Monday, September 15, 2014

Making Lemonade at 5 AM with the Dog

I'm not really sure why at this stage in my life, my body has decided that 5 in the morning is an appropriate time to wake up.  It just has.  I tried detoxing from caffeine with no effect.

May as well live with it and do things that will improve my life and those around me.

There are some definite benefits to being up well before the rest of the city.  Dad would have said that I'm "Up with the cows".  I don't know why because he was a steel worker from Easton, PA, but hey you never completely figure out your folks.

I get up, get ready, top off Rack's water bowl, and we go for our walk.

It gives me the opportunity to do things with him that I wouldn't do with other people around.  In Wilton Manors, FL, at 5 AM, there are really only a few groups of people up and most of them are easy to avoid.

Dog Walkers are easy to spot, and we're all trying to keep a respectful distance.  After all, we're all in the same boat!

The Police, early workers, and other delivery folk couldn't care a bit about me and my dog.  They're doing their job.  Wave hello to them and go on.

As always, there are the leftovers from the night before.  You know, the people who forgot that the bars closed three hours ago and are sleeping it off.  Easy to spot, easy to avoid.  They don't move too fast.

Walking with Rack has gone from a tuggy job to a much more pleasurable experience at this time of day.  We're really not supposed to be off leash at this time of day.  He has his leash.  Its not always attached To Me.

On that very early walk, we are having a Bonding Experience.   I learned when Rack tugged one too many times one day what happens when he is off leash.   He circles back immediately.  As in gets about 2 dog lengths ahead, turns around and plasters himself to my legs to stop me from going anywhere until I pick up the leash.

"Confused look" Good Dog!

That's all it takes.

He does get more than a leash away when we're walking, and I stop that by stepping on the end of the leash and verbally correcting him.

Trucks still scare him, and since Wilton Drive is where the dreaded 50 bus goes through along with them, I watch very closely.  When he starts to show fear, I stop.  He comes back to me and we wait for it all to pass.

After all this walking and bonding and conversation, we finally get close to the house.

I can tell he wants to go home, he's getting further away from me and needing more correction.  I don't want him  to cross the last Avenue before the house alone.  He usually stops but since it isn't always I make sure to stop him before we cross.

This is all off leash, and it is training him to be better on the leash.  When I walk off leash with a second person he walks right by me, on my left, exactly how I like it.

Crossing the last Avenue, I have learned I can give him instructions and he will follow them.  There's a video about a Border Collie in the English Borderlands that was able to be taken to the fields and do his work with the sheep completely independently of any instruction.  As in All Day Alone.

I simply expect Rack to have that level of intelligence.  Getting past his normal fear is what will get in the way, but it is getting much better.   I tell him to "Go home and lets wash your feet".

He's still a "Yellow Footed Collie with bad aim".  I still have the Foot Wash station on the porch to at least clean him up before we go in.  He walks the last bit at his own speed to the yard, turns up the drive, walks up to the porch and waits for me to amble up to the hose to wash him off.   Independently.

It's still well before 6AM and I haven't had my coffee yet, so of course I'm walking slower than him.

After his foot wash we have a routine.  We walk him through the grass and around the car, back to the front door.   It gives the water time to run off his legs and brush off any crud that has gathered on his toes.

He now does that Independently too.

How about that?  He walks around the car, comes back to the front door, and waits for me to unharness him and let him in.

Small victory compared to that English Border Collie, but my own Rack was completely shut down when we got him.

We're making lemonade out of those lemons.  Turning a weakness into a strength.  It always takes a different mindset when you have a fearful dog.  Things are done on THEIR terms, and at THEIR speed.   Not on yours.

I am learning too.   My little guy is teaching me patience.  I'm excellent at setting goals, rules, boundaries, and limitations.  Plans are laid out, and he's great at following them.  In his own time.

I'm finding out also that his own time can be much faster now than it was.  Fear can fade, but you have to allow it to.

Just have a little lemonade while you're waiting.  It's quite tasty at 6 AM.

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