Friday, January 29, 2010

A night time walk in a blizzard

When I left work today I lamented having to walk Dahlia out in the weather we're having. This afternoon it was windy, about 40mph, blowing the recently fallen snow everywhere. My coworker said "She won't want to be out in this anyway."

I walked outside with Dahlia tonight to discover it was quite the blizzard. Near white-out conditions, snowing heavily, blowing still at around 30-40mph. Lovely. Just lovely. Dahlia ran out into it like this was the BEST STUFF EVAR OMG. I was hoping for a quick pee walk and I got a dog who looked up at me with this look of "wow mom how did you bring this awesome white stuff down!!"

So off we go, Dahlia with a spring in her step, me trudging after her, hoping she'll pee quickly.

She doesn't.

And then as we're coming back around the corner, out of the whiteness and darkness, comes a guy running with two dogs off leash. I can't really tell who it is. But he leashes up the dogs and moves out into the road with them. And as he comes closer I realize it's the guy with the Rottie from down the road and he's walking our neighbor's pit bull puppy. The dogs all know each other so he lets them back off and they come back over to Dahlia.

And play time ensues.

They run around and sniff and dance (and she finally pees!). And then we go see Callahan, a wonderful yellow lab who is sadly rarely walked and usually just tied to the back porch. He's a nice dog despite all of that. Bentley and Bailey are already up with Callahan when Dahlia and I head over. She freezes and I know her next move will be to fly to them. So I call to her and tell her "slow" and she walks slowly with me up to them, each time she forget herself and starts to rush forward I tell her to slow down and she does so. Finally we reach them and the four of them run around (Callahan as best he can being tied to the porch while the others are free) Bentley (the Rottie) takes to humping Callahan, but his owner manages to stop it and Callahan calls him off. Dahlia, of course, plays her proper roll of "police dog" and when Bentley starts to hump, she barks to get his attention and distract him and then herds him away from Callahan. She really is brilliant with that. The people at the dog park love how she sort of seems to defend the dogs who are dealing with a somewhat ruder, more aggressive dog. Luckily Bentley has never tried to hump her or he might get a quick flash of the teeth. Girl knows how to handle herself and does it quite gracefully.

When we decide play time is done, I call Dahlia off and she's awesome as always, following me, though she does start to veer off to chase Bailey and Bentley who are running off in the other direction. I call her back and she's excited and it's play time!! So I toss my glove, which she promptly kills like the predator she is. And then I tell her to bring it inside to Daddy and she does. She brings it right into the house and drops the soaking wet, covered in snow, glove right on top of his dissertation papers.

I love my dog!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Night time walk

We bounded out of the apartment tonight. Me with happiness over going for a walk with my dog; Dahlia with a big grin at the sight and smell of more snow. We rushed down the steps as we often do. You see, walks are fun. Dahlia gets to race through the snow, stopping to sniff when she wants to and then rushing to catch up to me or racing ahead to find the next bit of interesting snow to stick her snout in.

And me? I get to laugh with pure joy at watching her. She makes me happy. Walks with her make me happy.

When we got down off the porch I saw my next door neighbor coming up the sidewalk with her German Shepherd. "Stop," I said to Dahlia. She froze in place. Even her big doggy grin froze in place. I came up next to her and asked her to wait. We waited.

My next door neighbor has her dog on a choke chain or a prong collar. I can't recall which, but it ultimately doesn't matter. They serve the same purpose. He stepped slightly away from her and toward us. She jerked him with the leash. Not instantly. But a few seconds after he moved.

He whined.

She jerked him again and turned to walk in the opposite direction, again jerking him when he didn't follow her.

Dahlia and I stood frozen to the spot for a moment and watched them walk off. Each time he moved away from her, she jerked him with it. And he whined. We could hear his whine from several houses down.

Finally, when they were far enough away, I released Dahlia. She immediately headed in the direction he had gone.

I didn't want to go in that direction. I called to her. "Dahlia, wrong way!"

She turned on a dime and rushed back to me and then past me, sticking her face into the snow as she went.

And then we started the race down the path. Dahlia pausing to sniff, me calling excitedly to her and watching her race with joy to me.

The grin had returned.

As had mine.

Walks are a joyous time for Dahlia and I. We race along snow covered sidewalks. We trudge through snow-choked fields 2 or more feet deep. I let her off leash in the park to play the "wait/come" game and to play fetch with a snow-covered tennis ball. We jump and play. We meet other dogs and she plays.

I walk along with a smile on my face that matches Dahlia's. Walks are her time, but they're also for me. It's my time to watch my dog be a dog, my time to watch her enjoy herself.

My neighbor's dog doesn't have that joy. He moves with much anxiety, his back legs bunched up awkwardly as he moves down the sidewalk. My neighbor once told me that she's working "very hard" on his training. She walks with a scowl on her face and is continually fighting her dog. It's a war of wills. She's been told she has to be alpha. She believes it. And so it's a constant fight between her and her dog. She MUST win, you see. Or else he will control all.

I believe Dahlia and I are companions, that I take care of her, that we are partners in our joyous walks together. Training is fun. It should be fun. When it becomes not fun it's over.

We returned to the apartment the same way we left it, with smiles on our faces. Dahlia raced up the porch and into the house. I followed slightly behind, shutting the doors and turning off the lights.

My neighbor is still out with her dog, still struggling with him somewhere on her walk. It's not his. Never his.

Dahlia and I are happy and content inside after our lovely, companionable walk.

I like it that way.