Occasionally, he will bite if someone tries being a little too friendly. We warn people, especially if they have a dog. There's always some who don’t believe us, at first.
He’s got a cute, unique dog face with protruding, black, bullfrog eyes. His muscular little body has soft fur that everybody wants to pet or sniff. Fourteen years in and he’s still got a spring in his step.
Even people who think they know him are liable to get snapped at. He growls his warning, but rarely breaks skin, though. Most Chihuahuas come with a Napoleon Complex.
Bam’s been with us since January when Kim and the family added three other dogs, and asked if we might take him in. He has been a Godsend. Just what we need during these times: purpose.
I think all dogs (and people) like to have a routine, something they can count on daily, and one they can learn quickly. I’ve always found dogs eager for activity, as well as good at reminding us when to do it.
Bam has a built-in timepiece that alerts him to his obligations. It didn’t take long for him to anticipate the daily walk schedule. Now, he’s ready and waiting at the first signs of walkies. The only thing he doesn’t do is bring the leash.
Bam can pee on demand, so we assumed he needs to go often. Chris walks him first thing in the morning and in late afternoon around five. My 20 minute shifts are around noon and nine at night.
Of course, with my hemiplegia, I can’t keep up with Bam’s regular, rapid pace, so I am a drag on his speed. But he has adjusted to my slow, hop-along gait and looks back at me as if to say, “There’s no rush, but please hurry up!"
He’s not a certified therapy dog, just my pet who keeps me on task. When Chris walks him, he appreciates her brisk and energetic style. I’m sure he wishes she could walk him all the time. He becomes a therapy dog when he recognizes it’s me on the leash.
When he sees me attaching my gear, the AFO and WalkAide, that’s his cue we’re really going walking. Then, I grab his Flexi-leash, sit down and attach it to his collar. He warms-up with a classic downward dog, a nervous habit of his. I try to remember a plastic baggie to pick up after him. When my cane is finally in hand, he gives a joyful little spin, whining slightly.
Once out the door and into the breezeway he waits for me to close it and get my bearings. Then Bam stretches out his retractable leash around the corner and past the stairwell. He lowers his nose and strains his muscular little body, determined to pull me towards the first rose bush. I’m a human in tow.
Sometimes, I pretend I’m reeling in a fish; it’s easy using the retractable leash. When Bam finds himself wrapped around a garden stake or signpost, I have to guide him back using small amounts of pressure to coax him out, like a brown trout. I can let him stretch the line out or keep him close, always careful and not to let other dogs get in fighting distance.
We must be a sight to see!
Always trying to improve my gait, I practice swiveling my hips and twisting my shoulders in unison to Bam’s back hips. His mechanics are perfect, and I try to imitate his stead-fast rhythm.
With hardly any verbal command, Bam knows just where to go and never protests when I change my mind. Smart little fellow. He pees several times and poops at least twice over his four walks a day. A treat of dried beef is usually his reward at the end of a walk.
Recently, he got off his leash. I didn’t panic because he just took off down the sidewalk and went to his usual spots and ended up back at my apartment door with little persuasion. He is on automatic.
Back in January, I viewed my daily walks with Bam as a chore. But now I look forward to them almost as much as he does, especially during these covid times. And he’s very good at reminding us.
The walks get us away from computer screens or the TV, get the blood flowing, loosens stiffness in the joints, and get us out into fresh air and the community at large to see what’s going on. Walking BamBam has helped give our lives purpose.
In a future article I will share some other benefits of
walking the dog.