As I am typing, Cody, my new-to-me dog is sleeping in his bed under the dinette as if it’s been his bed for all of his seven years. Truth is, we haven’t even known each other a whole week yet. But already, we’re very comfortable with each other.
He knows how to sit, stay and sit pretty on his hind legs. But he does not know how to walk on a leash. He wanders, sometimes crosses in front of me, and he pulls. All 63 solid pounds of him, yanking me faster than I can move, jolting my back and making me very cranky.
I did the stop and wait thing every time he pulled, but I couldn’t stay with it, and it hurt my back.
And then I got all freaked out that I’d never be able to walk with him.
I cried. I pulled him. And then I calmed down and realized he just needs some training. And that, because he is so well behaved about everything else, this was just a surprise. But it’s handle-able. He just needs traiing. And practice.
And then Marika reminded me to use Laddy’s Halti, a head collar that snugs up around the dog’s snout when he pulls. I had tried it the first night, but Cody managed to slip out of it, and then I forgot about it.
So yesterday morning I sized it better on his snout, put it on and we went for a walk around the park. And it worked. No more jerking me around.
Of course he still pulls, but we are learning.
And that’s what I keep reminding myself. It’s only been six days. Six. Days!
I have to let go of the ridiculous expectation that we should be good at it Now. Today.
It’s such a blessing that we are already good at so many other things together. We walked down to the beach last night for our first off-leash play time. There were a few too many people and dogs at the quiet end of the cove, so we did some training in the open field first. I walked straight and left and right and around, fast and slow, encouraging him when he was in the right position, both of us enjoying the fun of the game.
And then we went down to the beach. It was an hour before low tide and the furthest rocks were already exposed and there was so much beach to explore. He sniffed and peed on the big rocks and tracked smells in the sand. After we passed the last family heading back toward the pier, I unhooked his leash from the Halti. He picked up his pace, still smelling, tail wagging.
And then he found a perfect stick. He tossed it in the air, landing it at my feet and I said, out loud, Yes, Laddy would have loved this one too. And then I threw it. He bounded after it and brought it right back and dropped it at my feet, tail wagging so fast that it was a blur in the picture I took.
We played for a long time, me tossing, him retrieving, with breaks in between where he flopped down into the sand to gnaw on his prize, tail wagging the whole time.
On the walk back home we were both tired pups, and he walked right there next to me, like he’d been doing it all of his life.
He slept through the night and this morning he was limping more than his usual tender footedness, and he really didn’t want to go very far. He peed, ate breakfast and then got back into his bed and slept till noon. I figured he needed to poop, so I leashed him up and he was walking fine.
So we went down to the beach for high tide. Most of the cove section of beach was underwater and the low surf was creeping higher, right where we were playing with a thick stub of a eucalyptus branch that Cody found.
I threw the stick in the sand, but moved myself closer to the water so that, when he brought it back, we were both standing where the next good roll would wet our feet. He watched the water coming close and when the cold hit his paws, he startled and rushed out of the water. I followed him, petting him with lots of good dog’s, then walked to the water’s edge again. He followed, watched, felt the wave up to his ankles, and this time, he trotted toward the water before turning back around.
I’m sure he would have played like that for hours, but I didn’t want to overdue it if his paw was still hurting. So we walked in the wet sand at our own paces, then I leashed him up for the walk home.
And now he is asleep under the table, quiet and still, his front left paw twitching in his dreams.