Everybody is suffering through the pandemic. My thought is everybody except dogs.
But the story starts before the pandemic. I am allergic to most dogs. Libby and I had cats for 38 years. Our last two, Thelma and Louise, were outstanding, indoor, affectionate cats who traveled with us in our trailer all over the West. Twelve years winter loops to Arizona, Las Vegas, San Diego. They were so popular they had groupies, people who came to see them and not us. Both are gone now, we are catless. But they were important to us. Also important were the dogs in the over 55 RV parks we stayed in over the years. Some of the 80-year-olds rarely left their trailer except to walk the dog, for a walk or to the dog doo area. They provided the means for the only exercise some people got. The dogs gave these people’s lives meaning.
Back to today and the pandemic. We have ridden our bikes on the Platte River Trails three times a week in the summer for twelve years. It is great. This year, much of our socializing is on our bikes. We get to see people we know on their bikes or walking their dogs. We get to meet new friends, new dogs. We get exercise and a bicyclist’s high. Every time Libby says to me,” I am having a good time.”
It is also great that this year there are ten times as many people out walking, many out walking their dogs. The dogs love it. They get to go for a lot more walks now. Lucky Dog! Ten times more trees to sniff and pee on. Ten times more dogs to sniff. Ten times more tennis balls to chase. More times to play and the river and shake on their master.
Speaking of masters, the learning curve for mastering taking your dog for a walk is steep for some people, but as time goes on the masters are getting better: Learning how to throw a tennis ball or a stick a long way and not hit a pedestrian or bicyclist. Training your dog to stay on his side of the path, mind voice commands and not fight with other dogs. It is all part of the good day, good year for dogs.
Then we have the non-walking dog walks. People dress their five-pound pooch up like Tinkerbell and walk her in a basket on the front of their bike, or in the kid trailer of the bike. I have a rubber squeeze parrot instead of a bell. I squeak squeak the babies and kids and parents with it. Most people like it. I got more upset than I should have when I squeaked what I thought was a baby in a stroller and it turned out to be a dog wrapped in swaddling clothes. But the dog was keeping its grandparents healthy by needing a walk.
I would nominate 2020 as International Year of the Dog. Animal Planet is overflowing with veterinarian shows. Half the ads on TV are for dog or cat food or paraphernalia. Ads for Blue dog and cat food that turn your pet into a wolf or a bobcat, gluten free! I have never seen a blue buffalo personally.
So, want to do something safe and good for you? Take your dog for a walk. Dogs can be off the leash at Morad Park. We bicyclists welcome you, although it does add to the challenges of dodging dogs and doggie doo and masters apologizing. Don’t have a dog? Get one, take it for a walk. Or just go for a walk or a ride along the river, see the people and dogs and deer and geese and pelicans and of course turkeys.
Steve Kurtz is a retired certified planner who lives in Casper.
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