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.
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.