A Cold Winter Walk

Sometimes the things you don’t want to get started on turn out to be the best things you do. Today was freezing cold; -20C with the windchill. I had a long day. I worked hard, I stuck to my healthy eating plan, I did chores when I came home and I was ready to relax and do some vegetating. I had earned it. 

Bandit had other plans. He demanded going for a walk. Not by carrying his leash around or sitting politely by the door, but by leaping around the house like a half crazed chimpazee – the kind of 70lb adolescent furniture rearanging canine shenaningans that are completely incompatible with relaxation. 

Clearly he knew better out of the two of us on what we should be doing this evening. We went for a cold dark windy walk, and it was spectacular. The sky was clear and the stars were gloriously bright. My teenaged fur-beast was incredibly well behaved, walking happily but calmly on a loose leash when he was told to heal, and gleefully bounding along on his long leash when he was told ‘OK’ (the go and goof around phrase). He was interested but not reactive, and calmly redirected his attention to me when other dogs barked across fences at us, and he pointed out formerly scary triggers (strangers walking by and the like) in aniticipation of a reward for his relaxed behaviour – counter-conditioning is working!

Had I resisted and stayed home I am sure I would not have felt relaxed with his antics, and instead I would have felt guilty about not going out. I wouldn’t have given him a chance to show me how incredibly far he has progressed in the past few months.

I wouldn’t have seen the amazing stars that were out tonight. I would not have felt the crisp bite of the Alberta winter wind and the pleasant tingly sensation of warming up when I came home. 

Man, unlike animals, has never learned that the sole purpose in life is to enjoy it.

– Samuel Butler 

I am grateful for this rambunction ridiculous boy. After spending a year working on his reactivity, teaching him to be calm and confident, and how to be a family dog that lives in a town, after a year of focusing on the way I want him to change and how to make that happen, I am coming to realize that all of those things are important, but even more important is that I learn to recognize the times when I should be more like him: willing to learn, willing to give the world a second chance, taking every opportunity presented to live life to the fullest and have un-leashed enthusiasm about the things that I love.


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