1. He needs a job. Dogs love to work. Well, some breeds do, and my Louis is a mix of many of them. He’s a rescue, some sort of Australian Shepherd/Border Collie/Terrier/lunatic cross. He’s tested our patience with his energy and psychological issues. But we love him and have always forgiven his youthful exuberance, assuming it would pass as he aged. It did not. A few months back, I dug out an old canine backpack and tried it on Louis. “You have a job now, son,” I told him. “Your job, if you choose to accept it, is to wear this pack. Time to leave that crazy behavior behind and set an example for the others.” He stood there for a minute wondering how he got hired, decided the pack felt okay and agreed to my terms. As we walked, he seemed more focused, stayed closer to my side, stopped tugging and pretty much changed how I feel about dog walking forever.
2. It calms him down. Something happened to this dog before we got him. Something bad enough to make him afraid of many, many things. Cars are number one on the list. Fight or flight? How about both? A car comes along, Lou tenses, trembles, starts lunging and barking, then—when he fails to pull off my arm—bites at my leg. A trainer helped me get him over the worst with a combination of Cheese Whiz, clicker training and sweet talk. But the pack is what really did the trick. Like a Thundershirt, a pack can make a dog feel more secure. I still talk Louis though every vehicle, but he’s 95 percent better.
3. He carries my stuff. I never have enough pockets on a walk. Gloves, hat, phone, extra baggies, rain jacket: they get zipped into the right pocket (right for “right side to put my things”) of the pack or tucked under the elastic webbing on top. My smallest dog runs leash-free on the trail and his leash now has a place to go besides around my waist (irritating) or neck (dangerous). On the way home, we pick up the mail. This is something I could never do before. Handling three dogs plus full poop bags plus mail would be doable, but throw in a squirrel and game over. The mail is in the road, the poop bag has busted open and I’m screaming in the street like a mad woman.
4. He carries his “stuff.” There is no better way to carry poop. Anyone who has ever felt the fat, warm slap of a full bag swinging against their leg knows that carrying it yourself is just totally unappealing. Tying the bag to a leash risks tangling or tearing (eww) and fastening it to the dog’s collar just seems humiliating. Colorful bags only do so much to disguise the disgusting, and forget about reusing those see-through produce bags. Even on an unusually productive day, Louis can carry all three dogs’ offerings, and he does it without complaining. Full bags go in the left side. (Left for “best left alone, there’s poop in there.”)
5. He looks great. Oh yes. His looks have always been number one on Lou’s short list of redeeming qualities. Now that Hollywood face has red-carpet style to match. He may still be a bad boy on the inside, but he’s a supermodel on the outside.