There I was, staring down at a rather long flight of concrete stairs.

At the top, tethered to me by a leash, was my 75 pound lab, quivering with excitement.

At the bottom was the dog park. 

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Louie (just barely) tolerates a leash as a means to an end. If either of us want to enjoy a walk, the leash must be used on an “as needed” (and preferably not frequently needed) basis. Therefore we usually choose to take walks on the least popular paths, at the least popular times of day, and (the best is) in the least favorable weather.

Give us a cold January day for a beach stroll, and we are thrilled. When we are alone, he is free to run in and out of the frigid water, and I am spared a dislocated shoulder. Thus we are both happy.

When we “walk” in this way, I let him off leash until I see someone else coming, and unless the approaching party also happens to be walking with an off-leash dog, I put the leash on Louie. He comes when I call him, sits, and let’s me do this…as if he knows this small concession ultimately buys him his freedom. (I know, you may think he isn’t that smart. After all, I do often find crayons and hair elastics in his excrement, but actually, aside from his ostrich-like eating habits, he is a pretty smart boy).

A couple of weeks ago, on an unseasonably warm Saturday, we tried to go to the local beach for some frolicking (I don’t really frolick, but he covers it for both of us). As we walked down the boardwalk I saw that the beach was absoultely packed. This was not the place for us.

I had heard of the local dog park but had never checked it out. I knew Louie would be thrilled to be able to run freely with other dogs. When he sees other dogs he gets so excited he cries. So I decided to give it a go.

May I just say that it is hilarious to people and dog watch in this enclosed space. So many cases of people resembling their dogs in appearance or in temperment. (I’m not sure what that says about Louie and me…). There’s the one dog who wants to hump every single other dog while the owner exclaims, “He loves making new friends!” There’s the one dog owner who pretends not to see his dog pooping (someone is bound to clean it up, right?). There’s the aggressive dog whose “Mama” keeps reassuring everyone that “He’s just playing!” There’s the dog who, bespite his owner’s words of encouragement, just sits at his owner’s feet – he’s the dog park version of a teen dance wallflower. There’s my dog who must pee on every single thing, and who despite being one of the biggest dogs there, comes running full speed toward me whenever another dog so much as growls at him. One time he was frantic at being chased by two bassett hounds. My 75 pound, boxy headed lab was fleeing from two bow-legged beasts who were literally dragging their bellies on the ground.

Oh I could write whole blog about the microcosim that is the dog park, but I digress…

Back to the cement steps.

There we stood at the top, Louie absolutely beside himself with excitement to get to the bottom of those steps. I had him tightly by the leash, as I felt I needed to be in control of him from the car to the park gate.

I looked down at an older man at the bottom of the steps, standing off to the side. He was looking at me like he was about the see a train wreck and he knew it. I said, “What do you suppose the chances are that I can get to the bottom in an upright position?” To my surpirse he looked at me, nodded his head reassuringly and said, “You can do it.”

The sick bastard.

Just kidding…maybe he recognized my strong inner will...or maybe he is into schadenfreude.  We’ll never know for sure.

In that moment, looking down those cement steps, I heard my Uncle Ed‘s voice in my head saying,

“Let go…or be dragged.”

It’s one of his favorite expressions. Meaning of course – you are not in control – and you can either give into that reality, or you can make things rather painful for yourself.

I have a really hard time with this lesson…I always have. You know how they say that you will keep being presented with the same lessons (in new and unusal ways) over and over again in life until you finally listen. When I look at all the ways that life has shown me how NOT in control I am, I can’t help but be mildly amused that this is even still a thing for me.

Must I be dragged down a flight of concrete stairs to reinforce this point?

The gate to the dog park is right at the bottom of the stairs. Louie, if let off the leash, was going nowhere but right to the gate.  He could not wait to play with his friends. There was no one else on the stairs that he could have inadvertantly knocked over on his way down…and my dog hasn’t a mean bone in his body. There would be no harm in letting go. 

I took a deep breath…and I held on to the damn leash with white knuckles, and I used every bit of strength I had to control the dog down those cement steps and to the gate.

What?

Were you expecting something else?

I said it was still a thing…

And so I await the next opportunity...to get it.

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