It's a scene from Ben-Hur as I careen down Sixth Street in my invisible chariot, maneuver around the corner of Wilson, holding on tight to the reins of three leashes....
Walking three dogs at once, I know I'm a spectacle. And indeed, neighbors never fail to confirm this, calling their friendly greetings when they see me, euphemisms for what they're really thinking: "You've really got your hands full there!" (Translation: "You're out of your mind!") "Looks like they're walking you!" ("Get a grip on your life!") "All you need is a sled!" ("You look ridiculous!")
There are also the people in cars, some who just gawk as they drive past, others who smile and wave at me ("Look at that crazy dog-lady!") No hands free, my wave back to them is an awkward chicken-parody flapping of my elbow or a nearly imperceptible lifting of my finger.
Sometimes the herd and I are able to pass calmly enough for someone to ask the inevitable: "How did you happen to get so many dogs?" ("When did your disease first start?") But there's really no time to go into detail, nor do I wish to remind myself.... "A few too many trips to the shelter," I quip, and off I go again, jerked away down the sidewalk by my tangle of canines.
Still, I must admit, I manage amazingly well, and much of the time we are a smoothly synchronized team (only my brain knows for sure how I'm able to do it). But there are times when the dogs decide to assert their individuality, coming suddenly out of formation, for instance, when one of the neighborhood cats strolls sadistically by at the very moment we pass, or when we get within ten feet of the barking Three-Dog House. Then I'm a wacky traffic cop, my arms crossing this way and that, or an unwitting Houdini, cursing as I unwind the shackles of three leashes from my legs.
But when I've gotten us all back in order and on our way, I feel, depending on my mood, a certain serenity and satisfaction as my dogs and I pass at our regular time down our regular route, pausing en masse at the same tree as yesterday. I joke as usual with Barry the Landscaper or shout-chat as I've done for years with Mr. Davis on his front step.
In fact, I feel downright normal, until away I'm yanked again....
published in the Hometown Herald Winter 2004