Tuning-in to the more-than-human




Lobito’s head is bent down towards the ground and moving in different directions. With his nose almost touching the concrete, he sniffs. His small doggy body zigzags first to the right, and then to the left. While lifting his head up, he speeds up, prancing down the street. I pick up my pace and am walking beside him, tuning-in to his doggy rhythms. Suddenly, he lowers his nose to the concrete and sniffs. Again, his tiny dog body moves in all sorts of unpredictable directions, making it impossible to know where his sniffing will take us.


It is before dawn, and a cool dampness touches my arms and legs. It is too dark to see down the laneway. I work at staying focused on Lobito’s movements and keeping a loose lead between my big human body and his tiny dog body. When he stops, I stop. When he starts, I start. When he sniffs, I watch. There is a lot of stopping and starting and waiting and crisscrossing.


Lobito is drawn to corners, long grass, fences, low-growing groundcover, tree trunks, food scraps, and leaves. Tuning-in takes effort and attention. Feeling a slight pull from the lead, I realize that my mind wandered and I momentarily took my eyes off Lobito. His body is pulling towards the dark laneway. My body resists for a slight second and then I follow.


Tuning-in is risky. Walking across cobbled bluestone, with the lead held loosely in my hand, Lobito intensely sniffs all sorts of matter. While tuning-in to how this small dog smells and maneuvers his body, the tip of my right foot lands on something soft. It doesn’t feel quite right. It is not the flat and hard surface of stone. Instead, it is lumpy, springy, and a bit soft. I am unsure what the lump might be. “Is it leaves?” “Trash?” ”Poo?” Blue-grey feathers catch my eye. Immediately my body recoils. In disgust I close my eyes, jump away, and yell out, “Ooh, yuck!” I open my eyes, take a deep breath, and turn around. There is a slight tug from the lead. I look down and Lobito is sniffing the dead pigeon body. I am intrigued, and a little bit grossed out. I turn to leave. And just as I am about to pull the lead, moving Lobito’s body away from the dead pigeon body, I drop the lead, tuning-in to see what happens.

Walking with the more-than-human: Paying attention to Lobito’s movements

Paying attention to Lobito’s movements

  • Wagging tail, tucked-under tail
  • Staring at something, staring at nothing, staring at me
  • Standing still
  • Pulling away
  • Sniffing pavement, sniffing plants, sniffing corners, sniffing urine, sniffing air
  • Circling around, circling about
  • Bending under fences, bending under bushes
  • Dashing to
  • Pairing ears back, perking ears up
  • Cocking head in query, cocking head in bemusement
  • Licking bark, licking leaves, licking pavement, licking walls
  • Leading me
  • Following smells
  • Turning towards, turning away, turning back, turning around

    On the way to nowhere

Walking with the more-than-human: EXPERIMENTING WITH A LOOSE LEAD

Who’s leading? Who’s following?



Taking time, making time


Lobito is busy sniffing the grey asphalt concrete…..


Sighing with frustration, I look around for approaching cars, people, or dogs…..


I am tempted to pull the lead and hurry him along……


But something makes me resist…..


Standing in the middle of the road, with the lead in one hand, I notice his nose close to the asphalt surface. “Is his nose touching the street?” I bend forward, taking another look. “Wait a second, is he licking?” I can’t tell. He turns his head, looking up towards me just for a second before returning to his street licking and sniffing. 


In the middle of the road, the red lead lays in a loose clump. I hear car tires loudly screeching. I tug the lead hard, and we quickly get out of the car’s way.


Walking with the more-than-human: BODIES IN THE MAKING

Girl dog body & woman human body

Two human bodies briskly walk towards us. She pokes him with her elbow and he immediately turns towards her. While grinning, she is looking in Lobito’s direction. She grabs his arm and their pace becomes slower. As we meet on the sidewalk she stops. While bending down to pet Lobito she exclaims in a high-pitched voice, “Oh, isn’t she cute! What an adorable tiny puppy!”


Little dog body & protecting human body

From behind, I hear a car approaching. While tightening the lead, my body tenses, and I turn my head. As the car slows down, almost stopping, the passenger takes a second, longer look at us. As they drive past, out of the car window I hear, “Did you see that little dog?”


Nondog body & real human body

It’s a busy road. It’s a loud road. It’s a smelly road. It’s a hot road.

Lots of human bodies are walking and talking, eating and drinking, waiting and perusing.

They notice, they look, they stare, they pass, they sneer.

“That’s a rat, not a real dog.”


Baby dog body & parent human body

Turning the street corner, we are greeted by a woman’s loud voice, “Oh, there you are. Look at you.” She moves quickly towards Lobito, but not quick enough. Pulling on the lead, Lobito moves away. As she stretches her arm down to pet him, he pulls back again. 

Now standing, she looks down towards him, while saying, “Isn’t she just the cutest little thing you have ever seen?” She turns and says something to her friend. She tries a third time to pet Lobito. Again, he moves away, crouching his head down to the ground. Looking at Lobito, she tells him in an animated voice, “You, little thing are just the most adorable little dog I’ve ever seen. Yes… you… are….you are very cute. Your mum must be proud.” Immediately my body tenses while asking myself, “Mum?” “No, she didn’t just call me that” “She’s got to be kidding” “He is a dog, not a baby!”

I then realize the woman is asking if my dog is a girl. Before I can respond, she figures it out and says, “Oh….it’s a boy.

Walking with the more-than-human: Grabbing our attention

Grabbing our attention


The tip of Lobito’s black tail peeks out of the tall green, yellowy, and brownish native grasslands along the banks of the Merri Creek. As the lead tugs, he moves farther away and disappears under and into the grass. I hope there aren’t snakes.


As if from out of nowhere, bell-like notes saturate this moment. They seem to be close by and are coming from the eucalyptus. They are consistent. How long has this noise been going on? Did it take me a while to notice it? This sound would drive me nuts.


Lobito emerges out from the tall grass, with his nose close to the ground. He is focused with sniffing. His black nose glistens as he continues to sniff. Wait a second… what is that on his nose? Dirt? Part of a spider web? What has he been doing?


A flittering of sorts on the ground catches my eye. Quickly turning my head, another, louder bell-like note from a bellbird distracts me. (Sigh). Where is that bellbird? Is it one, two, several? Where are they?


Someone calls out, “Max! Come here. Max!” I hope he isn’t big.


Lobito is now sniffing around the trunk of a eucalyptus, moving his nose up the hard, compacted, and furrowed bark. To get a better sniff, he places his two small front paws up onto the bark, stretching his entire body farther up the tree. He is alert. He is onto something. His ears are pointed upwards, the long coarse hairs protruding from his small muzzle are alive, and his head is methodically moving back and forth, and up and down the tree trunk. What has this dog found?


Again, there is flittering near the ground. It’s a Willie Wagtail dancing about the brown, eucalyptus leaves. His dance is making a soft crunching sound with the leaves. These are playful, yet naughty little birds. For the briefest moment my body stiffens and I am overcome with dread. I’ve heard that if they dance to you with their tail pointed in your direction that you will have to lay a loved one to rest. I don’t want to know where his tail is pointing, so I quickly turn away.


No longer sniffing, Lobito is standing ever so still. His head is pointed up towards the sky. Then he looks over towards me. Turning away, he begins moving in the direction of the tree again, but stops, and looks away. Something has caught his attention.


As if out of nowhere, the bell-like notes rematerialize. Lobito stops sniffing and looks up towards the eucalyptus branches. Hah! Were we listening together?



What grabs Lobito’s attention?

What grabs my attention?

What grabs our attention?

How is this related to movement?

Walking with the more-than-human: MATTERS OF MOVEMENT

Trailing behind

The lead tugs slightly in the palm of my hand. Before I can turn to see what has happened, it slips away and is trailing behind Lobito who is prancing towards a fence. Quickly I try to step on the red lead, but it (and Lobito) move beyond my reach. I pause and wonder, “What has caught Lobito’s attention? A cat, the scent of another dog…food…a strange noise…leaves?” As he bends down, putting his tiny head under the fence, his body becomes very still. His tail and bottom are raised-up in the air. He crouches down lower, this time wiggling his body and trying to go underneath the fence. The red lead moves back-and-forth and then away, centimeters from my grasp.



Pulling, tightening, dropping

It’s early morning and we are walking along the bike path, going against the stream of cyclists making their way towards the city. Side-by-side human-dog walking is difficult and risky on this narrow and busy bike path. While leading Lobito I am alert, keeping my eyes focused up ahead, watching out for oncoming human cyclists. As they approach, I shorten the lead, pulling it (and Lobito) towards the chain-link fence.


A few minutes later, the lead tightens, pulling my arm back behind my body. With my arm still stretched back, I turn and see Lobito sniffing along the edge of the path. His head is down in the long green-yellow grass that is growing along the edge of the path. I tug at the lead, trying to keep him moving. Cyclists closely zip past. I hear a bike bell ring, gears shifting, and peddles turning. Using all four paws, Lobito stands still and pulls back on the lead. This forces me to stop. While turning around and giving the lead a slight jerk, I am annoyed and say, “Come on Lo, let’s go.” Instead of complying and moving with the lead, he pulls his small dog body back again. For the slightest moment the lead strains taut, and then suddenly drops to the ground, stretching across the concrete path. I quickly bend down and scoop Lobito up. We move out of the cyclists’ way, with the red lead hanging down from my arms and trailing behind us.



I’m wondering about the lead and how it participates in our daily human-dog walks. It seems obvious that the lead connects human to dog and dog to human, but how is the lead leading? How does the lead shape relations between difference, such as human-dog, girl-boy, nature-culture, or big-tiny?


What is made possible by following the lead’s qualities in movement and to be open to what it can do (Tianen, Kontturi, Hongisto, 2015)?


Although the lead connects human-dog and dog-human, what happens when these connections break? Or rather, what can these breaks do?

Walking with the more-than-human

Walking with the more-than-human
Walking with the more-than-human








Just testing things out and playing around in order to get ready for my new walking residency with WalkingLab.

What am I going to do?

Inspired by Donna Haraway, I’ve been curious about the figure of the dog and thinking with significant otherness. I spent 3 1/2 years ‘loitering’ in Hong Kong dog parks and have been writing about the disjuncture between the need for research that decentres the human in theoretically coherent and compelling ways and fully realising it in practice. This proposed walking residency attends to this disjuncture by paying attention to the more-than-human logic that is necessary for shifting the focus away from the human researcher (or child) as the central becoming-knowing subject about animals and refocusing on complex, entangled, mutually affecting, and co-shaping human-animal relations.

Moving beyond anthropocentric descriptions of animal behaviours requires continually reorienting from individual human to collective more-than-human subjectivities and agencies. Such a move involves relearning how to do research ‘without the tools of human exceptionalism’ (Haraway, quoted in van Dooren, 2014, back cover). The proposed walking residency with the more-than-human sets out to create and experiment with such tools. Specifically, the walking residency will entail following-with Lobito, a 1.5 year-old boy Chihuahua dog through the inner-city streets and laneways of Melbourne, Australia.