At my age, the difference between a jog and a sprint is only discernible by the duration of the activity. I start my morning dog walk at a leisurely walk, gradually building up to a brisker pace. The old lactic transport system is slow to respond which means a gentle warm up is mandatory.
This morning, I just wasn’t feeling it. The particulate air pollution, the noisy traffic, and the pesky flies that came with the truckloads of manure recently spread in the orange grove along my route, all contributed to a sour attitude. After less than a mile, we turned back towards home. I forced myself into a jog that probably looked more like a shuffle to the passing truck drivers. The flies were too lazy to keep pace so it was worth the effort.
The formerly rural town where I live is known by a couple of nicknames, Mentone Beach, a nod to the numerous settling ponds, and Dogtown, because dogs outnumber people here. I think I’ve mentioned before, that it’s a diverse neighborhood, made up of Hispanic, Asian, White, old, poor, young, meth head, alcoholic, blue collar, retired, disabled, low-income, people all of whom love their dogs. From Chihuahuas to Great Danes, and every variety in between, my neighbors keep dogs in various versions of luxury.
Some, like me, pamper and discipline their animals as if they were children. At the other end of the love spectrum are the folks who believe their dogs should live a life of freedom. These dogs are allowed to bark as long as as loud as they see fit; if they jump the fence and accost a passing pedestrian, it barely warrants an apology; and if they are run over by a car or carried off by a coyote, they are quickly replaced.
My neighbors a few houses to the North, have about four dogs and at least as many cats. The population is fluid. They had three smallish dogs that lived outside, but the nephew, who lives in the storage shed in their back yard is too lazy to close the gate when he leaves, so now they’re down to one. He ran over one, the coyotes ate one, and the last one, Bean, is living on borrowed time. Unaware of his diminutive stature, he yells insults at my dogs and me from behind the fence when we walk by and if the gate’s been left open a crack, he comes out and taunts Sadie.
My dogs are pretty well trained to walk at my side without a leash even with distractions. But this morning, Bean must have said something about Sadie’s mama and she decided to make him eat his words. She chased him back into his yard and proceeded to maul him. And that’s when my shuffle became a discernible sprint.
Bean was yipping like he was being killed and I was yelling at Sadie (and this is when I learned that whacking your own dog with a hiking pole is totally ineffective in a dog fight) and Molly thought it looked like fun and piled on. I got a grip on both of my dogs’ collars and strangled them into submission and Bean beat a hasty retreat. I dragged both dogs out of the yard, expecting Bean’s peeps to come out and berate me for my irresponsibility. Molly slipped her collar and I lost my balance and fell in the dirt, still keeping a strangle hold on Sadie. Thankfully, the neighbors never appeared.
Back home, I put the dogs in the back yard and composed myself. Then I traipsed back to Bean’s house to see what the vet bill was going to cost me. The gate was now closed and Bean was nowhere in sight. I let myself in and went to knock on the door and found Bean in a cage with a bowl of ant-infested dog food, big enough to last him a week. I knocked on the door but nobody responded, all the while Bean was casting aspersions on my character at the top of his lungs. He looked none the worse for the wear so I went back home where my own dogs acted like they had no idea they were in the dog house.
And that, my friends, is how we stay in shape in Dogtown.