One of my very favorite memories as a little girl, was riding on my dad’s shoulders! We had a big, old Victorian home with tall ceilings and door frames. I remember hanging onto my dad’s bald head, and squealing with delight when he first put me up on his shoulders because suddenly….I went from being a small little girl to a giant!! When you’re small, it’s fun to be big, and when you can do that with someone safe, it’s really great!!
When I first brought Rugby home, I was so excited by the little furry athlete I had adopted into my life! This nineteen pound puppy had legs like a deer, and a body build like a long distance runner! He really loved to run! I had never seen a dog as happy as he was when he was running! There was a joy on his face and a light in his eye like I had never seen from any of my dogs….except maybe our Corgi Happi’s face when she met our daughter Lindsay for the first time!
The other thing that I learned early after Rugby came to live with me, is that my little puppy really could jump! He could easily grab a toy from my hand held at shoulder height. He loved running and he loved jumping! Having lived with Corgis for twenty years, I wasn’t very used to athletic dogs, even though my dogs were active and busy all day long. With their stubby legs and stocky bodies, Corgis aren’t exactly known for being jumpers!
When Rugby was bored, and needed something to do…especially at night when he was all wound up at the end of the day, I started teaching him some tricks. He really enjoyed tricks that involved jumping! Being a young puppy, I had to be careful not to stress his growing hip and shoulder joints and muscles. It was difficult to limit him, because he was just raring to go!
So, one of the tricks I taught Rugby was to jump into my arms so I could catch him. I’d extend my left knee a bit and slap it as I said, “Up,” all while making a circle with my arms held out to my side. Rugby would launch into the air, right into the circle made by my arms as I closed them around him to catch him. He just loved this trick, and often tried to help himself when I wasn’t ready to catch him! It made it really easy to pick him up, and saved wear and tear on my back!
Rugby really enjoyed being able to jump into my arms, and I noticed that he also liked being carried tucked under my left armpit, with my left arm supporting his chest and my right hand giving him a head scratch. He often jumped higher than he needed to, I think honestly because he was just bursting with energy. I often felt as if he had springs in those thin, long legs, because he seemed to explode into the air when he jumped up into my arms.
Often when I was sitting down on the sofa, I noticed that Rugby would climb up onto my shoulders and drape across them, and just snuggle….like a scarf…keeping my neck warm, but keeping my heart warmer. He became so fond of this practice, that almost anytime that I sat on the sofa, along would come Rugby, climbing up to his perch, and settling in for a snuggle on my shoulders.
So I started wondering if I could create a trick for Rugby where he would jump up on my shoulders and go for a shoulder ride. He was so accustomed to laying across my shoulders, that this seemed like a natural extension….turning it into a trick. After a few clumsy attempts of trial and error, we finally figured out how to make it work.
Rugby would sit in front of me, and I would extend my knee and slap it while dipping my left shoulder toward him and saying, “Up!” Rugby would jump into the air, and push off of my extended knee onto my left shoulder. Once up on my shoulder, he would quickly place his front legs on my right shoulder and lay across the back of my neck. He learned to lock his left elbow over my collarbone, to stabilize his front end, with his two back legs just sort of dangling off of my left shoulder. He was as happy as a clam!
It became one of his favorite places to lay, and he never seemed to mind if I walked around with him riding on my shoulders. I imagined he was feeling the same sense of fun and adventure that I had felt as a little girl riding on my dad’s shoulders. He just loved it, and I often answered email, returned phone calls and watched TV sitting on the sofa with Rugby across my shoulders.
This shoulder ride morphed into laying across the back of the recliner when I was sitting in it. He would hang onto my shoulders with his front paws, and let his little back legs dangle off the back of the chair. It never looked very comfortable, but I honestly think that he was so thrilled being snuggled on my shoulders….that he never really cared.
From time to time, I’ve tried to teach him to do a piggy-back ride, but only with moderate success. He never seems to be very comfortable with that, even though he’s given it the college try!
Such fond memories I have of this brief season of his life where he Jumped up on my shoulders and snuggled me tightly as he walked around the house with me this way. They are safely tucked away in my heart and mind, and I smile when I think of them. He’s twenty-three pounds now, and at nine years of age, he hasn’t jumped up on my shoulders for a good long while.
From time to time….I just let my mind and my heart fade back to those special early days of life with Rugby….and our snuggly shoulder rides…and I smile as I remember that very sweet, special, magical time in his life.