Walking with Shiva has been a bit of a trial these past few weeks. It has nothing to do with the weather; I am actually getting over that. Minus twenty-five has become quite livable. Minus fifteen is flip-flop weather.
No, my recent aggravation has much more to do with Shiva’s numerous leash transgressions. I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Instead of automatically jumping to annoyance, I thought the reason she was pretending to forget her manners was because she was cold. Even in her hand-made coat, the temperatures have been low enough to freeze anyone within ten minutes. Without any fur on her belly, she is more vulnerable than I am in my winter clothing. I was sensitive to this for obvious reasons and cut our jaunts short. However, this past week has been much “warmer” and tonight was downright tropical. After all, I was only wearing two sweaters and one pair of socks. It is practically Arizona out there. Shiva’s behaviour remained unchanged. If anything, her tugging was worse.
I am not a patient person at the calmest of times but I have grown a lot during my time with the wingnut. I think I have developed a few coping mechanisms that keep me from having a tantrum in the middle of the sidewalk. That hasn’t occurred for at least two days.
Of course, this time, it all went down in front of an audience.
Before I get too far ahead of myself here is the basic order of events:
1. Shiva leaps like an antelope down the street. I grip the leash and follow along behind her, slipping on the icy road.
2. I gain traction and stop, forcing Shiva to halt and look back. I raise my eyebrows whereupon she usually races back to my side and sits down to await my direction. This is what I expected to happen. This is what I have taught Shiva to do.
3. When I relaxed my shoulder, Shiva swung around and bolted ahead, ripping the leash out of my mittened hand.
4. I watch helplessly as Shiva speeds down the sidewalk, calling to her but knowing it is useless. The children, standing with their parents on the other side of the street, start laughing.
5. Shiva veers to the right, bounding through the snow in the school yard, a giant grin on her face. Her purple coat comes loose and flaps around her shoulders.
6. I stand there feeling like a moron but finally catch Shiva’s attention. After running back and forth in the snow piles for a few more seconds, Shiva turns in my direction and races to my side, eyes sparkling and tongue hanging out. The children make sounds of disappointment.
7. Picking up the ice-covered leash, I move forward with Shiva who instantly starts to pull. I sigh and stop. A rabbit runs across the road in front of us.
8. Shiva’s ears pop up and we walk for the next three blocks with her on her hind legs. The children cheer.
Have you ever walked a dog who is walking only on her two back legs? I have several times. Sometimes it’s just awkward, other times I worry she is freaking out the pedestrian she is staring at on the other side of the boundary, but tonight it was just embarrassing.
After all of this, I am starting to wonder if the cause of Shiva’s lack of self-control – okay, more than her usual lack – is because I have not let her run off-leash since November 3rd. A Shiva needs to run as much as a Shiva needs to chew. It is a big part of her personality and how she has fun. I have taken this away. For a good reason, maybe, but she doesn’t know that. All she knows is, she has energy to burn and wants to run.
And run, and run, and run.
Maybe it is time to take a risk? Trust in the fact that her injury could have been a one-off?
I was came close last Sunday. We were walking in the ravine and met up with two dogs whom I have always secretly hoped would one day be Shiva’s friends. They are both friendly, well-socialized animals and under ordinary circumstances I would love for Shiva to run around with them. The owner was amendable, the energy was positive, there was no reason to disallow Shiva a chance for fun. Except the biggest reason of all: fear.
I don’t know. It feels too soon. I’m not sure I am capable of un-clipping that leash knowing what might happen. I know I will need to. Regardless of the dangers, it does seem wrong to prevent Shiva from indulging in her favourite activity. A Shiva isn’t a Shiva if she is inhibited by my paranoia.
But at the same time, it is my job to keep her safe. Even if she never runs off leash again, isn’t it more important to keep her alive and free of serious injury?
I don’t know how parents of human children do it. Cutting the cord might take more guts than anything I have done before.