Before I get into the problematic aspects of last night’s exploits I want to celebrate something. For the first time since Shiva’s injury on November 8th, 2013, I went for a walk with letting her off-leash as a goal. It was going to be my first step in dealing with this fear. Did I envision disaster? Yes, of course I did. Before I’d even set foot outside I saw all of the money depleting from my bank account, heard the cries of my poor baby as she came down from the high of pain medication. Knowing Shiva isn’t Shiva unless she is allowed freedom, I decided it was time to face my paranoia and ignore all of my instincts. It was time to risk the worst and let her run.
Can I get some applause?
Now that you have acknowledged my bravery, I will tell you the whole story.
It took me some time to screw my courage in deep enough to take the plunge. First, we walked over to the park with all the rabbits. I figured Shiva and I could dart around chasing bunnies together and it would tire her out enough to prevent disaster once she was released. No dice. Instead of fuzzy white rabbits we encountered a tall fence and some sort of funky ice sculpture.
No park time for us.
Genius lagomorphic plan foiled, I had no choice but to suck it up. We turned away from the odd construction in the bunny park and headed toward the community centre. I remembered there was a fenced off area by the playground that is used for street hockey in the summer. The gate is always unlocked and I have previously seen other handlers using the space to play with their dogs. It seemed like the perfect spot to dust off the ol’ recall for the first time in over two months. Being a quiet and cold Sunday evening I hoped it would be abandoned.
I was right. When we arrived, there wasn’t a single living creature to be seen and the small gate was wide open. It was the perfect spot, I remember thinking. The wooden fence was topped by even higher chain link. There was no way she could jump the ten feet and I could block or close the only exit. The area was the ideal baby step for my off-leash phobia.
One slight problem. I was so engrossed in checking out the barricades, making sure Shiva couldn’t make a break for it, it didn’t even occur to me that I might want to double-check the surface. Who would? The last time I had been in the area, it had been the typical concrete of any school yard. Was it silly of me to assume that it would be no different in January? Yes, it was white, but every surface of this city is covered in snow. It would have been stranger if it wasn’t glistening.
Now, you all being very observant folk, I am sure you can tell on first sight what it took me thirty seconds to discern. This was not snow. It was ice. As in, a full-on skating rink.This would have been a mistake easily remedied if I hadn’t already revved Shiva up and unhooked her leash by the time I noticed.
As soon as I realized my error, I called her back to my side. Shiva, being Shiva, was already on the other side of the ice, not letting no slippery surface get in her way of a good time. To her credit, and the credit of our years and years of hard work, she came dashing back as quickly as her Bambi legs could carry her. Only she got a little side-tracked before she reached my side.
Error number two. You see, when I had scoped out the area, I took in the double-fence and the narrow gate. I did not examine the bench area. If I had, I would have noticed a. there was a benching area that is clearly meant for a hockey team, which means this was likely a hockey rink and b. the snow piled high on the other side of the fence with no chain link to prevent a wily dog from escaping.
Thus, escape she did. One second her head was poking out of the seating section, the next I saw a dog-like figure bounding over the snow in the park beyond.
Don’t worry. It wasn’t a disaster. I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this if it was. Somehow, thank Susan Garrett, my handling savvy kicked in and I was able to recall Shiva back into the rink and back onto a leash. The handful of turkey treats in my pocket may also have something to do with this but I prefer to think it was pure skill and instinct. And the fortune I spent on recall training.
While it may not have been the best re-introduction to off-leash play for the Sheevs and I, I guess I shouldn’t discount it either. Even if she had run amok in the sports field where, technically, no dogs are allowed, nothing happened. She slipped, she ran, she ate frozen garbage lingering under bench, and then we went home. All in all, it was a step forward for us. Maybe next month I’ll be ready to take her to a park with trees.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.