When Butterfly came home from the shelter in November, she didn’t know how to walk on a leash. She learned by watching Cricket, following her tail wherever it went. She sniffed whatever Cricket sniffed and peed wherever Cricket peed.
Seven months later, Butterfly has her own ideas about what to a sniff, and where to pee, and who to greet, and when to stop randomly in the middle of the sidewalk and refuse to go forward.
For their first pee in the morning, Cricket yawns and stretches, and waits patiently for her leash to be attached. Butterfly, on the other hand, does her flibbertigibbet twirls, and runs to drink some water and load up on dog kibble, fitting it into her cheeks like a chipmunk, or gulping it straight down.
Within seconds, Butterfly’s leash is wrapped around her torso and through her legs. Then Cricket’s leash tangles around Butterfly too, threatening to pull off Butterfly’s paw, or her head.
When Butterfly has hopped and twisted herself free, the girls pull me outside, often in opposite directions. I am yanked like a wishbone at the breaking point, one arm forward and one behind. We look like a stretched out version of kindergarten children in museums, where everyone holds hands single file so no one will get lost. And then the dogs turn me around until my arms are wrapped behind my back and I have to switch the leashes from hand to hand and do a twirl to find forward again.
I wonder what this would look like if done by rhythmic gymnasts.
The dance of the leashes becomes even more complicated when a third dog is introduced. The third dog will inevitably have one of those skinny retractable leashes that could slice your leg off if it wraps around you. Then there is the moment when the dogs line up in a sniff train that either transmutes into a sniffing circle or a free for all where each dog is trying to protect her hind end while simultaneously attempting to sniff another dog’s butt.
The highlight of the dance is when the dogs sniff eachother’s tushies for inspiration and then do a simultaneous pee routine, like a synchronized swim team. This does not happen every day, and must be cherished.
When Mom and I take the dogs out together we each take a leash. This, theoretically, should iron out the problems, but then it’s me and Mom square dancing, as the dogs weave in and out, and we pass the leashes back and forth.
Cricket likes to use her leash to shepherd Grandma. She will quietly walk around to Grandma’s other side and then pull the leash forward, corralling Grandma. Clearly this would all be easier for Cricket if Grandma would agree to wear a leash.
Back in the apartment, with their leashes removed, it’s as if the dogs are back in their pajamas, and I start singing my wistful version of a song from Annie, “You’re never fully dressed, without a leash.”