Last Wednesday, I hit an all-time low in my few years as a dog-handler, dog-owner and dog-protector when Juno gave chase to a horseback rider. I wouldn't exactly say she chased them as much as she followed them, gingerly, running along side them and stopping when they stopped and trotting when they trotted. * Loki also participated in Juno's "bright idea" at first, but returned to me within 60 seconds after he had gotten off a few woofs. Knowing I could not correct him for coming back to me, I bit my tongue as I re-leashed him and went after Juno. For 10-15 minutes, Juno followed the horse and rider, pasture after pasture, until she finally got winded and gave up. Thank dog, nobody got hurt. Most of all, the horse or rider.
*NB: To answer Brooke's question below: no Juno never barked or tried to bite or attack. The only thing she's capable of attacking is a loaf of bread.
For the record, I would have never had them off-leash if I had seen the horse and rider. They literally appeared out of nowhere even after I could see for miles that there was nobody in sight.
Both dogs have been trotting off-leash for sometime now under the condition that there is no animal (wild, livestock or domestic) and no person in sight that they could potentially bother and that they recall to me when I recall them.
Here's Juno recalling because I see a farm worker at the car up ahead.
And here they are heeling past the car.
Here they are patiently waiting to be released as the tractor had just passed us.
On numerous occasions, they both recall out of play with strange dogs who appear off-leash and charge up to us. On those occasions when both dogs are leashed, I typically release only Loki, if it's a big dog and neither is showing any sign of aggression, knowing that he will recall even if it takes a quick play-bow or one round of a chase game. It takes the stress-level down a huge notch for all of us when I release him when there's a strange dog right in our faces.
"Hey pip squeak, nose off my jodhpurs!"
Above, both dogs had been called out of play with the little tyke who continued to harass them as they ignore him.
They've always recalled under those circumstances and heel by my side to pass all people and if by farms or dogs, then on-leash.
I always wondered if Juno's hip dysplasia was what kept her inner-Siberian at bay during off-leash walks. While I'm prepared to hear all the "I told you so's" from all the Siberian owners, last week's 15-minute run merely proved the opposite since she's never been exposed to horses or livestock before moving here. Up until now, it has not been her physical challenge but her obedience that has been keeping her from giving into her natural instinct. The unfamiliar excitement of a horse pushed her far enough to show me she can run if she wanted to.
And so the search will begin for a trainer who can help me condition obedience around livestock.
Mr. Wild Dingo constantly asks me why I even bother writing about the dogs. While he enjoys the humor, he's put off by the boring realities of dog-handling. Until a reader sent me this email below:
Somehow, while dog-blog surfing, I've stumbled to this little gem. At first I was charmed by your (and the dogs') wit and humour. Oh did it get me a-cackling and dare I say, LOL-ing away on the computer!
But as I kept reading, I find that your blog strikes a chord with me. Your dogs do, actually. Reading between the lines, I understand that your dogs aren't the perfect dogs those darn Disney movies would like us to believe all dogs are. Neither is mine. And more often than not I get frustrated with her, angry with her, throw my hands in the air and give up because she isn't the loving angel she was supposed to be.
But you! You took a higher route. Changed what could be changed and yet accepted their personality, flaws and everything. Reading your blog has thought me an important lesson in patience and more importantly acceptance.
Summer (my girl) thanks the cookie oven that I found you in the Internet sea of codes!
Thank you Christyna, for the kind words at just the right time. Now I know why I continue to write this blog including the good, the bad and the ugly. Being honest about who my dogs are is half the battle. Finding serenity to accept what I can't change about them and courage to change what I can is the other half.
"Yah but we're betting Mom doesn't have the wisdom to know the difference!"