Sometimes, in order prove just how fantastic you are, you have to do something very much out of bounds first. At least, this was Danny’s theory when he chewed through his leash.
We were running along a wide, flat trail that we like on weekdays. It’s cool and leafy, and there are usually enough other people around that we could get help if we needed it (knock on wood) but not so many that we have to dodge a bunch of other dogs. On this particular Tuesday morning, there were other cars in the parking lot, but we only saw a handful of other runners, and they were headed back to the trail head.
We set our pace at quick but not killer, and Danny ran along behind me, as he usually does. He was being a bit reluctant to keep up, so I gave in and removed his back-clip harness and clipped his lead to his collar. We use the harness on trails because Danny, while obedient, has a tendency to leap first and look later, especially if there’s a squirrel involved in the situation. With the harness looped around my shoulder and Danny free to be his nearly naked self, we continued to our turn-around point at two and a quarter miles.
When we turned around is when I realized that Danny had been silently gnawing at his leash. It was held together by two nylon threads. I expressed my disappointment, and Danny expressed a slight embarrassment. We headed back toward the car, Danny at my heels, his leash not in his mouth. The leash was so slack, in fact, that Danny tripped on it. That was all it took to snap those last sad little threads. I looked astonished. Danny looked elated.
Not to fear! I hoped! Danny and I had practiced off-leash walking on a safe trail where I could see for a mile in either direction. If I saw another dog or bike or any other freakout-inducing thing, I could leash him up well in advance. This was the time to put our practice to the test.
He performed brilliantly. He stayed right at my right heel, with only the occasional sniff-and-sprint. He didn’t stop to sniff too many times, though, since we’d already come nearly three miles. Sprinting to catch up was tiring. So he stuck to my heels most of the way back to the car, three inches of chewed leash flopping around on his chest like a little albatross.
I’m sure at least some of you are wondering why I made Danny wear a leash on a trail anyway. First, there’s the leaping without looking thing. Then there’s the fact that other people don’t leash their dogs on the trail. Even a friendly dog can get snappish if he’s surprised by Danny and I coming around a bend. There’s the fact that dogs blundering about through the underbrush wreak havoc on plants and animals’ nests. And though dogs don’t often have poison ivy or poison oak reactions after playing off-trail, I will when I pet him after our run and end up transferring that noxious oil from his fur to my hands. Everybody’s got a side in this debate, and that is mine.