tom briggs

At least three times a day, over the past eight years, I walk our dogs Pepie and Spikey. Pepie is an eight year old  black short-haired Mini-Pincher of about six kilo’s, while Spikey is ten years old and is a coffee-coloured Pincher-Jack Russell mix.  Spikey is a hefty ten kilos. I say hefty because he’s only around twenty-five centimeters in height. If my math is correct in figuring it for eight years, that’s one thousand ninety two times per year times eight which equals eight thousand seven hundred and thirty six walks with both dogs. Add to that  the two thousand one hundred eighty four times that I walked only Spikey and it comes to a grand total of ten thousand nine hundred and twenty walks. And that’s a conservative estimate because it doesn’t factor in  extra walks on weekends and innumerable vacations during that time, where the duration and frequency of daily walks was/are increased. So we’re looking at a figure somewhere between eleven and twelve thousand walks.

Now let’s have a little fun with the kilometers. The average daily Pepie & Spikey Walk or Pipey & Specky Walk (as my occasional attacks of  dyslexia inverts the names) in our neighbourhood is as follows: Two modest walks of minimally 200 hundred meters and one walk of about six hundred meters, on average.  These are round trip totals and bring the yearly total to three hundred sixty five kilometres per year. At eight years that’s two thousand nine hundred and twenty kilometers. Now let’s throw in the two years walking only Spikey. Three hundred sixty five times two times two equals seven hundred thirty. That brings the grand total to three thousand six hundred and fifty kilometres total. With those numbers, I think I know these dogs.

The Walk  It’s not aerobic walking, I can tell you. There’s walking and then there is Pepie-Spikey Walking. The latter are constituted of stop and go, standing and waiting and not infrequently doubling back a few meters when either dog needs another sniff or two to decide whether or not to leave his calling card. This appears to be their version of window shopping.  I‘ve learned to be fast on my feet when Pepie suddenly stops or crosses right in my path as I’m walking. It seems he is incapable of spatial judgement and as a result, sometimes gets his legs/paws kicked or stepped on. Lieve and I think he suffers from myopia or poor peripheral vision. Fortunately I’ve become an adroit rope-skipper, thus saving him from injury. So far. On the other hand, Spikey is in perfect sync with me, as he is adept at anticipating my movements. I also skip rope, pirouette, cross arms and hop on one leg when the leashes cross or when Pepie, wanders behind me, which is frequently. While I don’t get an aerobic workout with these two, I’ve developed the foot quickness of an NBA guard, the hand speed of a magician and have added several centimetres to my arm length. The latter as a result of both dogs pulling in opposite directions.

Territory, Curiosity and Bombs Spikey is The Master of Indecision and often takes forever to leave his mark. Like a guy in a pool hall who takes an eternity to line up a shot. First the left leg is raised. Then the right one. Then he looks right, then left. He decides ‘not this tree, I’ll try the next one’. Same routine. Right leg, then left leg. Looks around. No mark yet. Two, sometimes three trees later, he commits. I think he’s somehow contacting a special consulting agency embedded into his psyche, weighing the feasibility and complicated variables of such an action. Or weighing the long-term ramifications. Or maybe everything has  to be in alignment with the planetary system. It’s all about universal angles that only astrophysical geniuses, mathematicians and dogs like Spikey understand.

Spikey is Sherlocking when he’s walking with his nose fixed to the ground. He is searching for a very important clue, perhaps the Holy Grail of scents. Maybe some equivalent of a narcotic or some hint as to his antecedent identity. Pepie on the other hand, doesn’t want to miss anything, as his nose is everywhere, like a ball in a pinball machine. Hyper-frenetic to the max, reducing attention deficit disorder to tranquility by comparison.

On the longer walks, there are some sixty trees along the route.  Both dogs commit scores of times per day. Where is all this marking juice coming from? Is it somehow manufactured on the spot? Pepie, with his long black legs, has perfect form. Very high leg lift. Great balance. Acrobatic even. Not unlike those high-beam gymnasts in the Olympic games.  Deft, capable and athletic. All the cards show the number ten.  The dog is flawless. Sometimes Spikey and Pepie will do a ballerina gig together. While almost butt to butt, they’ll  leg-lift  as one. Beautiful symmetry and synchronicity. Score that a ten also. Spikey sometimes half-legs it or old-dogs it or trap-doors it. Meaning that he’ll lift his leg only halfway, which conveys a certain laziness or half-effort. The trap-door appears to require the least effort and differs from the other two half modes in that it creates a  little crease or fold in Spikey’s piglet-like thigh, giving the impression that his stream is somehow emanating from a hidden trap door.

On the underside of things, Pepie’s indiscriminate and wanton territorial presumptions have no equal. When it comes to leaving his mark, he defers to no one, and would lift a leg on the king’s or prime minister’s shoe if afforded the opportunity. It’s hilarious to speculate what might happen if Pepie were let loose in a Brussels chandeliered state room of antiquity, opulence and refinement, filled with the high-brows of importance and pretence. Pepie brings a bit of the hood with him wherever he goes.

Pepie squats in a kind of disciplined military by the book perfect form tripod-style when he sets to drop one. But he does so very suddenly, and occasionally leaves it vertically on the side of something,  such as a tree. Isn’t that special, that’s so cute. Or where it’s completely hidden and inaccessible.  A regular Houdini. It was just there. I saw it. Now it’s gone. Spikey is a cluster bomber  and often produces a trail of four or five products. Sometimes they indicate a letter ‘S’, ‘O’, or another letter. Is he using advanced coding? I should study this more closely. Very forensic. Both dogs will attempt to bury their offering, but spraying  one another with dirt, grass and worse is apparently much preferred to accuracy. Is each is getting even for past insults or slights? Perhaps attaching a rear view mirror to their collars is the ticket.

Spikey and Pepie sometimes go real-dogging. That’s when they attempt to eat the vilest, rancid-looking, decomposing substances available anywhere on the ground. Their genus canis wolf-like antecedents from way back had to scrounge for anything, so there you go. Food is food. Or is it more precisely like a Pollock is a Rembrandt to the blind. It’s as if they hadn’t eaten for days. Attempting to take it away from them is offering a wolf your precious fingers for lunch.  I cannot relax my vigilance, not for a second, not with these two Neo-Wolves.

Spikey is an instigator and provocateur. He’ll bark and snap out at other dogs for reasons only he knows. Even to dogs across the street, or from similar distances, he’ll aggressively bark and pull hard as if to say: Let me at him, I’ll kill him! But it’s all bluff, because I tested it once by dropping the leash. No attack. No punches were thrown.  Pepie, on the other hand, is OK with other dogs, at least until somebody says something about somebody’s mother. Then it’s an insult-laden war. Also, when Pepie sees that Spikey is upset, he’ll join in, for reasons that probably he doesn’t even remotely know. Or is it: What did you say about my brother?

Love is measured in different ways. I love Spikey because Spikey is Spikey, but I love Pepie because Lieve loves Pepie. Actually, I’ve come to appreciate Pepie, to understand and have empathy for him. So that’s love too.  Spikey is a uniquely handsome dog.  He’s also a real charmer with a circus clown’s sense of playing up to people’s reactions. He is magnetic and draws everyone’s attention. He’s also a bit of a prankster who plays the angles to get his way. Pepie doesn’t have those talents or endowments.

Pepie stands in the shadows while everyone admires Spikey. I’ve learned patience and tolerance in looking past Pepie’s short comings of judgement and recklessness. I feel for him because he is the outsider. The refugee dog.  A dog with a likely tumultuous past that nobody knows about. So if Spikey is the sun, Pepie must be the shadow. And with all of the kilometers in the sun and shadows, in the rain and snow and wind over all these years,  I never tire of walking them. And when one of them is no longer around, it’ll be a half-empty walk. Less chaotic for certain. And much less of an adventure. But I’ve been very fortunate for these past ten years, walking Spikey and Pepie. Or have they been walking me all along?

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