JD Allinder

Archive for January, 2011|Monthly archive page

4

In Posts on January 19, 2011 at 8:53 pm

Jane’s four years old today. (Of course with a rescue dog there’s guess work involved, but her first post-rescue examination, conducted by Dr. Laura Chamberlain at Mid-Michigan Equine Services on September 19, 2008, aged her one year and eight months. So her birthday became January 19.) To celebrate, we took a ten-mile hike at Crosswinds Marsh with Annika and Duke. It was colder than I anticipated, and I’m afraid I didn’t dress warmly enough, but we made it through the walk in a little under three hours.

Overall it was a pretty mellow outing and, aside from Jane feasting on horse poop and Duke rolling in something especially stinky and dead, it was satisfying exercise for all participants. Jane disappeared from sight multiple times, but she always emerged from the brush or was found waiting around the next corner, and that is, I’d say, the single biggest difference in Jane the adult vs. Jane the puppy I brought home from Broken Road Rescue in 2008: she stays with me. She’s still got a strong desire to be off on her own, but she’s learned to do her wandering (and grazing) within earshot of my calls. Jane the four year old completely understands that we’re a pack and we stick together. I couldn’t ask for a better adult dog.

Something else that’s changed about Jane since her wild youth is her appearance. She’s put on weight, of course, but the shape of her head has changed. Rather than carrying it constantly in a relaxed, dome shape with limp ears, it’s more alert, erect, with ears pricked and pulled tighter. I know it sounds weird, but her head is often indistinguishable from a Lab’s when we’re on the trail. Annika has noticed this, too, and she suggests (and I concur) that the way Jane carries herself on our outings is more active and engaged. She’s certainly more confident than the skittish puppy I adopted. She owns the woods – or wherever we walk. It’s hers. And I believe a big part of that is simply telling her it’s so over and over. If you praise someone long enough, they eventually believe it. And Jane definitely thinks she’s the bee’s knees. I admit she’s a little spoilt, but I couldn’t care less. She deserves it.

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Wild Thing

In Posts on January 17, 2011 at 8:34 pm

It’s been a terrific winter so far. We’ve had enough snow to keep the ground continuously covered but not so much that hiking is impossible. (I still haven’t taken the plunge and invested in a pair of snow shoes.) The daytime temperatures have been mostly in the mid-20s – my preferred range – and the nights bitter cold, which adds a sort of rustic romanticism to nesting. Jane and I are subsisting on strong tea, thick woolens, and an endless supply of good books. (Well, at least I am.) It’s all frightfully cozy, and how anyone cannot completely luxuriate in the rhapsody of winter is an idea I refuse to entertain. Bah!

Sweet short-haired Jane does get cold, though. While she never lacks vim on the trail (or the sidewalk), she does require a fleece hot from the dryer after two hours or so of running, walking, sniffing, hunting, etc. I’ve tried hunting dog sweaters and vests, but she refuses to even breathe if I put clothing on her. I don’t let her win many arguments, but that was one I (thankfully) had the wisdom not to pursue. Just like parents, human companions of dogs must learn to pick their battles. Jane reinforces that maxim on a pretty regular basis. In fact, there’s a part of her that, in spite of her maturity, I think will never be fully domesticated. Her breeding courses deep in the core of her being. She’s always torn between listening to my voice and following the call of the wild. When I give her a command, for example, there’s a beat (or two, or three, or four) before she responds. She weighs her options – every single time. There’s nothing reflexive or Pavlovian about her acquiescence. She mulls it over. I’d say about 90 percent of the time she’s cool with my requests, her wants are mine, and she understands we work together toward meeting our shared objectives on our outings. But that other 10 percent, she may as well be a wolf. Her instinct is louder than I am. Fortunately, she’s learned to let me take over physically in such situations, which is especially interesting to me. I cannot call her off a treed animal, for example, but she allows me to remove her physically with my hands. She trusts me enough to make decisions for her that she can’t make for herself.

That said, she’s infinitely better behaved and more fun when we’re on our own. We walk/hike with Duke and Annika at least once a week, which we all enjoy tremendously. Jane takes advantage of my split focus, though. I talk to Annika, interact with Duke, etc., and Jane sneaks off to eat poop and pretends she can’t hear me when I call. She does the same thing if I stop to chat with a stranger in the park. The minute my focus is off of her, it’s mutiny on the Huron. Last week while walking with Duke and Annika, Jane got into so much poop that when we returned home she promptly vomited it all over my living room rug.

The things we do for love.