the oil under my old black ball cap, things got appreciably worse. My forehead began to drip grease, which I wiped away with my hands. The leash handle became slick and difficult to hang on to. After half a mile, I was basted head to toe, plus the rosemary oil reeked like I distilled an entire field of the stuff and then swam in the result. That’s when the bees showed up. At first, it was just a couple of adorably bumbling scouts — then a cloud of apian curiosity. I walked slowly, desperately trying to control the dogs, who sensed that my grip had weakened and were focused on dislodging me. The Rev’s house was close – only about two blocks away. Sanctuary! The slow procession continued with the forced decorum of a funeral where no one really liked the dead guy. Finally, we reached the Rev’s cool, shady porch. I rang the doorbell. No answer. Her car was gone. I tried to call her. Nothing. We had to turn around and walk the half mile home in a bee vortex.
It took almost 45 minutes to make it back. I didn’t lose my grip on the dogs, but it was a near thing. We got into the house, oozing through the door to prevent the insect invasion — I still had to shoo a few more determined bumblers out with my cap. I ran to the shower, and stayed under the lukewarm water for close to 40 minutes – totally eradicating any environmental good I might have done by only bathing once. As soon as I emerged, my phone rang.
“What did you need?” the Rev asked.
“I needed you to drive us home because I was being attacked by bees for reasons.”
I hemmed and hawed and finally hollered, “Because I had rosemary oil in my hair and they smelled it and it was a disaster!!!”
My mother started laughing – and not a cute, charming, ladylike laugh, but the serious fall-down-on-the-floor guffaw of a drunken cowpoke. When she finally calmed herself, she helpfully pointed out that she “doubted they were Africanized” (killer bees are the Rev’s generation’s zombie apocalypse – she’s been worried about them since the Carter administration), and that she hoped I “felt a column coming on.” I hate to admit it, but I hung up on her.
We’ve got another week before the G.P. returns from Kerrville. Lessons have been learned. I’m now exercising the dogs individually, despite the sulking and fits of jealousy. It takes 3 hours a day. Suffice it to say, both Rowlfie and I really miss our Daddy, but only one of us is hiding under the bed pouting about it. The dog may soon have to make some room.