Violet watches Lacey pull out of the drive.
A day long delivery of wintery mix should keep Violet and me inside, but if I had to bet, I’d bet on us putting in a few miles.
We’re addicted to walking. We’ve averaged five miles a day over the last thirty days. Eight and a quarter yesterday spread across three walks. Seven the day before all in one go. I’m tightening up my loose leash game and it is starting to yield benefits. Don’t know the game? That’s when Violet gets to make forward motion only when her leash is loose. No pulling. Zero. When the leash loses slack, or even just before, I stop. We rarely get in more than ten steps before I stop. It is slow going but important work. Violet is so strong that having her pull for more than a moment over walks that span hours is hard on arms, knees, back, etc.
Even the act of stopping every five or ten steps is hard on me. Physically and mentally. I finally took the advice of the monks and Yin and tethered Violet to me. Both suggested I buy a leash designed to be clipped around my waist and I never got around to it. I was hoping it wasn’t necessary. One more piece of equipment! But two days ago, on the seven miler, I had had enough and realized I could thread any leash through the handle and put my waist in the resulting loop. It works well. A revelation, really. No more sore arms and Violet got immediate feedback when she trotted ahead. When holding a leash in my hand, I tend to be forgiving. I make slack when I can. With the leash on my waist, the tension is there or not. Binary. Violet is benefiting from the direct and consistent feedback.
We’ve even done a few minutes of tethered walking around the house this morning. I moved around to tidy and Violet had to pay attention and stay right by me. I was feeding her treats all the while, too. She did great. It required her to pay attention to me–her biggest challenge on walks. She is a very intense girl, always scanning for birds and squirrels. The training books I’ve read stress the importance of getting your dog to pay attention to you, to look at your face. Despite considerable effort, this is a rare occurrence when we are walking outside. Most I can get is a glance. Things improve when I unpredictably change speed and direction, which I do when I’m loosing her to hunter mind, but probably not often enough. She ignores even high value treats. So I’m recommending to you tethered walking. Worth a try.
Two days ago, when we arrived at the muni golf course dog run, a caregiver related a story of dogs escaping the run earlier in the day. All were collected safely, but no one wants that. The run has two doors, creating a foyer, but the tines on the latch for the outside door were pinched close together requiring considerable hand strength to get the latch fully closed. More often than not, the latch would be only half closed. Open the inside door and many dogs in the run come into the foyer to say hi. One of these dogs nudged open the latch to the outside door and the dogs got out. Oops!
I had myself struggled with the latch for days, but the story was the motivation I needed to fix the problem. I needed two pipes to place over the tines. The leverage would allow me to spread the tines open enough to allow the latch to fully close. The community garden adjacent to the run surely had a couple of pieces of pipe, and a gardener was there to let me in. The only two pieces I found were both about six feet long. Comically long. Oh well. I carried them to the gate, placed one on each tine and spread them apart. Done. I also tossed back into the run all the balls that had accidentally ended up in the garden over the winter.
After I returned the pipes to the garden, the gardener asked if that was Violet and if I was Randy. She recognized us from this blog! She even gave condolences for Frida. She also shared kind words for my last post. The one in which I shared our struggles with Violet. She said she’s shared it with friends who have lost dogs. Thought it may help them as they decide when it is time to invite a new friend into their family. She said it helped her, too. Wasn’t that a nice thing to hear! That’s been my secret wish for this blog–to help people in small, quiet ways. I thought the help would would probably relate to biking or food, but I’ve written a fair amount about dogs, too.
She wasn’t done giving gifts. Right then and there she split her rhubarb plant in two and gave me half. If I remember correctly, she got it from her father who had grown rhubarb for fifty years. Not sure about the longevity of rhubarb. Could this be part of the same fifty year old plant, or does it eventually die? No matter. She shared it with me and I will cherish it. The same way I cherish my grandmother’s geraniums. A good second definition for the phrase heirloom plants. A very special kind of plant, don’t you think?
Not wanting to leave the rhubarb above-ground, Violet and I went straight to our community garden. She didn’t even know we had one! I tied her to the picnic table (no dogs allowed in the gardens) while I planted the rhubarb. It was nice to get my hands muddy. Violet barked for me to hurry up so I did. To say sorry for leaving her I unclipped her from the table and walked her on the path to see our garden. Sorry, rules, but I didn’t let her step in gardens or poop or pee on the path. And I won’t make a habit of it. I just wanted her once to see our plot close up. To know what I was up to over there. Hopefully she’ll become comfortable being clipped to the table. If not, she’ll stay at home when I garden, but I’m hopeful with practice she’ll relax. Tis nearly the season for trying!
I’ve been tracking a package from The Dog Outdoors. Should arrive today. We’re getting the Bike Tow Leash and a Ruffwear Front Range Harness. In purple, naturally. I’ve always been leery of these things, but Violet’s need for speed has inspired me to give it a go. That and the information and videos on the site. It is a really good site. You can tell they love dogs and are committed to helping them safely get the exercise they need. I’ll have to practice extraordinary patience since the package is arriving in the middle of two days of messy weather. Monday, then, before we get to give it a try. Two weeks ago I pedaled slowly with Violet on a standard leash held in my hand for fifty yards. She did fine. Her hunter mind seems to be redirected to straight line running when given the chance. Here’s hoping!
I’ve also been practicing running with Violet on leash. My hope is that Lacey can eventually take her running. Two challenges there. First, the transition from walking to running needs to be smooth or Violet’ll turn playful, thrash about and bite the leash. We’re getting that sorted but Lacey will probably have to do the work again for herself with Violet. Should be easy. Lacey is a very smooth runner. No bouncing. All forward energy. Second, I need to communicate to Violet my wish, no need, that she dial back her speed. My jogging speed is roughly a quarter of Violet’s preferred running speed. I can sprint for a short distance, but even that seems to well short of Violet’s top speed. This is where the bike leash, if we can make it work, should help. I should be able to pedal fast enough. I’ll report how it goes. Fingers crossed!
Last thing. A caregiver at the dog run told me the following story. Six months ago, at a public park with adjacent private land, her dog was killed in a steel trap. Probably on the private land, but there was no fence. She couldn’t open it. Three officers could, but her dog was dead. She struggles with grief. Telling the story even now is difficult, but she is telling the story and more. She is committed to passage of a bill in the NY state legislature requiring land owners to post signs announcing the use of traps. She knows she can’t ban the traps and doesn’t want to tell landowners what to do. But signs may help. She’s passing around a petition. Next time I see her I’ll ask if she has a social media presence. A way to advance the ball digitally. An easy one to get behind, I’d say.
Friday, then! Isn’t it special? No plans? I recommend Netflix–Chef’s Table–Episode 13–Jeong Kwan. Jeong is a Korean Buddhist monk who some say is one of the best chefs in the world. Seeing her work, her practice, brought tears to my eyes. A real treasure. Check it out. As the temple set writes, hands palm to palm.