1. He needs a job. Dogs love to work. Well, some races do, and my Louis is a mix of many of them. He’s a rescue, a kind of Australian Shepherd / Border Collie / Terrier / Mad Cross. He has put our patience to the test with his energy and psychological problems. But we love him and have always forgiven his youthful exuberance, provided it would fade with age. It has not. A few months ago I dug up an old dog backpack and tried it on Louis. “You have a job now, my son,” I told him. “If you want to accept it, you have to carry this pack. Time to leave this crazy behavior behind and set an example for others. “He stood there for a minute, wondering how he was hired, decided the pack felt all right, and agreed to my terms. As we walked, he seemed more focused, stayed closer to me, stopped pulling, and changed my attitude towards dog walking forever.
2. It calms him down. Something happened to this dog before we got it. Something bad that made him fear many, many things. Cars are number one on the list. Fight or flight? How about both? A car comes by, Lou tenses, shivers, starts falling and barking, and then – if he doesn’t pull my arm off – he bites my leg. A trainer helped me overcome the worst with a combination of cheese whiz, clicker training, and sweet talk. But the pack really did the trick. Like a thundershirt, a pack can make a dog feel safer. I still talk to Louis about every vehicle, but he’s 95 percent better.
3. He’s carrying my things. I never have enough bags on a walk. Gloves, hat, phone, additional baggies, rain jacket: they are put in the right pocket (right for “right side to put my things”) of the backpack or under the elastic webbing at the top. My smallest dog is on a leash without a leash and his leash now has a place next to my waist (irritating) or my neck (dangerous). On the way home we pick up the mail. I could never do that. Dealing with three dogs plus full poop bags plus mail would be doable, but throw a squirrel in and play past. The post is on the street, the poop bag has broken open and I scream like a mad woman in the street.
4th He’s wearing his “stuff”. There is no better way to carry poop. Anyone who has ever felt the fat, warm thump of a full bag swinging against their leg knows that it is just utterly unattractive to carry yourself. Tying the bag to a leash can tangle or tear (eww) and attaching it to the dog’s collar just seems humiliating. Colorful bags do only so much to cover up the disgusting and forget about reusing those clear product bags. Even on an unusually productive day, Louis can wear all three dog deals, and he does so without complaining. Full pockets go into the left side. (Left for “best left alone, there’s poop in there.”)
5. He looks great. Oh yeah. His looks have always been number one on Lou’s short list of redeeming properties. Now that Hollywood’s face has the red carpet style to match. He may still be a bad boy inside, but he’s a supermodel on the outside.