Sal Nudo/Voices: Lay down, Sally? Not this walk-happy dog

Sal Nudo/Voices: Lay down, Sally? Not this walk-happy dog

I'm no expert, but I think dogs might like routine. I do know they love walks, and within that activity is a sequence of typical events. Exercise is a must for our hyper-but-irresistible little dog, Sally, who would probably spontaneously combust without a daily trot in our Champaign neighborhood.

Our dog walks vary depending on what's going on, but the buildup for Sally never changes: first, the mention of a "walk" or a "you know what," words she comprehends; then the rustle of the plastic bag as it's pulled out of the drawer; and finally, the sightings of her harness and leash, also stored in the drawer. Sally hears these words and sees these items one by one and gets progressively more ballistic. After settling her down to ease her into the harness and then clipping on the leash, we march forth.

My wife and I like these excursions, which offer a chance to talk and enjoy the fresh air. For Sally, time outside the house is an everyday highlight that never gets old. Oblivious to who's behind her, she strains the leash at a brisk pace and stops and starts, sniffing, barking and occasionally observing. Some dogs she recognizes and others not. Either way they are the enemy, canines to be yowled at with fury. My wife gets more annoyed by Sally's outbursts than me, but I admit they're taxing on the arm and to the ears. I'm waiting for the day when the leash snaps and Sally runs forth to meet her match.

Early in the journey, Sally wants to turn right on Harrington Drive to visit the park and all the dogs that may be lurking there. Most of the time, I don't indulge her in taking this route because, well, it's a longer walk for us and she's not in charge. I'll nudge the leash gently to the left and Sally takes the hint like a well-trained horse, galloping onward with continued glee. This positivity on Sally's part slays me every time. We should all be so happy when we can't get our way.

After Sally has done her business, I use the plastic bag to collect what she's left and any garbage the rest of the way. Picking up trash gives our walks more purpose and makes us feel like we're doing a good thing. Sally waits in a not-so-patient manner as I lean down to make these extracurricular pickups.

We've walked Sally in all seasons, in the wind, rain, broad daylight and the enveloping dark. She knows where enemy dogs live and will slow down to peer at their houses. She often urinates in the same spots but sometimes marks new territory. She doesn't bark at people (thankfully) but gets agitated by things like a stroller, a busy-body squirrel and possibly small kids. She's attracted to the whoosh of cars going by on Windsor Avenue. Sally has her ways, and it's fascinating on walks to observe them. We're careful about not walking her in extreme weather, though I did once carry Sally over a patch of snow on the street. Through it all, she bounces along as if newness in life is around every corner.

Sally is a rescue-dog gem, and it's fun to indulge her in what she loves most — walks. People say dogs can smile, and I believe them. Back home after another walk, I observe a grin on Sally after she's slurped her water and chomped her treat. By now, I've removed her harness and leash, and she's a wide-eyed and content animal, plopped down on the cool floor and offering evidence that would convince anyone a tired dog is a happy dog. And that makes us content.

Dog walkers Sal Nudo and wife Jill live in Champaign. And no, Sally was not named after Sal.

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