Woof, there it is: Life lessons from a dog walk

There is this thing old women in our family say when they are particularly irritated by something you are doing.

‘Mane Tension ni aap’ – Don’t give me tension.

It is quite appropriate that our smallest dog is nicknamed Tension. He started out as Sparta, because he is a scrappy, feisty thing, but my Grandfather bastardised that into Farta, and no creature should have to endure such a noxious name. So we re-named him Tyson, which was meant to be an ironic name; this tiny little fluffy puppy being named after a heavyweight champion, but he soon grew into his name and started picking fights around the neighborhood, yelping insults across the fence, sticking his nose into other mutts’ businesses and generally causing quite the kerfuffle. My grandfather then bastardised Tyson into Tension, and it was so apt, that it stuck.

Every now and then I take Tension out for a walk, and inevitably he will embarrass me in front of Mzungu dogs. What is it about Mzungu dogs that make them so darn well behaved? We will pass this unruffled Mzungu jogger, with a dog trotting in tow, and Tension will start screeching away, hollering all kinds of filthy provocations, meanwhile the Mzungu owner will calmly say ‘Heel’ and her dog will turn his nose down at Tension, and carry on with their civilised jaunt around the neighbourhood. I am then left tugging away at Tension’s leash, red-faced, loud-whispering at Tension to behave himself, or I will never take him out again.

He knows I don’t mean it, because inevitably I do take him out again. Sigh. I am a terrible disciplinarian. What sort of parent am I going to make?! Am I going to have one of those kids who bang their heads and throw tantrums until they are red in the face, as I try to explain the merits of not having that 6th cupcake?

Anyhow, the other day we were out for a walk, I was wondering in our wandering, and it occurred to me there are a lot of life lessons that can be learned from the incidences that take place on these walks.

The following is a lofty list of life lessons, courtesy of Tension:

  • We came across this giant mushroom in the grass, the kind that fairies use as umbrellas. I am a little kid at heart, and so bent down to take a look, pointing it out to Tension, and asking him if he thought it was a ‘Magic Shroom’ – not the fairy kind of magic, the kind of magic that makes polka dotted, gum boot tooting sheep appear out of rainbows. At which point, he looked at me, lifted his back left leg, and promptly let out a jet of yellow liquid all over the thing, dousing any plans I had of a psychedelic adventure.

Lesson: You can always rely on someone to piss on your parade

  • We passed this gate, behind which three enormous Alsatians were growling, baring their teeth, frothing at the mouth, taunting Tension with teasing barks and trying to lure him close enough so they could snap their jaws around his puny neck. I was very worried. Tension has no concept of size and would normally be smack-barking them back. This time, to my surprise, he decided to be the bigger dog, and did not pander to their mocking. It was only a few minutes later, as I struggled to hold him back from capturing a flapping chicken, that I realised he had juicier things in mind.

Lesson: There are times in life when hunger trumps vanity

  • Tension will stop to pee at every bush, tree, pole and inanimate object. He must measure out his urine, calculate how many more occasions he will have to lift his leg, before he doles out the appropriate amount of piss, because he never runs out of urine. It truly amazes me. As we stopped for the 674th time, I had a personal epiphany.

Lesson: Don’t miss out on any opportunity to practice your craft

  • And as we stopped for the 675th time

Lesson: If things don’t turn out the way you want them to, don’t freak out, there is always any other opportunity around the corner

  • When Tension does pee, he doesn’t do it just anyhowly! He has a particular technique he uses. He lifts his leg, pees, then scrapes his hind legs back and forth in a flurry, kicking up a storm of dust, before finishing off with a definite gruff, as if to show that bush who is boss. Every time. It is his trademark.

Lesson: Flaunt your style and don’t be afraid to add your own flourish to everything you do

  • After a while, the clouds started getting darker and heavier, and it looked like it as going to dump buckets. I had not carried an umbrella, and so did the sensible thing; I asked Tension if we should turn back. He looked at me, and then tugged at the leash to keep going. Minutes later, it started pouring, and he gleefully bounded around, taking every opportunity to jump in every single puddle, by the time we got back, we looked (and smelled) like two wet dogs.

Lesson: When asking for advice, consider that the other person’s agenda may be completely different from yours.

OR

Lesson: It is unreasonable to expect sensible advice from a dog (particularly one named Tension)

OR

Lesson: Stop talking to dogs.

 

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