Learning to Walk

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I have been to enough dog training classes to know that, if there is a problem, it’s mine–not the dog’s. I’ve had Chewy for almost 4 years now and I recall our early times as pleasant. A rescue, he was needy for attention and I gave it to him. His is a loving little guy, but also demanding in the true terrier fashion. Or . . . have I brought that out in him?

Not long ago I would take Chewy on my three mile power walks. He’d stop once in a while to sniff and mark the grass or a pole, but would get into a groove, and since he’s faster than I am, his presence helped me to keep up a good pace.

During these COVID times, things have changed. I no longer take Chewy on my long walks. On the short walks around the neighborhood, I have grown increasingly irritated with his constant stopping to sniff and pee. I want to enjoy my walks, mind wandering as I listen to birds twittering. I want to look not at the dog, but at blossoming trees. Now Chewy increasingly stops and walks as slow as possible, nose in the grass. Or, catching a sound or whiff of something fascinating, tries to double back the way we came.

“Leave it!” “Chewy, what are you doing?” “Come on!” “Let’s go!” My words are increasingly agitated and I know he can feel the tension pouring off me. I know I could drag his 8 pounds down the sidewalk, but that would be cruel and someone might report me to the Humane Society. I was beginning to feel that he was doing these things to annoy me. Sounds like a cranky mom. Time to go back to doggie school–that is, time for me to get back to training.

I started back with my usual commands, “with me” and “release.” They say it doesn’t matter which commands you use, as long as you are consistent. I hold the leash handle in my right hand and my left gives him just a couple of feet to play with. Whenever I spy his cute little nose moving to the side, drawn by some irresistible scent, I give a quick tug. It’s interesting how training a dog to walk on leash is like using the reins on a horse. I often say “uh-uh” at the same time. He knows what that means.

I am constantly amazed by the dog’s intelligence. He gets it. For a while I was saying too much–praising him when he did it right, adding “go, go, go” in a high-pitched, excited voice, still saying “let’s go.” I finally realized those other vocalizations are confusing. If I praise him while he is walking properly, he thinks it is a “release” and heads right for the nearest tree. So now it is just the two commands. I only praise him when he’s already been released. I give him plenty of release time. I even pick out his favorite trees and bushes on our usual walks. In time, I should be able to decrease the breaks in the walking, as he doesn’t need to check all the spots another dog has marked.

I still yearn for a leisurely stroll with my mind drifting up into the clouds, but I’ll have to take those walks without Chewy.

SHELTERING AT HOME–AM I A BAD MOM?

CHEWY 2020

Seriously, I thought I was a pretty good leader to Chewy before this Coronavirus craziness had us both cooped up in the house for days. I’d get up in the morning, feed him and throw the ball once or twice. Then I’d go out and do errands or see people. On every return, he’d greet me with great excitement and bring me the ball to throw again. We had our evening cuddles on the couch with dinner. My food first, because he won’t eat kibble until he knows he’s not getting any of mine. And at dark, he’d go to sleep away from the TV, in the other room, until I prepared for bed myself and brought him into the bedroom. Then he’d obediently settle down in his little bed while I read and finally turned out the light.

All of that was great, but now he is my constant companion. I make sure to take him out every afternoon for a walk. But he seems to increasingly need to stop and sniff every plant and tree and fire hydrant. I flip between letting him do what he wants and going into my training routine: “With me,” and “release”. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t, but training mode spoils the walk for me. I’d rather let my mind open to the sounds and smells around me and just enjoy it.

I talk to Chewy more than usual. Often I demand, with irritation, “What?” when he barks or growls at me. Most times, I can’t figure out what he wants, unless it’s food. He goes out through his doggie door, but instead of coming back in unannounced, he stands on the deck and barks until I come into the room. He thinks he’s going to get a treat when he comes back in. This has happened thousands of times and continues, even though I NEVER give him a treat just for coming into the house after barking.

I’ve had to get out the citronella no-bark collar. He still quiets down when I show it to him, but the citronella insertion point seems to be plugged up because it no longer works when we’re out walking.

I think Chewy’s problem is he thinks whoever happens to be in the house has the job of entertaining him. And now I’m here all day long. He’s either bringing me the ball, demanding to get up on my lap while I’m at the computer, or barking at the front door, where there is nobody. Then there’s Zoom. Hard to have a meeting with a growling, barking dog underfoot. I’m somewhat anxious and depressed. Maybe he is too? Perhaps I should get out the Thunder Vest. Or the anti-anxiety meds I got him for the drive to Montana. Or maybe I’m the one who should be taking something to perk up!

 

 

 

Chewy on Drugs

Chewy on drugs (1 of 1)

Today was our dry run for the long drive to Montana. Can’t have a wiggly whining doggie for hours in the car, so I tried half of one of the pills the vet recommended. Poor little boy–slightly nervous but VERY sleepy. He managed to stay awake, just barely,  and spent a couple of hours in the car while I ran errands. Very sweet, but not my usual perky guy!

I have visions of Chewy as an old man doggie, cuddled in my lap with no energy.  Nice, but now I’m waiting for him to start barking at lawnmowers, demanding I try to get the ball away from him, and standing by the treat drawer with that look of royalty in his eyes.

One-dog Night

Bed (1 of 1)

Warm bodies

snuggle buddies

relax together

hear heartbeats

wrapped in arms

embrace warmth

comfort in each other.

 

We drift back

to mother’s embrace

perhaps the womb–

place of comfort and promise

perception of life–

so strong, so sure

protected and safe

loved and nourished.

 

Explains why we like bear hugs

shoulders to lean on

caressing hands.

So lie still, little buddy

and let me hold you

while knowing deep down

you are holding me.

 

 

Tired and Confused

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I snoozed while Ellie was out this morning. Then she came back and took me for a little walk. Just down to the corner and back. I sniffed the grass, fell down, sniffed some more. Last night was terrible. I couldn’t get comfortable. I kept walking in circles trying to figure out what to do or where to go. Then I’d fall down. I get really upset when I can’t get up.So I’d howl for Ellie to help me.

At bedtime Ellie spread a blanket on the floor under my bed and shut the door. I walked round and round. She picked me up and put me on the bed with her. Usually that’s a treat, but I was so tired I just lay there. It was cozy to rest my back against her big body. Each time I woke up, I wasn’t scared. She was right there petting me. After a while she put me in my bed and I finally had a good sleep. Maybe tonight will be better.

 

 

 

 

Achoo! Achoo!

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I sneeze and my head bounces off the floor. Again and my nose hurts. That just makes me sneeze more. Now Ellie grabs me and is trying to wipe something off my nose. Tastes funny. She puts a wet cloth on me and it stings. I sneeze again. Oh, well.

These days I’m hitting my head a lot. I just don’t see that the door or table leg or box or bed is in my way. Or I don’t hear Ellie sneaking up behind me and I jump and whack my head on the wall. Or I trip on my water bowl and land on my back, my nose grazing the cupboard door. That’s life!

We just came back from a nice slow walk. I sniffed the bushes and picked up lots of good smells while the wind blew my fur all around. Ellie started pulling on the leash near the end of the walk. Achoo! This time she was sneezing. Achoo! Achoo!

“Come on, Foxy,” she said. Back in the house for treats and dinner and a nice long nap.

To Walk or Not to Walk

to walk

Any critters lurking? Neighborhood noises? Water falling from sky? Food smells? Cold wind? Do I want to jump over that threshold? If I don’t move now is she going to pick me up? Stairs ahead…oy. Couldn’t I just go back to sleep?

NO MORE STAIRS

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I used to run up and down the stairs from the house to the yard every day without stopping to look at them, without feeling any pain. That’s not easy anymore. I still run up, but sometimes it takes me a while to gather my energy to leap. And going down the stairs? No, thanks. Especially at night, I can hardly see them. So Ellie picks me up before our walk and at bedtime and places me on the grass or the sidewalk. I struggle to escape when she picks me up. I’m a guy! I’m tough! Well maybe not so much anymore. But I still want to do it myself.

Ellie gives me treats in the backyard every day. It has something to do with a metal pathway with a scratchy surface. She puts it down on the grass and holds out a treat for me. Sure, I want the treat. (It’s a piece of some little hot dogs that come out of a tiny jar…why are they called hot dogs?) So I jump up to get the treat and land on the grass or on the metal thing or halfway on each. Usually the treat lands in the grass, since I can’t find it in her hand. Then I sniff for it in the dry grass while she waits. After a few tries, she gets at one end of the pathway with me at the other and beckons for me to come get the treat. Sometimes I run all the way down the metal to her and grab my treat. When that happens, she’s jumping up and down.

Before we’re done, Ellie moves the metal thing so one end is on the deck and the other is on the grass. She climbs up to the deck and asks me to come up the ramp for my treat. I have to think about it. Sometimes I’m feeling the breeze or a fly going by or I hear a noise behind me. Sometimes I walk up the ramp and she gets all excited. Then she tries to get me to walk down the ramp, but so far, that doesn’t appeal to me, no matter how many treats she has in her hand. You must think I’m nuts. I don’t want to be picked up, I don’t want to go down the ramp or the stairs, and I don’t want to pee on the floor. That’s just the way it is. TIme for a nap.

I WALK THE LINE

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From the front lawn I leave Ellie in the dust and run straight to the door. As soon as she gets the door open–sure wish I could do that myself– I race down the hall, slipping and sliding on the wood floor, and skid to a stop on the rug in the TV room. That’s  near my food bowl and I like to check it often to see if anything new has turned up. Then I trot back to the bedroom and lie down. Or go through Ellie’s office and down the other hallway to the front room or the garage. Most of my walking is back and forth between the bedroom and the kitchen. If that floor was more like the dirt in the woods, I’d have worn a path into it by now.

At night I’m not sure where I want to be. Ellie is in her bed and the lights are out. I look around the bedroom, not seeing much. I walk to my water bowl in Ellie’s bathroom and give it sniff. I step out into the open space by the front door. What now? Where to? I saunter into the kitchen, sniff my food bowl, walk around the sofa. Do I want to go out through my door? Not really. Check the food bowl again–empty. Everything else the way it should be here, I walk back to the bedroom. Click, click, click, my claws mark my pace. I walk in, hear Ellie sleeping, check out my beds–the old one I never use any more, the comfy one that smells like me and is lumpy and ripped, and something new that Ellie keeps throwing treats on. It’s thick and spongy, hard for me to walk on. None of them seems very interesting, so I walk back out to see what’s going on in the kitchen. Click, click, click…

GUESS WHO’S COMING TO BREAKFAST?

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          You never know what will blow in on a windy night. I heard Ellie get up during the night and fiddle with the window coverings, which made more noise than they already had been making. Yawn… sorry, I was sleeping. We went out for our morning walk and I got to jump over sticks that were all over the sidewalk. Pee smells were blowing off the plants and into the wind.

As we turned the corner towards the park, there was a big, dark dog. He smelled friendly, but was more interested in Ellie than in me. He had no human with him and was panting like maybe he was thirsty or scared. He followed us for a while and then, when we made the turn to go home, Ellie called him to come along. Huh?

Yeah, I remember, she did this once before when there was a little curly haired monster who barked at me like she wanted to get her teeth into me. That time Ellie picked her up (and got bit in the process, I think), and we drove her somewhere and left her there.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, so when we got  to our house, Ellie put both of us through the gate to the backyard. Huh? But it’s breakfast time! Then she came out on the deck with MY water bowl and set it down, followed by a pan containing MY kibble. Our visitor lapped up most of the water (what a sloppy slurper!) and then lit into the kibble. I really didn’t mind that too much, because I prefer the soft stuff that comes in a can. Ellie always mixes in some kibble, and unless I’m really hungry, I eat around it and leave it in the bowl, or I pick it out and drop it on the floor.

I got to go in and start on my breakfast, but it was pretty crazy, because Blacky (that’s what I called him) didn’t want to be outside by himself. He started scratching on the glass. I could tell Ellie didn’t like that, so she let him in the house. He went straight to my food bowl and helped himself. She had to put it on the counter in order to save some for me.

Ellie made a phone call and put Blacky outside again but he wanted back in and stuck his head through my dog door. There was no way he was going to fit through there. So she let him in again. This circus went on for a few minutes, in and out, while I longed after my food bowl on the counter. Then the phone rang and after talking, Ellie calmed down. She started calling the visitor “Dylan,” but that didn’t help him to settle down.

After some more fussing around this big dog, who paced back and forth, wanted in the house, and kept panting like he was being chased by wolves, the doorbell rang. A nice lady came in, all smiley, holding a big old leash. She took one look at Blacky-Dylan and got all excited. I saw Ellie give the lady one of our books before she left. “Please give that to Officer McIntosh,” she said.

I finally got to settle down and eat my breakfast when the doorbell rang again. The lady was back without her dog, but she handed Ellie a bottle of something and said “thank you” a few times.  I’m happy to have peace and quiet again, the lady is happy to have her dog, Dylan is no doubt happy to be back home, and I know Ellie will be happy when she opens that bottle. Who says there’s no such thing as a happy ending?

If you’d like to read more Foxy adventures, check out my book, My Leash on Life, Foxy’s View of the World from a Foot Off the Ground. Get it from Amazon, your local bookstore, or you can read it on one of those glass covered reading thingies.