January 31, 2023 Comments Off on Freedog

When I got Snykes I had a romantic vision of taking him to the mountains where we would take long, rambling walks together. He would bound ahead, sniffing out quail and dove and squirrels, and I would stride along behind. He’d look back at me from time to time but I’d never need to call, wouldn’t need a leash. Snykes would be a freedog, rescued from the pound by a benevolent me who gave him the freedom to simply be a dog.

It was a geriatric version of “A Boy and His Dog,” retitled “An Old Fart and His Dog.”

But Snykes had other ideas.

The first thing he did was to bleed all over my shoe. Life in the pound had meant little to no walking, so his pads were tender as a puppy’s. Simply jumping around in the “get acquainted” pen for a few minutes, walking out on the SPCA grounds, and bounding around in the parking lot shredded his feet. When we got home he could barely walk.

The pads healed but Snykes appeared to be more of a sleeper than a walker. He’d eagerly jump up to go outside and was always happy to walk for longer distances, but his status quo was asleep. And then when we brought him up to the cabin it got even more complicated.

Even though we’re flush up against the Sequoia National Forest, you can’t just let your dog run off leash until you’re a pretty long way from town. There are occasionally other dog walkers, and of course some people simply let their dogs run wild all day. The dogs are aggressive and Snykes has a certain street dog air to him; the one time in LA that he got attacked by two large dogs off leash, the attackers quickly thought better of it. Snykes deftly got to the large shepherd’s throat, and if Snykes hadn’t been on his leash, it would have ended badly. For the shepherd.

Moreover, Snykes loves to meet and greet people, and it’s not always mutual. So we would take long walks every morning with him on the leash. He strained a bit in the beginning, but as long as I let him sniff and pee where he wanted, it was okay. I wanted to let him off his leash but I also feared he’d run away. So we walked together, tethered.

Yesterday, after we’d gotten a solid two miles up the road, I decided to give it a try. I’d never seen another person that far up the road, and I mean, “A Boy and His Dog,” right?

I unsnapped the leash and he trotted a few steps, waiting for some other type of control to be asserted. None came. He glanced back at me, confirmed that he was in fact off the leash, and sprinted away. I had no idea he could run that fast. In a few seconds, kicking up dust like a car, he was fifty yards away, and then, without stopping, he wheeled, skidded backwards, and going even faster made a beeline back towards me.

He was running downhill so fast that his rear legs couldn’t keep up with his front, sending him in a full sidewise, barely-in-control run, his tongue flapping like a sail until he got within a foot of me and instead of crashing and sending me sprawling, he sheared off and continued sprinting down the hill, turning again and racing back to me at breakneck speed.

I’ve seen happy dogs before but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one as happy as Snykes being freed from the leash. We walked another couple of miles up the road, or rather I did. Snykes ran ten steps or more for every one of mine. He sniffed, he checked, the galloped, he loped, he trotted, he dashed down the road embankments, he explored and leaped and bounded as only a free person can. I mean dog.

No, actually, I don’t.


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