We’ve been watching Russell’s dog Betty recently. She’s a very nice, well-trained dog — kudos to Russell on that! — who absolutely loves taking walks. Every morning I leash her up and take her for a walk around Schiller Park so both she and I can get some fresh air and exercise first thing in the morning.
For the most part, Betty is an easy dog to walk. She keeps her nose down, hunting for interesting smells, and stays on or in close proximity to the sidewalk, swiveling her head from side to side and remaining on absolute tactical alert for any random dog that might be seen off in the distance.
But the interesting thing is what happens when we depart from the sidewalk for even an instant — say, to drop a tied-off bag of doggie doo into one of the Schiller Park trash cans. When that happens, Betty’s entire personality changes. She goes from the dedicated, straight-ahead walker who diligently tracks down every stray scent to a young dog who clearly wants to frolic. She does a kind of antic, bouncing dance, going down onto her paws then leaping into the air, makes a growling sound, veers suddenly from side to side with tremendous force, and then starts to nibble at my shoelaces while I’m trying to walk. Frankly, it’s pretty annoying on a cold workday morning, but she’s just having a dog’s definition of fun. After a few minutes of such play, I give her a tug on the leash and we head back home.
It’s instructive, isn’t it? Betty likes her walks, to be sure, but what really charges her up is to go off the beaten path. Betty’s little dance just demonstrates the value of departing from the straight line and going free form every once in a while.