Moving into the new apartment seems to have freed up an abundance of mental and emotional space in my brain. For the last year or so, I’ve only been able to react to situations, and lately, I find myself having more time to think things through. The result has been a lot of internal changes. The following is a very simple example that involves the dog…
Martha has always been a bolter. Sometimes I witness people outside with their unleashed, well-behaved dogs and wonder, “How come I couldn’t end up with a dog like that? My dog always takes off at the first opportunity.” The other day as I arrived home from work, Martha decided to make a break for it as I was opening the door. Watching her little behind barrel down the back stairs I thought, “Oh no. Not today.”
Chasing Martha is a doozy. She does this thing where she runs as fast as she can until she is almost or just barely out of my sight. Then she stops. As soon as I start to get close to her, she runs again. Two miles and twenty minutes later, she is usually secured, and as I walk back to the house sweaty, terrified, and angry, Martha is usually bopping along next to me with an attitude of ‘Boy! Was that fun or what?’
On this day, I realized that I could not go chasing down the steps after Martha. For one, I was in my work clothes and three inch heels. There was no way I could keep up with her. Two, her leash was in another part of the house, and because I didn’t want to let her out of my sight, I was afraid to leave the back door and go find it. Stricken with panic, I tried to calm myself with the thought that she had a collar with my phone number on it, a microchip with my phone number on it, and more than that, we were approaching dinner time – Martha’s highlight of the day.
Martha jetted off to the front yard. I couldn’t see her, but I could still hear the jingle-jangle of her collar. I took this opportunity to grab a handful of treats which I do keep near the back door. As Martha ran crazily around both the front and back yard I told myself that I would stay at the top of the stairs until she decided to leave the property. Following such, I would run inside, grab the leash and a pair of sneakers, and hop into the car. But the weird thing was, Martha wasn’t leaving the boundaries of the property. She’d disappear out of sight, but return within twenty seconds or so. At one point she actually looked up at me on the stairs with an expression of, “Why aren’t you chasing me?”
I just smiled, held up my hand and said, “TREAT!” Martha ignored this and went back to running around. We went through this exchange two more times before she decided that she was done and came charging back up the stairs.
I’m always so terrified of losing Martha that when she gets out my immediate reaction is to run after her. That day I learned it’s the chasing that causes her to run, and not only that, but just as I don’t like to let Martha out of my sight, she’s not too keen on letting me out of hers either. I've owned this dog for four years and never knew it because I've never been willing to take the risk. I felt like I was keeping the situation under control, but in hindsight, frantically chasing your dog down the street does not particularly create an image of calm security...kinda like how I crated her all day for four years only to be amazed to discover that when I let her roam free during the day, she not only refrained from destroying my house or forgetting her house-training skills, she was actually calmer and more fun to be around when I returned home.