Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sometimes a Victory Can Be Found in a Trashbag

Stepping outside into the pre-dawn gloom, we check to make sure everything is in its place.

I look over my shoulder, see Venus in the skies over the neighbor's palm tree.  Mercury, or at least what should be Mercury, is lower, closer to the yet to rise sun, and slightly to the North.  Nobody is around except the stars in the skies.   You can always spot Orion's belt.

What I can't spot is anyone.  It's too early for anyone sane to be awake.  That's why we're out.

Rack sniffs and then waters the post in front of the house, then his rock, and we're on our way.

For some reason, he's wound up.  It won't be an off the leash day for us.  That youthful puppy energy has tempered somewhat, but it is still there.

We finally spot a car off in the distance, but it disappears quickly. 

Strange how that can be.  When you are used to the sound of the far off train whistle, the air compressors, that box truck that passes by every morning delivering snack cakes from the plant, their absence is like silencing a key on a piano and then trying to play a song.  It's not quite right.  It's different.

We pass the bars and the shops.  Nobody is out.  The gym was open, but nobody was home.

Rack isn't interested in anything here.  He's pulling to get off the Drive.  The trauma of the 50 bus wasn't happening this morning, you're out of order.  But he doesn't realize it so I keep him on his leash.

The last thing I would want to do is have him wander off.   If I drop his leash these days, he immediately comes back, gluing himself to my legs.  Loyal little guy, if a bit uneven in his performance.

There's the travel agency, but even that is empty.  Strange to say, but I look forward to walking past that place.  There's a friendly person in there who is working the same hours as my dog walk, early.  We usually wave to each other but not today.

Even the radio was turned off at the pizza shop.  I have a feeling that whoever cleans the place up at night is a sports fan.  No sports today leaking incongruously from the windows where food was served hours before.  It should be time to start warming up that oven.  Pizza likes a hot oven with no cold spots.

Rounding the corner, it's time to finally leave the Drive.  Into the bowels of the big apartment building's space, I drop Rack's leash.  I get a smile and wag as he looks back at me.

Happy dog, finally off leash where it is safe.  Or so he thought.

There is a round open room that serves as a plaza and entry to the space bounded by the buildings and some parking for residents and shops.  We pass through there most mornings.  It's a convenient way for us to walk the distance and be away from other distractions.  I can work a little more with Rack, get him more accustomed to the ballet of the walk without the leash.  It helps when we're out on the leash.

He looked around the corner as he was trotting out of the little plaza and froze.  Solid.  I looked around the corner and saw nothing worth mentioning.  So much for the off leash training.  Better to pick it up when he's seeing something he thinks is important.

Come on, let's go. 

Falling behind me, Rack was fixated on that evil that had been left there.  I smelled it before I should have.  Reeking of stale cigarettes, the white trash bag had been abandoned near the door to the elevator entryway. 

We got closer, and Rack was certain that this bag was going to come to life, thereby embracing him with the stench of a thousand cigarette butts.  Forget the old banana peels, even I could smell the thing. 

We were still a good 50 feet away, I guess the wind was just right. 

Passing a little cut through so the tenants could walk to the parking area, Rack gave the Universal Canine Signal for "Nope".   He tried to veer off the sidewalk and as far away from the object as possible.

At that point we were getting quite close to the bag.  Rack's normal nature of a fearful dog was showing its muzzle.  Each step, Rack would hide on the far side of me.  I had to coax him closer with each step.  We were about 3 feet plus a leash away from the bag.

I sidled next to it.  Rack was leaning as far as he could away from it.  I wasn't yielding any ground.  This was a bit more irrational than his normal.

Whatever that is.

Come on Rack!  It's oh-kayyyy!

4 feet.

You're doing fine!  It's not going to bite!

3 feet.

Good boy, you can do it!

2 feet.

He was no longer leaning away but getting closer.  Curiosity may have killed a cat, but a herding dog always will investigate if they think it is safe.

1 foot.

It's alright, Rack, what is it?  It's just a trash bag.

Success!  Rack had taken the initiative to sniff the trash bag.  With a wag of the tail that most others wouldn't have noticed, we trotted off into the morning.

So why was that important?  Conquering fears is always important.  A fearful dog may never otherwise get past that sort of fear.  People can get caught up in their on phobias, so much so that "living in mom's basement" is a nice way of describing a catch-all of social skills that aren't quite honed. 

You have to introduce the fearful to the same thing that will otherwise paralyze them and done correctly, success will be seen. 

Even if it is just a fearful dog sniffing a trashbag, a victory can sometimes be found there.

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