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?