Tails From The Trail – One

“No.  NO!”  I WILL PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE!”

Wow – what was that??  Kali and I walked on in relative peace having done a very good job of avoiding what could have been a confrontation.

Kali and I love our walking trail.  The trailhead is within a stones throw from our front door.  It winds around with the neighborhood, intersects at points with a municipal golf course, and has a creek that runs throughout.  Kali and I have become intimately familiar with the trail having walked it almost every day for the past six months.  We’ve also become familiar with many of the faces – both human and canine – that we see often.  We’re blessed to have the time, the area, and health to be out and about in such a beautiful environment.

The single blemish on this otherwise perfect picture is that Kali has leash aggression. I’ve come to grips with that. I’ve done a fair amount of reading and research and it is clear that this behavior will take us a long time to work through.   Maybe she’ll never get past it. But I’m committed to partner with Kali in the most positive way possible so that one day she will be able to meet another dog without lunging or barking and instead simply sniffing, playing, and enjoying their company.

Kali and Smokey bonded very quickly. They are wonderful to watch.  So I know Kali can be a loving and enjoyable companion for another dog.  She’s spent extended face to face time with just one other dog – a close friend’s dog – and after the usual barking and anxiety she settled down and got along just fine. In fact they were in the back of our SUV for an extended drive laying next to one another and Kali was very calm and comfortable.

Kali is very eager to engage with me.  The first thing I taught her was to “watch” me and then I would immediately reward the eye contact with high value treats.  This fundamental discipline and foundation for effective training has been invaluable.  I say “watch” or just stand in front of her and she’ll gaze into my eyes and wait for me to tell her what to do next.  All it takes is the word “watch” and more lately just the click of my tongue.  On our walks I am proactive when we approach another dog.  I’ve learned to make sure that Kali is more interested in me than the oncoming dog.   We take care not to walk a direct path into the dog, we’ll take a wide berth when there is room on the trail, or simply pull over to the side with Kali’s back to the dog and attention on me as the dog and owner pass by.   A couple of “watches” and a “let’s go” and more often than not there is no barking or lunging and we continue to move along our way thankful for the aforementioned blessings. Sometimes I’ll stop and turn around after we’ve gone a short distance and have her sit facing the other dog who is now walking away. “See Kali, no danger. I kept you protected. I’ve got your back. It’s ok to relax. Let’s go”.

For Kali and I it’s all about the positive.  Praise when she get’s it right.  Understanding when she doesn’t and self-evaluation to see what I could have done different to make her successful it the particular situation.  It’s helping and I’m optimistic that over time – probably a long time – we will overcome this behavior and Kali will be able to enjoy being around other dogs.

So did someone get punched in the face?  The short answer is I don’t know.

On an otherwise non-eventful walk yesterday I saw an owner with her dog come around the bend about 150 feet ahead of us.   As we approached each other Kali and I used our techniques for keeping her calm.  I moved to the edge of the path, “Kali.  Watch.”  She does.  “Good.  Watch.”  Kali takes a quick look over her shoulder at the dog and then back at me.; loose leash no barking.  “Good girl! Let’s go.” Kali is relatively calm and we peacefully move along our way.  BUT, as we pass by I get a closer look at an uncomfortable owner and a fearsome looking dog.  This dog could eat Kali for lunch if it wanted.  It probably didn’t want to but that’s the look the dog had. The owner had a very tight leash on this dog with her fist about 12 inches from the dog’s neck jerking up with all her might, and the dog choking from a now very tight collar.  The dog was very mad and upset.  Who could blame him?

To be fair maybe this dog has serious aggression issues and would actually have eaten Kali for lunch if the owner had not restrained him.  Or, maybe it’s the owner who has serious aggression issues and needs a punching bag other than her dog (the Blogger says judgementally). I look back over my shoulder as we move on and I hear the owner say as she pulls up on the leash, “No. NO!  I will punch you in the face”.

I wanted to go back and give the dog a hug. I didn’t.  I wanted to go back and punch the owner in the face.  No, of course I didn’t.  Kali just wanted to continue walking home and of course, we did.

So did someone or something get punched in the face?. I guess I’ll never know.

Tails From The Trail

Tails From The Trail

Waiting For Spring Training

Summer has left us.  Seemingly overnight.  The mornings are now cold, damp, and dark.  It is November so I shouldn’t be surprised but it catches me off guard every year.  It’s just that I enjoy Summer, the hot weather, and long days.  I love the warm nights on the patio listening to music with Holly and sharing a bottle of wine.  I enjoy the early morning walks with Kali – me in shorts and flip-flops and Kali with just one of her two beautiful golden coats.  I enjoy the street fairs, festivals, and wine events that go on during summer in our town.  I love seeing my garden explode in color during spring and staying vibrant throughout the long hot summer days.  I embrace major league baseball with a passion beginning with spring training, into the dog days of summer, and ending during the warm days of October.

And there it is – baseball.  The major league baseball season starts the cycle and ends the cycle of warm days that I love so much.  The SF Giants flags in the backyard convey this cycle to friends and family.  If the flags are up  – life is warm.  If the flags are down – it’s time to hunker down, put another log on the fire, and wait for the beginning of the next cycle.  In other words the countdown to spring training…

Throughout the baseball season my wife and I watch just about every SF Giants game.  I can’t say that Kali “watches” with us but she is a very loyal fan.  This I know because she sleeps at my feet through every inning of those games rarely getting up even during commercials to get a snack or beer from the fridge…     She did, however, seem a little put off by some of the start times of the playoffs.

Kali’s afternoon playtime is usually around 4:30 or 5:00 when I’ve begun winding down my day. Many of the baseball playoff games overlapped with our afternoon play time.  Kali was not real happy about this.   As loyal a fan as she professes to be (as evidenced but he aforementioned sleeping at my feet during all games) I believe she would have forgone the first couple of innings of these games and not have had them preempt afternoon play time.

Kali’s internal clock is amazing.   At 3:30 she comes into my office and pokes me with her nose.  Tail wagging she looks at me as if to say, “I’m bored.  You’ve been working all day and it’s really time to stop that and give me some attention.”  I tell Kali that it’s not time, that I have work to do, and she’ll have to be patient.  She’ll make that low grunting sound in her throat that Goldens do and reluctantly lie down to wait.  Admittedly, there are many days when her big brown compelling eyes combined with a willingness to wait for me are too strong a statement for me to ignore.  “OK”, I tell her.  Let’s fill up that Kong of your’s to keep you busy until I’m done.  Kali loves her Kong!

Kali is a bit of a paradox:  creature of habit but yet so flexible.  So it will be interesting, Kali’s first winter here in America.  Shorter days may mean walks  later in the day or a wet walk or (gasp!) no walk at all.  As Kali sees the sun setting earlier and earlier each day she must be thinking, “What will happen to afternoon playtime? Maybe I should poke him earlier in the day. Can Dad be as flexible as I am?”

Probably not.  But like Kali I’ll have to adjust, make the best of the change, embrace Fall and Winter, and wait for Spring Training.

 

World Champs Again in 2014

It’s a warm day when they flags are flying