As a dog sitter, I have a pack of dogs around me every day. These furry creatures are my companions, and I talk to them like I would co-workers. This can get a bit confusing for humans around us who think I’m either talking to them or myself!
I take the pups out on a daily adventure. Usually this means hitting the trials around Los Angeles. The best place to take the dogs, in my opinion, is Runyon Canyon. The trails that make up the area are part of the Santa Monica mountain range, and they take you from a residential part of Hollywood, just off of Hollywood Boulevard, to the famous Mulholland Drive. The best thing about Runyon is that it’s a dog exercise area, with a large portion of the trails being legally off-leash. I’ve heard it described as “Doggie Disneyland.”
Here are a few specific cases at Runyon Canyon in which I had to reply to funny looks and questioning faces with, “I’m just talking to the dogs.”
One day, I was at the trailhead off Mulholland with a pack of pups. As I disentangled myself from their leashes, I summoned my inner Mae West and announced, “Come on boys! Let’s go!” A group of men behind me took notice, looked at each other, and shrugged their shoulders. One called out, “Okay. Here we come!”
Recently, I had enough dogs in my car to reenact the clown car circus gag. My goal was to get myself together before performing the task of carefully and safely getting the pups out of the vehicle. I opened a door to grab my hiking pack, and one of the sneaky pups tried to wiggle his way around me. “Back it up,” I demanded. “You back it up right now. I said BACK IT UP.”
After closing my door, I noticed a gentleman next to me stretching before a run. It was obvious he couldn’t understand why he needed to “back it up,” and since he hadn’t seen the dogs, he had no idea that there was someone else I could possible be talking to. “I have dogs,” I explained. “I’m talking to the dogs in the car.” That earned me a tiny wave so the crazy woman would leave him alone.
Some of the trails we hike force some humans to take a break or even give up fighting gravity and just scoot along on their bums. The problem with this is my legally off-leash dogs want to help, so they will run up to the person in distress and, if needed, give them a kiss or two. Sweaty salty human is delicious!
One day, we were at Runyon, and a young child was scooting on his bottom down a steep area we were going up. “Do not give him kisses,” I managed to yell in between gasping for breath. The child’s mom told me that her son would never kiss a dog he didn’t know. I had to explain that I was talking to the dogs, but her child was very smart for not puckering up to just any ol’ mutt!
Dogs have a way of standing right in the middle of the trail. Sometimes, I’ll pull aside to let other hikers pass only to have them come to a stop a few feet away, where one or more of my pups are blocking the path. The dogs are doing what they should be, which is waiting for me. Unfortunately by doing this they are making it difficult for anyone else to pass.
“You don’t own this hill,” I tell them. Despite the fact that they are behaving well, I sometimes get aggravated, and with a tone that can only be described as annoyed, I’ll say, “You are in the way. Move!” More than once, I’ve had fellow hikers stop and step aside with an, “Oh, I’m sorry.” I feel horrible and have to explain that I’d never talk to them that way and that I was talking to the pack of pups. What kind of horrible person would storm up and down a trail yelling at others to get out of the way?
One of my regular dog guests, Shadow, is a beautiful Doberman and Whippet mix. She has long legs and a needle-like snout that she sometimes likes to use to goose hikers. It’s her way of saying, “Hi! Nice to smell you.” When she gets excited, she will jump up and give you a “kiss.” Sometimes her kisses include her teeth, and the overall effect can be shocking to an unexpected fellow hiker. We are working on that behavior, but in the meantime, I try to anticipate when she is going to get up in someone’s grill and stop her before she has a chance to pounce!
One day, we were going up the trail, and I saw Shadow lock eyes on a pregnant woman and her male companion. I knew what was going to happen, and as Shadow ran toward the innocent duo, I screamed, “DON’T YOU DARE TOUCH HER!” All three, the couple and Shadow, took a step back from each other and starred at me. I apologized over and over, explaining that I wasn’t talking to the couple and that I was just trying to keep Shadow from jumping up. I don’t think they believed me.
To help stop all the confusion, I try to add phrases like, “Hey, dog” and “Listen here, pup” to my discussions when I’m near other humans. That way, when I tell the dogs to “shake a tail feather” or “hold your horses,” I don’t get as many weird looks. I try but often forget to be specific. After all, the dogs are like my co-workers. Who else am I going to talk to?
Read more about Wendy’s life as a dog sitter:
About the author: Wendy Newell is a former VP of Sales turned Grade A Dog Sitter. After years of stress, she decided to leave the world of “always be closing” to one of tail wags and licks. Wendy’s new career keeps her busy hiking, being a dog chauffeur, picking up poo, sacrificing her bed, and other fur-filled activities. Wendy and her dog, Riggins, take their always-changing pack of pups on adventures throughout the Los Angeles area, where they live together in a cozy, happy home. You can learn more about Wendy, Riggins, and their adventures on Facebook and Instagram.