Who knew a quote from Dolly Parton could symbolize my life with Loki so succinctly?
Loki is what they call an "edgy" dog, suspicious of many things. And if his anxiety isn't channeled, you end up with crackery. Living here, in such a diverse environment and exposing him to so much has helped him, and our partnership, more than I would have ever imagined.
We have a system, he and I, a mutual trust. He looks at me and signals when he's unsure or anxious about something he encounters as suspicious. I respond with a job for him and a reward. It's that simple.
He's become comfortable in busy towns and cafes and on farm trails with livestock and horseback riders. Coming from a mountain home with no neighbors, I never thought Loki would adjust to living with non-family members so close to us on three sides in fenced gardens. I imagined that, like our dingo, he'd never stop barking at them. But I was wrong. Working with basic life rules and his genetic predisposition to guard and work has made it easy to teach him when it's appropriate to bark and when it's not. Today he barks a few friendly "hello's" to the neighbors when he sees them which sounds a whole lot different than the crackery he hands out to unfamiliar visitors.
I trust his instincts. Whether his alerts are regarding something benign and unnecessary for concern or they are warranted for real concern makes no difference. One night, months ago, while Mr. Wild Dingo was traveling, I went to bed leaving the living room/garden door wide open. Loki alerted me three times, refusing to go to bed, before I realized the problem. After shutting the door, all was right with the world and Loki happily went to bed.
He's got my back and I have his. So I have to put up with a little bit of crackery. I'll take it in exchange for moments like that.
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