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The One-Method Muttwalker

April 05, 1987|WILLIAM JORDAN | William Jordan is a Long Beach-based science writer.

Last year, an article called "Four Ways to Walk a Dog" came out in the Atlantic Monthly. It was about four methods of bending dogs to the will of a human being. There is, however, a young woman in my neighborhood who frequently appears on the street walking four dogs--at the same time. And she uses one method.

Walking four dogs is unusual but not unheard of. What's impressive is that these are not her dogs; they belong to other people. The young woman, Gail Goldman, operates a small business called Muttwalkers, Etc. Often the dogs have never seen one another before Goldman picks them up. Sometimes they have never even seen her.

You'd never know it, though. It is a regular festival going down the sidewalk. Four bushy tails waving like pennants, eight furry ears perked up like radar screens, 16 paws bouncing along like pogo sticks. Since dogs, especially strange ones thrown together, react like human beings on making new acquaintances and must establish a pecking order, this business of walking dogs could be tricky indeed. I asked Goldman how she did it. "I just talk to them real sweetly," she said, kneeling down and wrapping a big hug around a Samoyed, which shimmied in pure ecstasy. "And I love 'em to death."

Now, if there is one thing I've learned in life, it's not to trust love. I smelled a cover-up here. And she admitted it. She uses love supplements. "I give them treats," she said.

But that was only the half of it. Under further questioning she admitted the big weapon. "All these dogs love their walks," she said. "As soon as you take a dog for a walk, it's your friend for life."

And so it is. I think I've been taken for a few walks myself. And every time I see Goldman and her festival of four walking down the street, I get confused about love. Obviously, her method works. What does that say about the nature of love, assuming for the sake of argument that, in their affections, dogs are not all that different from human beings? Could it be that love is nothing more than the expectation of an extremely pleasurable bribe?

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