Sentimental Sunday: Off Leash Freedom

mms_20140308_123702The hardest part of living where we do is the lack of safe, off leash areas within walking distance. In Halifax, Shiva was accustomed to running without restraint six days out of seven. We took our isolated forests for granted, never thinking that one day we’d be relegated to paths – or worse – residential sidewalks, for the majority of our adventures. Edmonton is a city filled with dog parks of numerous sizes and the largest continuous green space in North America. Once the trail system is connected by all seven municipalities along the North Saskatchewan River, the resulting 88 kilometres of park will be the largest in the world.

Too bad designated off leash areas don’t make up very much of this space.

I don’t want to whine. Shiva and I have it pretty good. The ravine is a beautiful place to walk in all seasons and there are numerous leash free zones within driving distance.

Too bad driving is my greatest fear in all of fearland. Getting over that will take a lifetime.

No doubt there are dogs who have it much worse. Some dogs who live in the inner city, for instance, may never know what it is like to scrawl up a cliff side or chase a porcupine up a tree. Running without a leash is a privilege, not a right. Shiva can be just as satisfied without it.

Can’t she?

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I’d like to believe so. The part of me that is still grieving for the confidence I had before Shiva’s autumn injury, likes to think she can be just as happy if she never runs free again. However, the part of me that sees how much she has slowed down since our Halifax days worries just as much.

I have to face it. Shiva is not as fast as she used to be pre-injury and pre-Edmonton. She still looks good but I know her levels of physical fitness have declined. She grows tired much faster and she’d never be able to keep up with her old Vizsla agility pal any more. It makes me feel terrible, like I have failed her once again.

mms_20140308_123720A Shiva isn’t a Shiva unless she gets to run. Speed is something that has always defined her. She used to be the dog park fitness guru, the one who stirred all the other dogs into action. She is the instigator, the bratface, the tornado.

It isn’t that she isn’t still these things sometimes, her twister-like behaviour has not gone away even on our more relaxed strolls, but there is a noticeable change in her energy. It could be age, that’s true, but it isn’t that simple either.

Maybe it is okay if she isn’t the roadster she used to be. Our lifestyles have changed and she doesn’t seem to be suffering for it in any emotional sense. But I worry. I don’t miss the stress of handling a crazy demon but I do miss the fun. I can’t help but wonder if she misses it too.

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14 Comments on Sentimental Sunday: Off Leash Freedom

  1. Lara Elizabeth
    March 10, 2014 at 11:02 am (5 months ago)

    Ruby’s car reactivity makes driving to go on a dog walk not much fun! We have some great paths nearby but unfortunately they are teeming with cyclists, another of Ruby’s (many) triggers! Thankfully, we recently discovered a fenced baseball field where I can let her run, and while we have to drive there, it’s a relatively easy route. I sure miss my folks’ property (sold before I got Ruby) where my previous two dogs were able to experience freedom.
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  2. Abby
    March 10, 2014 at 12:03 pm (5 months ago)

    There’s hardly a more beautiful sight than a dog running off leash! Shiva has a really, really good life. My best bet is that she’s very happy just to be alive and running around with you, Halifax-level of freedom or no.
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  3. Annie
    March 10, 2014 at 12:11 pm (5 months ago)

    You can always come and visit – three blocks on leash and then thousands of acres off – and – if you wait til spring we can get the Mustang out of storage – put down the top – and learn how to drive.

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  4. Peggy
    March 11, 2014 at 7:55 am (5 months ago)

    I always imagine that it must be the most liberating and wonderful feeling for a dog to be able to run off lead. That said, however, mine don’t get the chance to do it often enough. We have a small fenced yard but it’s not enough for flat-out running. We take them places they can run, but it’s always supervised and always calling them back or blocking their way out or whatever! But we have to keep them safe. I’m always imagining that my dogs are missing something or other but really, when it comes down to it, if we give them a nice home, food, proper care and lots of love they are probably pretty content.
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  5. Sammy Sam
    March 11, 2014 at 2:03 pm (5 months ago)

    Well as long as Shiva isn’t hurting, developing arthritis or another ailment then I wouldn’t beat myself up. Otherwise, I’d get her treatment. Shiva is a well loved kid. My dad wishes we wouldn’t get older either.
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  6. Rachel @ My Two Pitties
    March 11, 2014 at 11:07 pm (5 months ago)

    Kaya and Norman are used to running free every day, yet I always marvel at their ability to navigate steep hills, huge rocks, creeks, trails and mud at top speed!

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  7. Kimberly Gauthier
    March 12, 2014 at 10:25 pm (5 months ago)

    One thing I love about the snow is that we get the Centennial Trail all to ourselves. Watching our pack running around, completely enjoying the moment, is amazing. I love how easy it is to make our dogs happy :)

    Thanks for sharing the pics; I smiled straight through.
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  8. Jenn
    March 15, 2014 at 12:13 pm (5 months ago)

    You know your dog best. If you think she’s slowing down out of caution and respect for the environment, I wouldn’t worry about it.

    If you think she seems to be running out of steam for no apparent reason, you might check her bloodwork. Are any of the areas you’ve lived ones with incidence of Lyme’s?

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  9. Jodi
    March 17, 2014 at 9:13 am (5 months ago)

    Oh Kristine, I worry about these things too. Not for Shiva of course, but for my own pups. :-) What do they think? Are they unhappy because we can’t walk in the woods due to Sampson’s injury? The last walk we took with Sampson he was tired before we completed the walk and it was just around the block. Will he get his stamina back once he’s recovered from his ACL injury? And Delilah, oh how I would love a place for her to run off leash, but she’s proven over and over again that she cannot be trusted. Oh the worry bug, I wish there was a vaccine for it.
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