I looked down at Lainey and said, “do you want to go for a walk?” Of course I didn’t get a reply since she’s going deaf, but I still speak to her, its a habit that is ingrained in me.
I clapped my hands which did get her attention and sat down on the couch which is her signal to jump up next to me. I clipped her leash to her collar and she pranced beside me as we walked to the truck. I bent over, scooped her up, put her on the seat next me and we headed down the road. It wasn’t very long before we arrived at Elm Creek, and walked down the trail.
I noticed Lainey was scooting a bit, and seemed a little out of sorts. When someone or something approached us she wanted to stop, smell the air, and try to see what she could see. Her sight also is going which has made her skittish. My heart sank when I noticed it. She has changed from a dog with a strong presence to a timid little dog. I felt tears well up in my eyes, and my heart broke just a little bit as I watched her struggle.
We continued on our way, with her hesitating and feeling unsure and me determined to help. Winter was losing its hold on the woods and I noticed that the Maple trees were tapped. There were buds starting to show up on the trees and birds were singing. I started losing myself in the sensations of nature, the wind gently blowing, the sun touching my face with warmth, and my little dog next to me.
We found a little walking trail off the paved trail and took it. I looked down at Lainey and noticed she was relaxing. She was panting a little and sniffing the air with curiosity. I felt her energy change and she stepped out with more confidence, there were times she even led me a little. I found my heart relaxing and started to enjoy our walk. Our energy joined together through the leash and we walked forward as one. The feeling of connection is one I know well with her, it’s like slipping on your favorite jeans, you know the ones that fit just right, have your butt imprints in them and the ones you will never throw away. We know each other, and she doesn’t have to hear or see me to know I will always be there for her. We can step out into the world together and count on each other. She is that special dog for me that could never be replaced, the one that knows me better than I know myself and accepts me for who I am. We continue to take weekly walks together and I am so happy to say that each time we go out I see more of the confident dog with the big personality coming out.
I’ve decided to walk more often, and Boomer joined me this week for a walk. Boomer has a different personality than Lainey. He is absolutely certain that the whole world loves every single thing about him. He has no doubt the world is made just for him and no matter what it loves him and he deserves that love. When I asked him if he wanted to go for a ride he was beside himself, his tail was wagging at 100 miles an hour and his smile was huge! He started jumping around so much I could barely put the leash on, and when we were finally connected he started to cry with joy.
I opened up the truck door and he slowly lifted his body up into the back seat, but once in, he could hardly wait for me to shut the door and get going! We headed off to a different part of Elm Creek Park.
Boomer started out with lots of energy, and I had to remind him a little bit of how to walk next to a human. He responded quickly and stayed checked in with me. Every single time we passed anyone his tail would wag, he would smile and say, “hi”. Some people responded with a hello back, some not so much. He even got a couple compliments on how pretty he was.
We were really enjoying the walk, I had never been to this part of the park and it was fun to explore a new area. Spring had progressed a lot in the past few weeks, the birds are migrating back to Minnesota, and the frogs have started to sing. Boomer was taking it all in with me, and staying connected through the leash. He didn’t pull, he stayed right next to me and enjoyed the adventure. We still crossed paths with people, and we both continued to say hi, but our focus was on each other and the earth around us.
We saw a beautiful lake that seemed to appear out of nowhere, and there were a couple spots I think I recognized as the old horse trail. Boomer continued to wag his tail and when I took him off the paved path he enjoyed sniffing around and leading me for awhile. His energy is very calm, confident, and happy and it’s a pleasure to tap into that when we are together. At home he gets obsessed over his ball and toys, out here its just the two of us and I think that both of our hearts were able settle down and allow for relaxation.
Today I asked Gunner if he would like to go and held up the leash, he sat up immediately and could barely hold still enough for me to clip it to his collar. He quickly pulled me towards the door, and almost off my feet before I could gather myself enough to get control again. I had forgotten what a puppy he still is!
We quickly got to the truck and he nimbly jumped into the back seat and we headed to a part of Elm Creek I know well. We were going to explore the horse trail and walk to the bridge. I opened the truck door, Gunner jumped out and before I knew it I was being pulled to a dead animal. My first thought was, “how did he know that was there”, and my second thought was, “I better get control here, or this won’t be a fun walk!”
Gunners energy jumps all over that place. His mind doesn’t settle on anything. He thinks the world is here to explore and anything that moves must be chased. I finally got him under control and asked him to sit. He did that very well, and then my next thought was that I should be using treats with him to help his brain stay on me a little more.
We hit the trail and immediately he starts to pull, his nose twitching like crazy, his tongue hanging out, ears swiveling everywhere and his path is as erratic as a drunk sailor! I tighten my grip on the leash so it’s not sliding through my hands and he hits the end of it which stops him in his tracks, then the leash relaxes, he walks fast again, hits the end and so on and so on and so on. All I can think is “can he even feel the release when he gets it?” I shorten up the leash more so he hits the end of it as soon as he steps ahead of me. The leash pulses with him hitting the end, then the release. Every time there is a release I say good boy. People pass us on bikes and he tries to lunge, but I have the leash short, so instead of lunging he just pulls my arm enough that I’m afraid it’s going to pop out of socket! But we continue.
I’m trying to absorb the nature around me and notice the beauty as the tugging and releasing continues for quite awhile, but before too long I start to notice there are times he is walking next to me, and I feel his energy through the leash. I say good boy, and wham, he hits the end again. But we are getting some release, and he’s learning through the release!
Our walk continues and we finally reached the bridge and proceed to explore it, and a bridge a little further upstream. Gunner quit with the pulling and settled down next to me. We could finally feel each other through the leash, he moved with me instead of against me and I could feel his energy. I like his energy. It’s very open and he tries to soak in everything around him. He does get a little distracted, but with a gentle whisper of a tug on the leash he checks in with me. Walking with him on the trails is an adventure into the wilderness. He senses the movement in the bushes as the birds take flight and calls it to my attention, he watches the leaf as it blows across the path, he hears movement in the bushes and I see his ears and head swivel towards it. It’s amazing that if you allow yourself to connect to him, all the stories he will help you see.
My three dogs, they have a story to tell, and ways to help me see the world.
Lainey showed me trust and comfortable companionship.
Boomer showed me that we all deserve love.
Gunner showed me that life is an adventure.
It’s very easy in todays world to get caught up in all the negativity. I hope you all get a chance to take a walk with a dog and open up your heart to see the world as they see it. You just might find something pretty special in a dogs tale.