There is no such thing as perfect. This I know as well as anyone. As much as I strive for it in everything I do, I’ll never really attain the goal. Still, when it comes to my dog’s recall while off-leash, I’d like to get as close as humanly possible to the p-word.
Last night, on our walk, I think Shiva and I reached the precipice.
We were walking along the old power line trail too late in the evening. I say too late because the sky had grown dark and I try to avoid meandering through the forest when I can’t see very well. I figure not getting attacked by a coyote is a good way to live. Yesterday I must have felt like living on the edge. Or maybe I’m an idiot and just didn’t realize how early the sun goes down these days.
We’ll go with the former. It makes me sound badass.
So we were walking and Shiva was doing her whole sniff-run-sniff-run-sniff thing. It was all very normal. At least, it was normal until I saw a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye. When I looked over, all I could see were three tufts of white springing into the trees. Before I could even take in what that meant, there went my dog, bouncing into the bushes right after them.
Deer, was my first thought, almost in relief. Surprisingly, my second thought was perfectly rational as well. Given that Shiva was about to become the next cover girl for the Nova Scotia Lost Dog Network anyway.
Remember to sound happy, I reminded myself.
“Shiva!” I called in an uncharacteristically upbeat, Minnie Mouse voice. “Puppers! C’m'ere you silly girl!”
Less than two seconds later, Shiva’s head popped out of the darkness and her body followed, speeding towards me with tail wagging. I was too shocked to fully take in what had just happened. This is my excuse for not immediately putting her back on the leash. Instead I gave her a handful of treats with a side of praise and then watched her run off again in the direction of the deer.
Well that was dumb. Oops.
Yet I still managed to keep my head together. I am just as amazed as you are.
This time I pulled all the stops. I ran down the path the opposite way, skipping and whooping and taunting.
“C’mon Shivers! Let’s go this way! Woo hoo!”
I can’t lie and say a niggle of worry didn’t appear in the back of my mind. In the few seconds before Shiva emerged once more, it did occur to me that she might not come back this time. That things could be not very good at all and it would be all my fault. Luckily, I was saved from further self-flagellation when Shiva came running toward me once more, just as eager as before.
This time I was smart and grabbed her collar as I offered her the treats with my other hand. I continued the treat party while clipping on the leash, eventually giving her every last bit of kibble in my pocket, cursing myself for not bringing something of higher value.
And then we continued on our walk, as if nothing had happened. As if I hadn’t just done the impossible and successfully recalled Shiva from deer, an animal she has only previously seen from far away. An animal that is often the bane of existence for off-leash dogs everywhere. Apparently not Shiva. She has got to be the only dog in the world who finds bird seed and mud more attractive than wild animals.
Not that I am complaining.
I am really proud of her for making the right choice not once, but twice! There are posts on this very blog from two years ago filled with whining about how her recall sucked and was never going to get better. I’ve proved myself wrong and it’s a great feeling. Furthermore, I don’t want to harp on it too much but I am proud of me too. Not once did I panic last night. I kept my cool, remembered not to scream at Shiva like some sort of freaky banshee, and she rewarded me with a beautiful response. Positive reinforcement at its best.
Maybe we do make a good team after all.