Rain Man Walking

With a break in the hair-raising humidity and torrential rains,  I sat out on the back patio after work to soak up some vitamin D and watch the boys play, which to me was heartwarming to see them playing so well, though the sound is certainly not for the faint-hearted.  After dinner I figured we’d settle in for some couch potato-ing but seeing them being so good and knowing that they’d enjoy it, I decided to take them each for a walk around the neighborhood.

Julius and I went out first and strolled down the streets I rarely get to walk on.  He is easy and our walk was silent and companionable.  He’s been rocking his Halti instead of his harness and it has been a game changer.  Juli is always good in his harness-don’t get me wrong- but the Halti like I said was a game changer.  He still rubs his head on my legs occasionally but there were several times I had to look to see if he was still with me because the slackness in the leash was so alarming…and gratifying.

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My Rockstar.

I love that we are getting to such a good place and that we can enjoy the quiet companionship together.

Awaiting me at home was Ray with his soft, hopeful eyes and his bouncy-cow hop.  Ray is normally fine just wearing a martingale collar for walks but Julius and I had seen Daisy, a neighbor’s dog, lounging off leash in her yard and since the said yard is on Ray’s walking route, we opted for the Freedom harness for Ray just in case we needed some extra control.

Ray is like the Rain Man on walks; he has a certain route and routine that must be strictly adhered to unless he decides it doesn’t.  Normally, we depart the driveway and make a beeline across the street to the lamp-post to leave some pee-mail.  We then recross the street and skim along our side yard to the neighbor behind us where we (Ray) pees on her corner lamp post, and continues to the American Bulldog’s house to …do more than pee.  We then retrace our steps back and walk around the next block, up the street and around the corner…past Daisy’s house.

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“The Look” gets me every time.

Tonight I’d like to sincerely thank the neighbor with the “doodle” puppy.  As Ray was preparing his poo spot I noticed they were walking toward us but still a good distance away yet also in the exact direction my Rain Man and I would be heading.  I knew the possibility of Ray losing his shit reacting to the puppy if it were coming head on toward us was a real possibility.  The next few minutes stretched on as I fumbled for a poop bag and scooped up after Ray all the while throwing furtive glances to the approaching pair trying to will them to turn away and still remain calm so that Ray wouldn’t pick up on my mood.  I began regaling him with the temptation of yummy treats in order to lure him in another direction while he stood, glancing between his suddenly crazy mom who wanted to go the wrong way and the approaching puppy.  The neighbor (thank goodness) realized what I was doing and slowed her approach and indicated the direction she needed to take to get home.  I ended up luring Ray to a yard to partake of some yummy snacks while the lady carried her doodle past us, “I don’t want him to slip his collar” she said with a smile, passing us by as if the entire interaction was completely normal. It was truly a nice change from “It’s ok…my dog is friendly” people.

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“Woooo, I say.”

As we continued on Ray’s favorite path and headed up the street towards where I knew Daisy was lying out on her driveway, my mind continued to spin thinking of ways to try to cajole my stubborn dog to make a detour I heard the sweetest sound.  Daisy’s “dad” had just turned on a dreaded leaf-blower.  Ray stopped and looked at me…”Let’s go this way,” I said, pointing in the opposite direction.  As we approached our house from the wrong direction and doubled back to another pee-mail location, I took a moment to bask in the warm glow of the realization that Ray trusts me to keep him safe from things like doodle puppies, leaf blowers and other random items of lawn equipment.  For that he earned a nice slice of dried sweet potato.

How does your dog let you know that you’re earning doggie thumbs up?

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The Bully Collective

Pibbles, Pitties, Pits, Pit Bull Types, Pit Bulls, Bullies, Bully Breeds, Big Head, Block Head, you name it, we’ve heard it or said it ourselves. Every one has a name they prefer to use and everyone has a term they absolutely hate. Personally, we tend to use “Pit Bull Types” as we feel most comfortable with it and rarely use the term Pibbles, although it is kind of cute. I used to feel more adverse to the term “Bullies” specifically because of all of the anti-bullying campaigns and wouldn’t want a(nother) negative connotation associated with our boys.

 

When our pack walking group formed I was a bit leery of the new name, The Bully Collective, but knew that the vision and spirit of the group would overcome any negative association that came with the B-word.

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Collective: shared or done by a group of people: involving all members of a group; marked by similarity among or with members of a group. (Merriam-Webster)

 

We, the members of The Bully Collective are a group of like-minded individuals who love our dogs and seek a safe, nonjudgmental forum in which to walk and socialize them. We are from all walks of life and our dogs are all individuals-some with physical attributes that might be found in Breed Specific language- but others are spaniels and shepherds and such who are also individuals.

 

Last week a neighbor whom I’d seen occasionally, was walking her dog and called out a welcome-to-the-neighborhood to us. Seeing her beautiful dog geared up in her Freedom Harness, I of course approached and engaged her in a chat. Her dog, she said was people friendly but wary of other dogs and they were just taking a walk during half time of the game. I invited her to a pack walk and assured her that it was a no-contact group and that we’d love to have them join us. A full week passed and I kind of forgot about it until the neighbor appeared at the door this past temperate Sunday morning and asked if the offer was still open. Delightedly I gave her the details and we met up at the walk location.

Photo credit to Rachel

Photo credit to Rachel Hoening

 

We had a smaller group and along with Neighbor-lady there was another first timer. Most of the dogs seemed spunky whether it was because of the warmer temps, the energy of two new dogs, or the skipped week, but as we trod the path we all eventually began to settle in and hit our stride. The morning was gray but warmer and we enjoyed a leisurely pace capped off by one of our new dogs diving belly first into a large mud puddle to cool off!

 

At the conclusion of the walk, our neighbor thanked me for inviting her and said, “This is the best thing that’s happened to us all year.” Then later followed up with a text about how she had been praying for a path to help socialize her dog and was happy to have found us.

 

In reality, none of the dogs in The Bully Collective are perfect. Some certainly have better manners than Julius others but we’re a Collective. We all come together for our dogs and week after week we see an improvement or at least a glimmer of light ahead. We support and encourage and celebrate victories great and small while sharing thoughts and bagging poop.

Stay-cation

Whew! It seems like whenever we take a blogging break, no matter how many potential posts I have rolling about in my head, it is just so hard to get back to the keyboard. This last week was no exception. We had a nice staycation doing lots of projects around the house, a bit of relaxing by the pool at the home we have yet to sell, topped off with a quick weekender trip to Detroit.

With so many anecdotes swirling around, I ended up with one that was very un-vacation-like. Ray’s leg is still giving him trouble occasionally, but when rested, I like to take him for short walks around the neighborhood which is always such a joy for him. In a stark contrast to what he was like as a puppy, Ray is a very good leash walker now which is such a joy for me as well.

In the back of my mind, I’m still yearning to get us ready for the CGC, although I admit that we don’t work on it super hard. I think we’ll know when it’s time and if it never happens, it never happens.

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Walking in the warmer weather with so much abundant sunshine also brings a whole new set of issues: squirrels and other dogs. My walking with the SPCA dogs has trained me to become a qualified squirrel scout and since I like keeping my arm in its socket, I’ve learned to try to see squirrels way before any four legged companion I may be with. Let me tell you, it’s a very valuable skill to hone.

So I have a neighbor who walks her dog-with her retractable leash- quite regularly about the neighborhood. The neighbor is friendly and the dog not so much. Annie prefers to do her snooping from the end of the leash and otherwise mind her business as long as no one tries to pet her, which is perfectly acceptable. In the warm weather, Annie is often tethered while her owner is outside which makes Annie much more vocal when another dog goes by. Fortunately, I’ve seen the length of the tether often enough to judge that if we stay in the middle of the street no one should see the other as a threat and Ray can mind his business and work on his ignoring skills.

Until the other day when we approached and Annie began her usual charge but this time her owner gave chase and started calling Annie back-she was not tethered! So here I was, shielding my 85 pound dog from the 30 pounds of fur heading towards us. Luckily the owner got the dog way before reaching us, picked her up, and carried her away, saying, “Sorry, sorry” over and over. Ray, to his credit and my overwhelming pride, didn’t even bat an eyelash and we continued our walk with my heart pounding in my chest.

A day or so later, I was off somewhere and Kevin was doing some work in the backyard while Ray sunned himself on the deck and the neighbor and her dog took a detour from their walk to stand outside our fence and call out to Kevin. This of course, startled Ray who ran barking to the fence to give Miss Annie a taste of her own medicine, so to speak. Luckily the neighbor is pretty unflappable and recognized that she “stirred something up” and took her leave.

So, that leaves me wondering about the whole situation. Ray had grown up in a yard with a privacy fence, and until last October never really experienced seeing the world walk by. He was either out in the world or behind his fence, so I think this newfound perspective is a bit overwhelming to him sometimes, especially since he was standing at the fence one day as another neighbor started up his lawnmower. Ray hates lawnmowers to begin with and he was scared nearly out of his skin that day. Noise at the fence=scary things.

The other note from this event is that in the back of my mind, always lurks the fear that we will walk into a situation that we have no control over. I want to expose Ray to all of the sights and sounds of the neighborhood while practicing his good citizen skills but I need to always balance that with caution. If I avoid an approaching dog, it isn’t because I think my Big Scary Pit Bull is going to eat you and your dog but rather because I don’t know you and don’t necessarily trust that your dog handling skills will keep us out of danger. I guess pre-judging is a two way street.