Non-adventures in dog-sitting, part 5

July 10, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
July 10, 2017

With this, my fifth post about the eight or so days I spent dog-sitting for the Os, I will now begin to discuss what I actually did with the dog in question.

My ward was a very cute, sweet-natured six-month-old pup named R—. Her human adults departed around 10 in the morning of Friday, June 23, after which I spent most of the day lolling around the house fiddling with my computer. I let the dog out on her run a few times as appropriate, but otherwise we engaged in minimal physical activity.

On Friday evening, I stopped entertaining the notion that I was going to shower and dress and spend any time around other people. Instead, shortly before 7:30 p.m., R— and I headed out of the house for a stroll on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.

The W&OD, a 45-mile-long paved former railroad line, stretches from a spot roughly two miles west of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport just outside of the District of Columbia to a point near Monk’s BBQ, a restaurant in the rural community of Purcellvile, Va. Part of the trail runs near Mr. and Mrs. O—’s home.

The dog and I walked over to the nearest trail access point and started heading south-southeast toward the nation’s capital. This part of the path is relatively straight, although it dips up and down a bit to accommodate the terrain. The bit we were on runs past part of a residential neighborhood; we could hear kids playing in backyards.

Different path users — bicyclists, pedestrians, other people walking dogs — passed by us fairly frequently. I struggled to keep R— from darting over to inspect each and every one of them. It was hot and humid and buggy out, even though most of the path was shaded. I hadn’t brought bug spray, and I was afraid to pull out my bottle of water lest I lose control of the pup.

At one point as we crossed beneath an overpass, we heard a scurrying in some nearby undergrowth. R— barked and leapt at the sound. I couldn’t see what had made the noise, and I led the dog away from the distraction.

Later, I paused so R— could smell something. I looked up and noticed that a deer was standing stock-still in the hollow nearby. I tried to take a picture with my smartphone, but the camera wasn’t good enough to capture a sharp image at distance.

Ultimately, R— and I went more than a mile and a half before turning around. By the time we got back to her house, we’d covered 3.41 miles over the course of about 64 minutes. That was pretty good, I thought.

The next morning, R— and I set out at 8:21 a.m. We went to the trail access and this time headed north-northwest. The day was warm and sunny, although not as humid. This part of the W&OD trail diverts toward a creek that passes beneath a major road.

I found the dog difficult to control, so I decided to turn around after having gone just about a mile over the course of 27 not-at-all-brisk minutes. R—, however, made up her mind that she wouldn’t go any farther. She plunked herself down in the grass by the side of the path and resolved to go no farther.

I cajoled and pleaded; I told her we were going to go home. I fed her some snacks and plied her with water. She ate the treats, but they didn’t motivate her to continue walking; she mostly ignored the water.

The traffic noise, I think, bothered the pup, especially in the echoing concrete underpass. Furthermore, she was tired of my trying to guide her firmly; she may also have been tired and hot, even though she largely disdained the liquid refreshment.

We proceeded — very, very, very slowly — back toward the underpass. When we got there, she balked at continuing; after further futile attempts to get her going, I resorted to picking her up and carrying her through the passage that ran beneath the highway.

I put R— down on the grass once we’d cleared the road. She flopped on her belly once more. I tried to persuade her to continue on the path, but she only showed interest in exploring the grassy area.

I surveyed the area. There was a grassy clearing that parallels the paved trail, serving as a sort of shortcut to where we’d first accessed the W&OD. The grass was fairly high, and some of the ground was fairly swampy, and I was leery of the foliage at the edges of the clearing. We swept through this passage as fast as I could get her to go.

Four-tenths of a mile and nearly 11 minutes later, we were back at the house. I inspected my skin thoroughly and found, I think, two tiny ticks scurrying on me. I checked the dog, but she seemed to be clear.

This, amazingly, was not to be the last of our pedestrian ordeals on Saturday.

To be continued

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