A few weeks ago I wrote about how I much was enjoying taking Brian’s dog, Charlie, for evening walks through the neighborhood. He usually gets his exercise by running around in the woods that border our backyard, so I think he was happy to have the company. As a matter of fact, he grew to like our walks. A lot, in a very short time. It’s to the point where now I can’t stop taking him. Meanwhile, the weather worsens, and it gets darker earlier each evening.

Now, when I get home, Charlie greets me at the door, and then sits down expectantly in front of me, waiting for me to hook his leash to his collar and get to the walk. “He never does that to you!” I said to Brian. “When you get home, you get a cheerful ‘howdy’ and that’s it. You get to take your coat off, and sort through the mail, without a dog dancing in circles around your legs.” “You don’t see me taking him for walks all the time,” Brian replied, and gave me a look. “Sucker,” it said. I realized then what I had gotten myself into.

I’ve tried to get out of our walks. At first I figured it wouldn’t be that difficult to blow Charlie off until he forgot all about them. And if that took awhile, so what? He’s a dog! How much emotional manipulation is he really capable of? The answer is, apparently more than I am. Case in point: I am unable to get Brian to go on these walks with us. I whine, I beg, I paw at him; he shrugs and continues watching “Mythbusters”. And still the dog makes me go, into the dark and cold, night after night.

At this point, on my way home from work each evening, I whimper to myself about how tired I am, and how cold it is outside, and how I’m not going to want to leave the house once I get there. No walk today, I think, as I trudge up the hill to the house. I just can’t do it. I don’t have it in me. And then I open the front door, Charlie rushes over, and gives me the greet, and the sit, and…I grab the leash. Sucker.

But really, how can I say no? Somehow, it feels like saying ‘no’ to a walk would be like giving a child a Playstation 3 box for his birthday, and inside the box is a toaster. It would be like giving a teenager a set of keys and telling him they’re for his new Audi that’s parked outside, and when he gets outside they’re actually the keys to his grandma’s car because –guess what!— she’s visiting for the weekend, and she’s staying in his room. Not taking Charlie for his walk just feels mean. Especially because all I have to do is wear a coat and shuffle around the neighborhood, but when I put that coat on and reach for his leash you’d think I was reaching for a strip steak with a winning lottery ticket sticking out of it, sitting on a pile of illegal fireworks.

So I guess that’s how he gets me, by making the emotional reward for taking him on a walk so much greater than the minimal physical effort the walk actually takes. And, because I’m a sucker.

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