JD Allinder

My Dog, Myself

In Posts on February 19, 2010 at 8:33 pm

I’ve been feeling under the weather the past couple of days. I was especially sluggish yesterday, and I only felt up for walking Jane on lead around the neighborhood. We walked at a decent clip for about an hour and a half, but that’s barely a warm up for a three-year-old hound. I promised her I’d make it up to her today, so this afternoon we went to LeFurge Woods in Superior Township, about five miles from home. LeFurge is 325 acres of protected woods, wetlands, and prairies, and Jane and I have carved out about a 1.5 square mile hiking route that spills over into private and cooperative farmland. We’re very respectful, and so far no one’s gotten after us. A couple of farmers wave to us, and I make sure Jane stays away from the free ranging chickens.

The sun was relatively high overhead today, and it felt even more like spring than the day before last week’s big dump. The sky was crystal clear, and I traded in my ski hat for sunglasses. It was beautiful, if a tad bittersweet, as the inevitability of the coming thaw always makes me sad. This is the time of year when I pine for an Arctic experience that I’ve never had yet somehow feel in my bones, much like Jane feels the call of the wild, I guess. My longing for the cold is primal. It’s in my DNA, and it springs from instinct, the part of me that can’t be tamed despite 4,000 years of civilizing.

Turns out Jane was the sluggish one today. Though she’s becoming better all the time off leash, she sometimes has days where she seems unenthusiastic – bored even – by our walk, and this can be frustrating for me. I know everyday can’t be Christmas, but I always feel satisfied on the days that she’s especially excited and engaged. There were a lot of new smells today uncovered by the melting snow, and I’m sure that’s what made her lag behind. I was really up for a speed walk, but Jane had other plans. I had to stop every few hundred feet and call her to me. Argh.

At one point, after having only been out for about half an hour, Jane scuttled off into the brush and wouldn’t come out. As I called to her, I could feel my temper rising. When she finally emerged, she was munching on a mouthful of contraband. I was so angry. I threw the leash I was carrying to the ground. I stomped and fumed. I yelled. In short, I completely lost it. I’ve been getting more and more frustrated lately over this habit of Jane’s – the only bad habit of hers that I’ve not been able to break. I give her the command “nothing in the mouth” dozens of times (hundreds?) each day, and she still takes every opportunity she gets – off leash or on – to eat everything she comes upon, especially poop (deer, rabbit, goose, etc.) and rotting carcasses. If I catch her in the act and give the command, she opens her mouth and drops her treasure on the ground. Five seconds later, though, she’s at it again. Nothing I do convinces her it’s not worth it, and it’s become increasingly challenging for me to manage my emotions when correcting her because she’s proven that she understands my expectation, knows the verbal command, and fully comprehends the concept of cause and effect. Today I reached my limit. I flipped out. After my explosion, I sat under a tree and took ten minutes or so to recover. Jane sat watching wearing her “I’m sorry” face. I finally got up, shook myself off, and we resumed our walk.

When we got in the woods, I started praying, asking for guidance in figuring out how to control this unseemly behavior of Jane’s. Immediately I saw the light: the only thing that I can control is my own out-of-control behavior. The irony of the situation was as clear as the sky. In my attempt to control my dog I had lost control of myself. I’ve been asking Jane to do something that I’m not capable of. This doesn’t mean that I’m going to give up and let her eat poop. It does mean, though, that my training objective is now twofold.

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