I screwed up last night. I have an easy explanation for why I made the mistakes, but it doesn’t change that I made them.
After a large snow storm and several attempts to walk outside in the rain, Shiva chose to spend most of her time yesterday curled up on the couch. Though it is unlike her to spend that much time lazing around, I was more than happy to comply with her plans. A docile Shiva, is a happy me. Thus, when the skies had cleared and it was time for her evening walk, I imaged I would have an easy time of it. All day she had been so calm, that could only translate well to on-leash behaviour. At first, this theory proved true.
I strolled along down the sidewalk with Shiva happily wearing herself out by bounding over piles of snow. I let my mind wander, glad it wasn’t nearly as cold as I’d expected. We even passed a labrador puppy on the sidewalk and for the first time I can recall, Shiva was content to let him walk by without accosting him. It was a great walk. A successful walk. A milestone of a walk. As one can imagine, I was feeling pretty good about things.
When we reached the baseball field – I made sure no one else was around first – I was feeling so good I figured I would let her off leash to do some fun training. I don’t usually let her off in this particular field because there are a lot of smells around the fence line and she typically blows me off in favour of investigating them. But last night she was so calm and I was so over-confident, I didn’t even think she’d be interested in running. For some dumb reason, I actually imagined she’d stick close to my side.
Clearly her outward calm was just a mask for stifled energy. I gave the command for “wait”, a word she is very familiar with and to which she usually adheres, but before I could get out the “t”, she was tearing off for some disgusting smell she’d sensed earlier.
With a case of the zoomies as bad as this there is no point in chasing after her, no point in calling out, no point in doing anything really until she gets her head back together. At least, that is my excuse for why I just stood there, staring after her. Bored with the first scent, she tore off across the field in front of me, looking for the next fascinating piece of plastic.
Shiva is never so beautiful as she is when she runs. Though the field was well-lit, her figure was a dark silhouette against the bright snow. Long legs extending and contracting, she moves like a cheetah. At that point, instead of frustration, I was just awe-struck and wishing I’d brought my camera. Watching her, I kind of forgot where we were. I kind of forgot I was supposed to be an active participant in this adventure, not a passive observer. When Shiva headed straight for the only opening in the fence – an opening that leads to the sidewalk and road beyond – that is when I kind of clued back in.
Calling her name, I turned and ran in the opposite direction. This brought her back within the fence line at least, though I will admit it took at least thirty more seconds before I had her back on the leash.
This is when I made my second mistake. We were still alone and I still wanted to do some training. After a few minutes of on-leash circle work and a few recalls with front crosses, I idiotically thought she was focused enough to be off leash again. For a little while, it went well. We have been working on a new trick where she weaves in and out of my legs as I walk forward. It’s been going well, we’re just working on smoothing it out. I tossed her a treat and congratulated her on a good job before I reached down to clip the leash back on. I guess she decided she wasn’t ready to continue on our way. As I bent down, Shiva took off across the grass toward the batter’s box.
My fault. Totally my fault. Foolish human.
This time I didn’t give myself time to gape and I took off running as well. There are a few tall trees off to the side so I darted behind one of the thicker trunks. Hiding is often one of the only ways I can get her back. I hate to play off her fears but sometimes, it is the only tool I have. The only problem is, since she can’t see me, I can’t see her either. I crouched behind the tree and called her name. The jingle of her collar is the only indication I have that she actually gives a damn where I am. This trick usually works. But usually wasn’t really working in my favour at the time. Fortunately, last night Shiva was concerned enough to come looking for me, or maybe just for her food supply, but either way I got her back.
No, I wasn’t foolish enough to let her off a third time.
Lesson learned: just because a Shiva looks calm, acts calm, projects calm, doesn’t mean she is calm. A Shiva is always looking for an opportunity to run. When you own a dog like her, always, always, always be on alert. While I do need to trust her, at times it is definitely possible to trust a little too much. Also? Maybe it is time to start pricing out one of those terrifying hamster wheels for dogs.