0 Comments | Oct 14, 2011

An unexpected lesson

It’s been one of those weekends.  The kind where I am away more than I am home, where one activity follows closely on the heels of the next, where everything on the schedule requires driving at least a half hour to get there, and then another half hour back.  By the time Sunday evening comes around, both True and I are more than ready to stretch our legs.

We head out the door for a quick walk.  The air is cool and scented with the smell of woodsmoke and an earlier rain.  I turn to lock the door while True waits patiently on the porch.  Just as I turn back True springs to her feet and begins barking.  Coming down the street in front of the house is a man with two Malamutes.  The dogs are straining at their leashes, the man struggling to hold them.  True fusses and barks.  I move in front of True to block her view and ask her for a sit.  She sits, still barking.  I turn her and ask for a down.  She complies, still clearly distracted.  These dogs are newcomers to our neighborhood, and their energy has True on edge.  We work through sits, downs and focus exercises.  By now, my visions of a relaxing walk to finish off the weekend have disappeared and I wonder if the walk will be worth it at all.

Knowing that both True and I have been cooped up too much this weekend, I decide to go ahead, distracted dog and all.  I am disappointed, though.  I was so looking forward to decompressing a little, unwinding on a stroll with my dog, and I just am not up to a walk where I have to fight to keep her focus.

For all the dogs that live in my neighborhood, there are very few that get True worked up.  In fact, before the Malamutes I would have said there was only one, a happy-go-lucky Beagle mix named Lucy.  For a long time, when Lucy passed by, True would become desperate to meet her, play with her, or even just follow the scent trail of where she had been.  When True was younger, this caused a lot of frustration for both of us.  With practice, practice, practice we have managed to achieve a Zen state when Lucy walks by—we stay calm, cool and collected.  I can’t say I am pleased to have to work on this issue again with a new set of dogs.

With a deep breath, I start up the driveway, True falling into step beside me.  I know that following on the heels of the Malamutes will cause a problem, so I turn the opposite way at the top of the driveway, expecting a protest from True.  It takes only a few steps before I realize that True has not tried to follow them.  Instead, she is calmly walking beside me, loose leash, matching her pace to mine.  My arm is relaxed, the leash is relaxed, my dog is relaxed.  I start to relax.  I realize that I am the one holding on to the tension and frustration, the set of negative expectations.  True let it go as soon as we started our walk, living in the moment and enjoying the now.  I decide to follow her example.

As we head around the neighborhood we pass a few other neighbors and their dogs, out enjoying the evening themselves.  We stop once or twice to sniff a few things, and the stress of the weekend melts away.  We are having a good time and I don’t want to head for home.  The air has the crisp feeling of fall, cool but not cold.  The rhythm of my steps is matched by True’s, and we keep walking well past our normal turn around spot.  The light is beginning to fade by the time we finally head for home.  The quick walk I had planned turns into a 45 minute stroll and we both come home relaxed and refreshed. 

I started the walk tense and stressed, tired from the busy weekend and frustrated by True’s distraction.  I end it calm and relaxed, happy, and humbled by the trust my dog places in me and the connection I feel to this sweet little Beagle lady.  She has taught me another important lesson today.