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“I’m Dog Armstrong! Pass the Hammer Gel!”
Fido is learning cycling, kinda sorta, in his dog kind of way.
“Good name!” I said to Fido and handed him in a biscuit. He snarfed it up like a cyclist would—more or less in one big gulp, a minimum of chews. He walked over to his water bowl and lapped up some water.
“Keep hydrated. Keep the blood sugar up! I’m ready for more,” Fido said, and he eyeballed the road bike that I had leaned up against the rail on the deck.
“The best part are the climbs,” he said, and I got ready for a torrent of jabbering, the way cyclists do when they’ve finished a ride. “No, the descents are best! And those headwinds are a killer.”
“Fido, cyclists always talk about headwinds, particularly here in Mammoth and particularly in the afternoons. No one talks about the tailwinds.”
“It’s like your skiing pals,” Fido said. “Hey hey hey hey! They talk-talk-talk about crashes and near misses.”
“Right you are, my good man,” I said.
The idea is simple enough. Our spring project is how to be together when I’m on my bike. It has not been an easy thing for Fido, or for me.
Fido always has had a problem with the “Heel” command, ever since he dropped into my life as a full-grown 75-pounder from the shelter. We work on it, but every time a critter catches his eye, or another dog, Fido wants to leave my side and greet the other four-footer.
Sometimes he’s a little too eager. That’s why he wears a Gentle Leader.
Me myself? I’ve been back and forth about the bike thing, but cycling in Mammoth is about as dreamy as it gets, so I figured what the heck. In the evenings throughout March and April we’ve talked about it, and we’ve done our research and our practice.
The main thing is to not attach Fido to the bike itself. One bolt after a critter and he’d pull the bike over, I’m sure of that.
At first, we really worked hard on heel, almost to the point of exasperation on his part.
“But I AM heeling,” Fido would say.
“No,” I would say, “you’re ALMOST heeling.”
Finally he more or less got better. Then it was time for Step Two.
This was where we’d walk around the neighborhood with me wheeling the bike with one hand, and with Fido at heel with the other, a six-foot leash attached to his nose with the Gentle Leader.
“What the heck?!?,” Fido said our first time out. “I don’t like that thing,” he said of the bike. “Don’t-don’t-don’t like it. Not one bit.”
It was strange, introducing my bike to Fido.
Anyway, we’ve done the bike thing for the last couple of months. Last Sunday, though, was the test.
“Fido, let’s go for a ride.” When I slipped on my cycling shoes, he sat on his haunches and cocked his head. He knew something was up. In my back pockets I had some treats for me, but one of the pouches had biscuits for him.
We began our walk as usual.
“You’re walking funny,” he said.
“It’s the road bike shoes,” I said.
Then I got onto my bike and began to pedal, Fido trotting by me, close by.
“Heel!” I commanded when I felt as if he might bolt.
But he did fine, overall. We just went three blocks or so. The next time will be four, after that maybe a little longer and so on. By the end of the summer, Fido might have it down.
I’m waiting for the first disaster. But Fido says he’s ready for the Tour de France.