2012 in review

December 31, 2012

holiday card 2012

As 2012 comes to an end, it’s gratifying to look back on all the warmth, compassion, and helpful insights shown by so many of you who have commented on my blog. You’ve joined me on the journey through Sierra and Bodhi’s behavior issues (and the journey continues!), read my rants about off-leash dogs and their owners, and even put up with my quirky sense of humor. Although I may not always respond to comments, please know that I read each one, and appreciate your input.

As WordPress has given me this lovely end-of-year report and offered to share it with blog readers, I thought sure, why not? It IS nice to know that there are plenty of people reading even if they don’t comment. Scroll down if you’re interested.

My wish for the new year is that we can all be kinder, more compassionate, and more helpful to each other, regardless of our views on training or anything else in life. Because really, in the end, we’re all in this together. I’d like to wish each and every one of you a 2013 filled with lots of love and joy for you and your fur-kids. Happy New Year!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 69,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


Holy Coyote!

December 13, 2012

“You don’t have to tell them everything.” That was the advice I got today when I told a well-meaning person about writing the blog I’m about to share…and I can see why she said it. But as much as I’m not proud of what happened a few days ago, it’s only fair to share it here, after the last post about how well Bodhi was doing off-leash at the park.

Two mornings ago, Bodhi and I were taking our usual COD (Crack Of Dawn) walk around the hills and pathways of our local park. I’d been allowing him off-leash for brief incriments in areas where I could see that no other people or dogs were around. He was doing great! He’d trot off maybe 20-30 feet away, leave pee-mail on a poor, unsuspecting bush, then come back to my side. We practiced recalls and “walk with me” as we went. He was doing so well two mornings ago, in fact, that I was able to recall him from a full charge after a bunny that crossed our path!

Although I was feeling pretty pleased with the both of us, I still kept Bodhi leashed in certain areas. It wasn’t just the people and other dogs I was concerned about—it was the coyotes that roam the hillsides. My husband, who takes one dog running in the mornings while I take the other to the park, had warned, “He’ll chase a coyote, be careful.” I didn’t doubt it. And so I waited until we’d left the hillsides where the coyotes hang out and we were headed onto the flat dirt track, a main area of the park that’s out in the open. I unclipped Bodhi’s leash and kept walking. A split-second later, he’d turned to look at something behind us in the distance, and disappeared! I don’t know how it’s possible to live with a dog for two years and never have seen him running at full speed, but that’s exactly what happened. Bodhi was suddenly a blur of black tearing across the field after a coyote, who was racing toward the hillside. My first thought was about how coyotes have been known to lure dogs into the hillsides, where their coyote gang is waiting. I ran after Bodhi, calling to him as I went.

Have I mentioned that by “the field” what I really mean is a huge dirt lot filled with nothing but sticker bushes? Nevertheless, I raced after Bodhi as fast as I could, calling to him over and over in what I hoped was still a happy, encouraging voice. All too quickly, he and the coyote disappeared around a bend in the hillside. There was nothing to do but keep running toward them and calling Bodhi’s name. Other than my voice, the morning was silent—too silent. They seemed to stretch on forever, those moments of chasing Bodhi while trying to catch my breath long enough to call him again.

In reality, it was probably less than a minute between the time he dashed off and the time he finally reappeared, trotting back toward me. My relief at seeing him was quickly replaced by worry at noticing that he was limping. Had he been attacked? Did we need to rush to the vet? Visions of having to carry Bodhi across a field of sticker bushes danced through my mind as he reached me. Since I’d been calling him, and he did show up, I managed to give Bodhi a jackpot of hot dogs and happy praise.

Then I inspected his leg. It quickly became apparent that the limping was caused by a number of stickers that had embedded themselves in his paw pads. Relieved that it wasn’t worse, I took my gloves off and carefully removed the stickers one by one—how do they always seem to manage to pierce human skin so easily? Soon Bodhi was happily walking along by my side as I led him between the bushes back on to the main trail. And yes, I leashed him.

And so, this isn’t the blog I wanted to write today. “Bodhi recalls off chasing a bunny!” would have sounded so much nicer. But it’s what happened. I’m not happy about it, and clearly I will need to be more careful in that entire section of the park. A long line is going to be Bodhi’s friend once again. That’s okay. Better safe than sorry, and believe me, had it turned out badly, that would have been the kind of sorry that would have haunted me the rest of my life. So, it isn’t pretty, but it’s the truth. Things happen, and sometimes all we can do is to learn from them and be more vigilant the next time.

My Little Secret

December 5, 2012

Bodhi leashless park smallThose of you who have been reading my blog for some time now know that I share quite a bit here about my life with Sierra and Bodhi. But for the last few weeks I’ve been keeping a secret from you all…it’s something I’ve been doing in the early morning hours, and it involves one of the dogs. Let me explain.

You all know how I feel about people who are irresponsible with their dogs, whether that means not cleaning up after them, neglecting them, or letting them off leash in public places. But for the last few weeks, I’ve been doing the latter. No, I haven’t become one of those “off-leash regulars” I see all too often, but I have, in a very limited way, been allowing Bodhi to be off-leash.

It’s been over two years since we adopted him from the shelter, and Bodhi has come a long way with many issues, including leashwork. At the beginning it was apparent that walking on a leash was a concept he’d never encountered, and for the longest time he couldn’t understand why I’d want to stop him from lunging and barking at other dogs. But we kept at it, and he can now walk nicely next to me and even stop and sit in the vicinity of other dogs—including Darth Vader, as I’ve nicknamed the poor, sweet black Lab who just plain sets Bodhi off for reasons known only to him. Anyway, having a malamute mix who is good on leash the vast majority of the time is a beautiful thing. But I also believe that dogs should be trained to off-leash reliability; you never know when you’ll need it.

We started months ago with a long-line, practicing recalls, attention, and “with me” (my cue for walking by my side). Fortunately, Bodhi is more of a stick-with-you type than a take-off-when-the-leash-comes-off kinda dog…but still, I don’t take unnecessary chances. We frequent the park at the crack of dawn when there are very few people around, and because of the park’s large, spread out areas, it’s easy to see people approaching from a great distance. So a few weeks ago, in one of those safe areas, far from the parking lots and the more populated paths, I undid Bodhi’s leash. His first reaction was priceless…it was as though he was trying to figure out how it was possible that he was suddenly unencumbered, moving at the pace he’d always wished he could, if he didn’t have that sleepy redhead attached. He pranced happily forward a few feet—and then turned to look at me. Yes! Beautiful! I smiled and he came running back, and promptly received a hot dog with a side order of enthusiastic praise.

Our walk quickly fell into a pattern of Bodhi walking a few feet ahead, peeing on something or just exploring, and then running back to me. Each time, he got a reward. And when we re-entered the part of the park where people normally walk or jog, the leash went back on. (Oh, and by the way, once the leash was on and we passed a familiar woman, she said, “Look at the adoring way he watches you.” Yep, he was right next to me, gazing into my face, all right…wishing for a hot dog.) Since that first walk, whenever we do the off-leash thing, the joy on Bodhi’s face is unmistakeable. But something else has happened that I hadn’t anticipated: not only did those experiences please me from a training point of view, but they’ve actually made me feel closer to Bodhi. There’s just something about an animal who has the freedom to choose where to be, and chooses to be with you. I love that he doesn’t just think, Woohoo, free at last! and disappear into the nearest hillside.

Now, I would never do this with Sierra. As you may have heard, the girl has a prey drive from hell. She’s a little wild thing, and although we’ve done plenty of training and she’s got a pretty spectacular recall, I don’t have such an inflated opinion of myself that I believe I can compete with a squirrel. Not yet, anyway. We have, however, been practicing with the long line.

I’m not suggesting that anyone allow their dogs to go leashless, or to take chances they shouldn’t. But for us, the freedom those short off-leash jaunts have given Bodhi, and the joy they’ve given us both, have been great rewards in and of themselves.

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