This past Sunday, I took Pyrrha on a long walk along the muddy river near our house. We have both been cooped up for far too long, owing to the cold weather (which I am admittedly a huge baby about).
Our outing reminded me of the deep joy I receive from a long walk with my dog. I don’t think there is anything that can compare. It is such a peaceful, renewing activity. I derive so much joy from watching her just be a dog: sniff every third plant, stand guard after every rustle in the woods, get ready to chase after every single squirrel.
I was desperate for a dog for so many years, as you know, and yet my desires for a dog have always been simple: I have always just wanted a dog of my own to walk with me. And now I have one.
Last Wednesday, Pyrrha and I took a long walk downtown–to visit Guion at work, and just to get out and stretch our legs for a few hours. I love these long, quiet walks with her. I feel like my mind is able to unwind after a day at work. I love watching her gain confidence on our walks, with her mouth hanging open and her tail swishing back and forth.
On our way downtown, we encountered a woman and her gorgeous malamute/shepherd mix. He had the coloring and build of a light sable wolf, although he was about Pyrrha’s height. As they approached, Pyrrha tucked her tail and bared her teeth at the dog. I started to apologize to the woman, but she said, “He used to do that all the time, too,” pointing to her handsome dog. I was surprised. He looked so calm and friendly.
We started talking, and it turned out that she’d adopted Chino about three months ago and he’d made great progress since then. I loosened Pyrrha’s leash as I talked to the woman. We discussed rescuing, our shy dogs, and the progress they gradually make. Throughout this conversation, Chino was placid and unconcerned by Pyrrha’s toothy display–and, as I was relieved to note, his human seemed to be equally nonplussed.
Perhaps two minutes passed, and suddenly Pyrrha’s tail unwound; her hackles released; and she threw down a goofy play-bow in front of Chino. He responded in kind, and then the two were happily romping along the sidewalk (while we were trying to keep them from darting into the road). She even started kissing his ears. My dog, in a state of utter fear just a minute ago, was now smitten with this stud of a canine. We had to actually drag them apart, so we could continue on our merry way.
As I walked away, I turned to Chino’s human and said, “Thank you for waiting her out. That means a lot to me!”
I explained. Most dog owners, when they see Pyrrha’s lips curled back in fear and those bared teeth, gasp and run in the opposite direction, trailing their dogs behind them. I don’t blame them. A German shepherd in that posture is a fearful sight to behold. Because of this, however, Pyrrha rarely gets to move beyond that threshold of fear into that state of initiating play. Most people aren’t willing to wait it out.
But Chino’s lady was–and I was so grateful to her for that. Pyrrha needs all the positive dog-on-dog interactions she can get. They are hard to come by. I hope we’ll continue to run into Chino and his person, so my girl continues to learn that there isn’t anything to be afraid of after all.
Have you ever been grateful for someone–even a stranger–who understood your dog’s special needs?
One of the things I’ve been learning about Pyrrha is that she needs a lot more exercise than she lets on. (She’s a healthy 1-year-old German shepherd, after all!) Most of the time, she lazes around the house, getting up only to patrol the front windows or wander into the kitchen to see if we happen to drop something tasty.
However, it’s clear that she has a whole reservoir of energy that’s lying mostly untapped. I think she could run for hours, were she so inclined. In an attempt to tap into this hidden energy reservoir, I decided to take her on an hour-and-a-half walk last week. After I got home from work, we decided we’d walk downtown to meet Guion at work and run a few errands with her.
Walking with Pyrrha tends to be somewhat slow-going at first, because she has to smell every other plant and shrub and piece of trash. For now, I’m very lenient toward this behavior. I know some people who only give their dogs permission to sniff on command, but I don’t see sniffing as a vice; rather, it’s her way of reading the daily news. In time, I think I will introduce a command to get her to leave something alone or to move on, because she does have a tendency to linger, but for now, the walks are slow, because the girl is laboriously sniffing.
Despite the fact that she’s very new to leash walking, I think she’s in really good shape. She’s very responsive to me while on leash and doesn’t pull (except when a squirrel or bird is tempting her). The main thing she needs to learn about leash manners is not crossing in front of me constantly and tripping me; she has a bad habit of walking right in front of one and stopping. Anyone’s dog ever do this? How would you train away from that behavior?
Guion works part-time at a wine co-op downtown. He manages the quiet office there, so once we arrived, he invited us in while he closed up. Pyrrha seemed fairly anxious about this new space, but after she patrolled the borders for a few minutes, she laid down by the door and started to calm down.
After we helped Guion close up, we went to the library (where she waited outside with Guion) and then Pyrrha and I walked home. It was a beautiful, balmy summer evening and I was only too happy to spend a large chunk of it walking my good dog.