Saturday, June 13, 2009

Flights of Stairs

We met a fellow at the dog park the other day. He had two Irish Wolfhounds and said he lived with them in a relatively small townhome. Wow. These were BIG dogs. I thought about Baxter, who looked small in comparison. We also live in a townhome. And while Baxter is normally pretty low energy in the way he pads around the house, there are times I sense that he's cramped. He just can't cut loose and run around the way he used to when we had a bit more space. This makes visits to the dog park an essential element of life.

Kirby, on the other hand, is just the perfect size for townhome living. He runs around and under the furniture with ease and considers the stairway a recreational area. He likes to take his rubber bouncy artichoke toy and drop it from the top of the stairs, chase it down, grab it at the bottom and run back up to start again. If I sit at the top, he brings the toy to me to drop in a sort of stairway fetch routine (that's the collie in him coming out).

What's most interesting about watching Kirby navigate the stairs is the way he seems to effortlessly "fly" down them. I swear, the movements of his feet are so quick and slight, it appears as if he's not touching at all. His back legs extend fully behind him and from the rear he seems to be sliding down on a cushion of air mere inches from the surface. His feet seem to touch ever so briefly at the landing (appropriately named), as he makes a sharp left then continues "flying" down to the bottom, landing squarely on all fours. It's quite a sight.

It gets even more interesting when Baxter and Kirby attempt to descend the stairs at the same time. Baxter has to take it relatively slowly, as an increase in momentum would likely result in crashing into the landing or a long skid on the hardwood floor at the bottom (we've seen it). Bax is pretty elegant in his stairway style and he usually maintains control. But there's no doubt all four feet are taking turns on the steps. Kirby usually navigates around or under Baxter on the way down, completing the flight in about half the time.

At the dog park, the situation is reversed, however. Baxter takes longer to get up to speed, but once he's there, he glides with an elongated, elegant gait. Kirby starts out fast and scampers at a top speed that's about half of Baxter's.

While both dogs enjoy the dogpark, I tend to think of it as Baxter's time. He needs room to run. And seeing the joy on his face is worth the trip every time.

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