Pack mentality

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words and photograph by Juli Leonard

Fifty-two feet, 26 ears and 13 tails swarm and churn around dog walker Lee Huggins near Raleigh’s Ridge Road on a sunny afternoon. A tangle of leashes crisscross Huggins’ chest like rainbow sashes. Poop bags fill his pockets.

It’s busy, but it’s not the chaos you might expect when you walk 13 dogs at once. There are a few impatient whines and some missteps as they all gain stride, but overall, they are an extraordinary, unified pack to watch. You wouldn’t guess that many of them had never met each other.

“We love the walk, it is very primal,” says Huggins. He and his wife, Annelise, own Raleigh’s A&L Dog Services, which they started last year.

The pack forms an almost-perfect row as the dogs gain a quiet focus. None barks at squirrels or lunges to get ahead. A UPS truck stops in the middle of the road as a disbelieving driver asks to take a photo. The dogs pause at Huggins’ command. “In order to be a good pack leader we must be calm, relaxed and very aware of our pack and our surroundings,” he says.

Two of the dogs, Nacho and Taz, belong to the couple. “They usually go with us wherever we may go,” Lee Huggins says. “What they really love the most is not only being with us, but also being led by us. All dogs love and prefer being led by their human, instead of leading their human.”

The Huggins offer a variety of services including walks, training, pet sitting and day care. “The dogs have taught us everything we know about dogs. We learn new things from them every day,” he says.  “Dogs that walk together learn together, so if a dog has a bad habit they can teach that to the other dogs. As the dog handler, it is our job to keep and eye on the pack and correct dogs we see demonstrating bad behavior…all dogs want to be led and be calm.”

A&L Dog Services charge $10 for a 30 minute walk, $15 for a 45 minute walk, $20 for 1 hour, and $5 for additional dogs.

Information: (919) 327-8597. Facebook.com/ALDogServices/info