I didn’t think I had anything left to say when it came to dog walking. After all, I’d just finished writing a full-length manuscript detailing my crazy, sometimes horrifying, adventures in the canine culture of New York City. What else was there?
Then I realized when it comes to dogs, there is always a new absurdity to comment on. Today was the weather, or rather the result of yesterday’s weather…
Freezing rain yesterday turned Riverside Park today into an icy nightmare. It’s been bad before, treacherous, but today was definitely the worst I’ve seen it in my dog walking tenure. As I was picking up my first group of the day, I ran into my client Neil and his Airedale, Tank. “Don’t attempt the park,” he cautioned as he approached. As if to underscore his message, Tank began lunging and lurching toward me on his hind legs, anxious to say hello. No doubt if they’d gone into the park, Tank would have been the only one standing. I hadn’t forgotten the sprained ankle he’d caused on one of our walks two years ago. “Don’t worry,” I assured Neil, as they continued on their way. “I’m a professional.”
The truth of the matter is I had to go to the park. My first group of dogs would not stand for anything less. The “Pink Ladies” I call them. They are all alpha females and very high energy. If I even dared bypass the dog run, I would have to endure my golden retriever Feather’s look of disappointment. But that wouldn’t be as bad as my husky Sasha. She was the master of the Stink eye. In her book there was no excuse for a short excursion. From the first cold day in the fall until the last dribbles of ice in the spring, Sasha was in her full glory. Avoidance wasn’t an option. And then there was Bella. A sweet yellow Lab, Bella wouldn’t be reproachful, but instead would issue a challenge. “You’re afraid of a little ice? This is nothing. We can do this.” Of course the fact that they have four legs for balance is completely lost on them. But I knew I would go.
I picked up the team and we weren’t even onto the promenade when I knew we were in for trouble. Slipping and sliding just to get to the steps, I felt my thigh muscles groan as they rose to the challenge of keeping me upright with three dancing dogs on the end of the leash. We made it down the steps, and even down the hill which had claimed me as an ice victim last year.
Then I saw the dog run. Any remains of the fluffy snow we’d frolicked in yesterday had been changed into a sheet of ice by the freezing rain. If I’d had a Dorothy Hamill haircut and a pair of skates, I’d have been better prepared. I unleashed the girls and took stock. The ice was so smooth in spots, I half expected to see a Zamboni machine making a hasty retreat through the park. No one else was at the dog run and the whole park seemed deserted. Weren’t there supposed to be park employees salting and attempting to look like they cared if we broke out necks?
The girls immediately began to play, not caring that they were sliding around. Belly performed a perfect double axel, her toenails scraping the ice with the crispness of a professional skater. Then she started to slide. Right toward me. Bella is the master of bumping into me while playing. This wouldn’t be bad if she were a small dog. But she’s an eighty pound Labrador, surprisingly light on her feet, but eighty pounds nonetheless. I grabbed onto the iron fence just before she skidded to a stop at my feet. After a brief look of apology, she was off and running again, waiting for Sasha and Feather to wrestle her to the ground.
We survived the hour and even managed to make it back up the hill. I took the girls home and was just congratulating myself on our fortitude and dexterity when it hit me. I still had three more groups to go.