Augustus Loves the Park

Since we moved to Newburyport, I’ve been trying to get Augustus to go for a walk in the park behind our apartment. This has been complicated by several factors: the hundreds and hundreds of feet of bloody snow that fell this winter, the noise of cars rushing along Water/Merrimac St., and the harness.

There really wasn’t anything I could do about the snow (except complain). Even I didn’t really want to go traipsing around in the snow, although during the blizzard I did wander around a bit to capture some photographs of Water St. during blizzard and the trees in the park behind our apartment. But by and large, I wanted to stay inside out of the cold and the wet. Just like Augustus.

As for the cars rushing along Water/Merrimac St., Augustus will just have to get accustomed to them. I’m certainly not going to stop traffic just so my cat can go for walkies. I can just picture a traffic cop trying to explain to irate tourists that Merrimac St. has been closed to reduce the noise in our park. I picture the tourist turning a lovely shade of crimson before horizontal mushroom clouds of exasperation explode from his ears.

Given that our park is frequented by lots of dogs and their owners (I make no judgement about an individual’s moral character just because he owns a dog. Really. I don’t. Okay, maybe I do.), Augustus must be on a leash. Although Newburyport has an ordinance requiring all dogs be on leashes whenever they are in public, most dog owners ignore this requirement when visiting our park. Therefore, I have to keep a close eye on Augustus, because he will attack a dog three or four times his own size: puffing up, turning sideways, and crab- walking up to the dog to spit in its eye. I’ve seen it happen when he was on the leash; so imagine what it would be like were he roaming free.

My concern for the safety of the dog population of Newburyport isn’t the only reason Augustus must be on a leash. I’m actually quite concerned Augustus will chase one of the squirrelly minions of Satan out into the road and get smacked by a car. I don’t want to see the squirrel get squished either. So, Augustus has no option but to accept the leash.

Except he doesn’t really like it. While we lived in Rhinebeck, he didn’t have to wear the leash when I took him out for a walk. The grassy area at the center of the parking lot was big enough, and the parking lot quiet enough, that I didn’t really worry about Augustus getting into trouble. Plus, I’d drilled into his head that he wasn’t permitted on the pavement. So he doesn’t think he should have to wear the leash when I take him for a walk.

Yesterday may have changed Augustus’ opinion of the leash. It was a beautiful day when I got home from work; so I scooped up Augustus and put him in his harness and out into the park we went. Almost immediately, I saw three pigeons bobbing around in the center of the park. Augustus sometimes needs a little help picking out his quarry, but once I’d pointed out the pigeons, he had no trouble slinking up and stalking them for the better park of a quarter hour. He later found a squirrel to menace – they don’t know him yet, so they’re still afraid.

By the end of our half hour in the park, Augustus was a thorough convert. He loved the park, and I suspect, he’ll put up with the leash in order to visit.