writer, warrior, whack-a-doodle

Finding Serenity and Courage

Finding Serenity and Courage

February 16, 2011
Posted in: Dogs | Reading Time: 5 minutes


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:

Dear Julie,

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!"


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23 comments on “Finding Serenity and Courage”

  1. woooo Juno your poor mum, my hu'mum knows exactly how that feels, ive done it to her enough times.

    We would never say "i told you so" its so great to see sibes run free in a controlled way as is possible with a sibe.

    On a bright note though, although Juno never answered her recall she never attacked the horse or ran away, just enjoyed the company of a faster pace setter for a while 🙂

    And I agree with Christyna dont stop writing this blog, we enjoy it too much.

  2. I thought they were Juno and Loki -

    Not Serenity and Khourage -

    As fur the 'runabout' well, I've been on Juno's end of things -

    We are what we are and khan't be what we are not!


  3. Given the long line of sight, it is downright spooky that the horse was able to sneak up on you. Maybe it was a ghost horse and Juno was protecting you.

    Obviously Loki is such a suck up that he would rather be with mom than defend the pack. Hehehe.

    Yuh, for sure, like none of us are perfect, you know, but that's what makes our blogs interesting.

    If not for my blog, I would never have started going on my short, yet curiously tiring walkies again (thanks to you and Honey).


  4. Nice going, Juno! That's showing Loki who wears the pants in the pack.
    Try convincing the Mommas to let me go off leash. They seem to think I'll run away and never look back if they do! Ridiculous! I would never! >D


  5. I've experienced that moment that you describe. It was on a beach in Santa Barbara where we had stopped on a long road trip. Our Husky Kaya took off for no apparent reason and my husband and I and other dog Luca chased her for half a mile. We eventually caught up to her and she was like "oh there you are, I was looking for you". It scared us half to death.
    Luca is great off leash, but then, he's is decidedly NOT a husky.

  6. That's the WORST feeling in the world! All your hard work, and trust and what we feel is connection just goes out the window in defference to "instinct". One day both boys chased a coyote. They had their paws over their ears going, " LALALALALA we don't HEAR you!!" It was very scary. Then they came back and gave me the "wha?" look. It's not just a sibe thing...

  7. Did Juno actually chase/bark/antagonize the horse and rider? or was she just trotting along with them?

    I can't say Darwin's recall is 100% and she nearly gave me a heart attack one day when she came with me to my storage unit. I think she was pissed at us cause we had just gotten back from a vacation and she's usually good at the storage and will stick near us. This time she was fine til the end when I was loading up my car and a car was coming in (opening the gate) and she ran up to the car and would not come back to me AT ALL. She ran out the gate peed in the grass, crossed (a thankfully not busy) street to another patch of grass and only stopped to graze on the grass. The whole time Im chasing after her yelling her name (my car's unlocked, my purse in my car) trying to keep calm and not really chase her so she doesn't think Im playing with her, trying to run in an opposite direction so she'll chase me (who says that whole run away thing works?!) and she just keeps walking around. I finally caught up to her and calmly grabbed her collar and took her back to the car. I WAS PISSED. Yes she probably shouldn't have been off leash at the storage, but she's never deliberately run away from me like that.

    Dogs are tough work... it's never as easy at tv shows and movies make it out to be. But I think you're doing a wonderful job with Loki and Juno and they have a great life!

  8. She just HAD to have a chance to run with the Big Dogs:) Please don't beat yourself up - you are an amazing trainer AND so dedicated. We really don't think you have missed a beat anywhere. We are very grateful that you were able to catch up with the wayward girl. And of course, we are all very jealous because we never get that chance to be free.

    Woos ~ Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

  9. Juno's just showing you that 99 out of 100 times she CHOOSES to obey your commands. But sometimes woo have to give in to your inner wolf & run free. Seriously, do YOU do what you're told 100% of the time? just sayin...

    a few words of wisdom courtesy of jack & moo:
    Sibes will be Sibes. Running is hard-wired into our genetics.

    (seriously, your dogs are amazingly well behaved, just keep a closer eye on whose around.)

  10. Hey, every single dog would have reacted in some way to that horse and rider if they'd never been trained near one. So, stop beating yourself up. Perhaps there's a horseback rider who lives near you who'd be willing to help you train your dogs near horses. That's what I do when my pups are young. We take baby steps at first but we reach the point where we have the dog off-leash with the rider galloping in a meadow and I call the dog. I *know* that with your dog training skills, you could do this with your pups! The hard part can be finding a horseback rider who wants to help you.

    We all have our all-time lows as dog handlers and protectors. It's just that most of us are too embarrassed to admit to them on our blogs 🙂 Good job - thanks for sharing.

    Mine, just so you know, was when I failed to get my dogs to recall off a deer carcass that had just been killed by a mountain lion. Can you imagine how much danger K and R were in? Thank goodness that the lion backed off and didn't kill both my dogs in one fell swoop. It was my all-time scariest moment and lowest moment as a dog handler.

    And, I'm glad that Juno's hips felt good enough for her to run for so long! That's the bright side.

  11. Well, I hope you know that I really enjoy Juno's (and Loki's) less than stellar moments because they make me feel like I'm doing kind of, sort of okay with my dogs. Part of the fun is that they are dogs -- robots would be a lot less entertaining! Bunny is completely and utterly convinced that she can take down a horse if she can just get close enough. There are a couple of girls who ride their horses through town and Bunny goes into stalking mode every time we see them. I can't wait to have the Morgan horse experience!

    Hubby reported that he got some odd looks Tuesday night when he said "boop" several time during class! lol She's a quick study, thank goodness!

  12. I truly hope that no one sends you any "I told you so" notes! I think it's absolutely fantastic that you let her off leash and do so much work with her on her recall and obedience in general. I know of a few other people with huskies who do exercise them off leash and successfully. Yes, they occasionally have some less than stellar moments, but that doesn't mean that letting them off leash was an all out failure. Hell, when it comes to wild deer running around, Bess' recall goes straight down the crapper and she's no where close to being anything like a northern breed.

    I think you should just keep doing what you're doing with the understanding that there are going to be those moments that are less than what you want them to be. The fact that you are doing what so many seem to be afraid to do, and you continue to improve on Juno's reliability off leash, is something that you should be damned proud of!!

  13. Aww...I think you're too hard on yourself!! It wasn't like Juno went tearing after the rider, trying to chomp the horses legs or barking at it and making it rear up - trotting next to it sounds very controlled and purposeful to me!

    I know I shouldn't talk coz I'm the world's worst perfectionist and always get upset over the smallest things that Honey fails to do...BUT (!) - I really think you're making too big a deal of this. I would understand it if Juno showed aggression or other 'bad' behaviour but it sounds like she was just enjoying the sensation of running (understandable for her breed) and maybe just got too "in the zone" to think about listening to you. OK, I am the first to say that no disobedience is excusable but I think you should see this as simply a red flag - showing you an area you may need more work in - rather than some big disaster. And to be honest, if they haven't been reared around horses, then it's not surprising that a dog might act out of character. YOu might find that even with no extra work, next time she'll be more obedient around horses - now that the novelty has worn off.

    Anyway, as everyone has said - you're an amazing trainer and it's amazing what you've achieved with Juno & Loki - so I would see this simply as a new training challenge and turn it into something positive!


  14. Well, I know that I suck as a dog handler (remember, "Hi, my name is Liz, and I am a bad dog owner"?!?), so I can't see ever giving anyone a hard time about their dog handling. And frankly, it's sort of cool to see Juno take off on a trot - she still can, so that's pretty cool. (Recall, shmeecall.... :-)) At least she didn't try to go up and say hi to a moose (like certain Fiona I might mention, who seemed to think that the moose was a big dog... heart attack city; luckily the moose was young and just curious, not aggressive...).

    -Dr. Liz (who is looking forward to the shrimp recipe, pretty please! The girls are napping... tough day at daycare...;-))

  15. Hey Juno and Loki
    Wow the good the bad and the ugly... who's the last one?
    My momma doesn't believe there is a pawfect behaved doggie. That's why she has me!! Training is ongoing and new challenges and/or situations present new behaviors. It's part of life. In fact if woo had audio with my photo shoots, you'd have a totally different view of me... and my momma's handling techniques. Behind the scenes is not so pretty.

    PS- that was a nice email to receive. Sometimes we spend so much time blogging, we forget why

  16. Well, the good news is Juno wasn't in prey mode and no body got hurt. Doesn't sound like the horse broke it's stride or broke into a panicked run. Probably took a few years off Mrs WD's life, probably made Juno feel years younger. Sometimes a near-nasty surprise is useful to jolt us out of any sense of complacency and make us realize [1] we were damned lucky that time and [2] there's work to be done. Seems like you've received both messages. You're a terrific trainer. You're not God. Juno is an amazing dog. She's not perfect. It's good to know the difference.

    Good luck finding a stable that might work with you on accustoming your dogs and their horses to the other species. Doubt you'll find a working farmer who's interested in that learning process.

    Jed & Abby [who have no recall and are ALWAYS on a leash outside their own yard, and who are pea green with envy of Loki's & Juno's outings]

  17. Good grief! Looks like Juno just had some fun. My neighbors get a kick out of watching us chase Calhoun (& his supposedly bad knees) around the neighborhood every so often. We might forget to put the garage door down before we let him out for a potty. That boy is out for an adventure! Don't get me wrong, it scares me to death. Our other dogs are fine with the recall. It's not like I can't train a recall. We get it, they get it but Calhoun has his own plan. We just try to keep an eye on him, alert any cars to the escapee and just keep him safe until he gets tired or I can wrap my hands around his neck, I mean, leash him appropriately. PERFECT dogs would be boring!

    Mamma Heartbeat

  18. I guess that's one reason they always say Sibes should never be let off-leash unless in an enclosed area. They have a tendency to do what THEY want, regardless of all the training in the world!

    Us Mals are like that too. Must be our superior self thinking breeding!

    Holly & Khady

  19. Of course we would never say I told you so! You did nothing wrong. Sometimes mistakes happen and sometimes dogs go deaf lol. You know I work Storm off leash too, so I'm on your side (although I don't think there is another side - everyone has been great). I wonder why the rider didn't stop though. If I have a dog following me when I'm riding I always stop because I don't want them to get too far from home or get kicked if they get under the horse's feet. If I saw the owner of the dog (especially of a Sibe) I would stop and chat and let them get their dog. Weird. Maybe Swiss riders are different hehe. I'm glad everyone is okay and that Juno enjoyed her run. Riding horses is a great way to exercise dogs lol. My German Shepherds growing up never lacked for exercise. 😀

  20. Hi All, just read your blog. Seems like no one was hurt or upset too much. As long as the rider wasn't too fussed, don't be too hard on yourself. Looks like your dogs have a wonderful life. I had a similar thing with our great dane Bruce once. We were walking along an isolated dirt road and took him off leash and he decided after a couple of hundred metres he would try out being a cattle dog. He squeezed through the cow fence along the road and chased a herd of cattle about for a few minutes. At least he did until one of them decided it had had enough and stopped and lowered its head. Poor Brucey then did a quick turn around and ran back to me. I can laugh about it now, cause in hindsight it was pretty funny, but understand how you must have felt at the time. Take care all, no worries, love Carol.

  21. We were just checking on the more recent comments and discovered, to our dismay, that we forgot to add our punchline in our prior comments! The punchline is: " I can strive for excellence. Perfection is God's business."

    Obviously our staff needs discipline, too! Careless assistants are so annoying!

    Jed & Abby

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