It’s entirely possible to meet a complete stranger, have a five minute conversation and for both of you to speak and not say one thing to each other. Instead, you both pretend to be dogs. And talk a lot about bums. Walking a dog does that to you. Let me explain.
if you don’t have a dog then here’s what happens. You’re walking along. Minding your own business when you see another person coming towards you with their dog on a lead too. The dogs spot each other. You can see tails wagging, ears down, a silent battle of wills developing between them as they decide whether this is a dog they want to sniff or one they want to bark at instead.
“Hello,” you say.
“‘Who’s this? They say back.
But they don’t look at you, they look at your dog.
As a dog walker you know that the question is not for you. instead they’re really asking for the name of your dog.
“‘I’m Barney The Schnauzer,” you say, “and who are you?”
And they tell you but you’re not listening as Barney is sniffing the other dog’s bum and it’s time to carry on the conversation by telling them exactly what Barney is thinking.
“Oh, I like sniffing bums,” you say. And as everyone knows the routine and we’re speaking as dogs you can get away with comments like that provided you don’t add “and so does the dog!”.
Nor should you ever respond to someone saying ‘”I like sniffing bums” with a “Well, doesn’t everyone!” while staring straight into the other owners’ eyes.
But it is awkward. The bum sniffing. And trying to make it less awkward by offering a running commentary is just one way of making it seem acceptable. So, you have conversations that may include “I just can’t stop” Or, if you’re canine friend is having a particularly vigorous sniff, “This is a good bum!’
Which is a risky one. Not every owner is prepared to grade the smell of their dog’s bum, not even while pretending to be a curious Jack Spaniel. But if they go with it then you open up a whole world of conversation including:
“I love sniffing – but I don’t like being sniffed!”
Or, if you’re feeling particularly curious.
“Oooh, what’s that smell?”
Which is a phrase which is only ever acceptable if visiting a show home for sale, a spicy restaurant or if you are testing perfumes or aftershave. Everyone knows what that smell is when you sniff a bum. It’s not fresh coffee, lemongrass or Chanel Number 5.
But still you don’t break the spell by addressing the other owner directly. You’re both still pretending to be dogs. Really, really awkward and embarrassed dogs because now the bum sniffing has finished and one dog is trying to mount the other.
And both you and the other owner are frozen to inaction while you fear you are about to start a commentary track for some hardcore canine porn.
“‘I like sexy time!” you don’t say.
And you definitely don’t add “And so does my dog!”.
So, the best bit about walking a dog is that, for triathletes, who don’t want to just walk the streets because they think they should be doing something longer, you also get to cross the street again and again because you’ll do anything to avoid meeting another dog and what you thought was a twenty minute walk will actually take a hour.