The holidays are finally over. Sukkot started almost two weeks ago (Wednesday night), and went straight through to last Saturday night. After all the cleaning, laundry, and general catching up, this has been my first chance to resume some normal activities.
The holidays were hard on Our Best Friend. I had decided that we were going to make sure he got adequate exercise over the holiday time. Good intentions, best-laid plans, man plans, G-d laughs, etc.
We took him to the park on the Tuesday before the second half of the holidays began. He didn’t get out again. On Wednesday, my knee went. I was cooking, and over the course of the day my knee hurt more and more, until I could barely stand and walking was out of the question. I limped for a week. I have no idea what the problem is; it’s something that comes on suddenly, then goes away by itself. It happens so rarely that I’ve never bothered having it looked at… until now. I have an appointment with a physiotherapist in two weeks, by which time the problem will be gone again. Meanwhile, since I’m the only one who ever walks the dog…
And it rained. Man did it rained. Last Thursday it came down from early morning until 11:00 at night. All day. Non-stop. Just letting him out to pee in the back yard brought in acres of mud. And OBF hates water. Have you even seen a dog refuse to pee? I have. I tried to let him out in the front before we went out for the evening; he just stood there, shivering, trying to get back in the house. I dragged to him to the bush, then to the tree, getting soaked in the process. He just stood there, refusing to cooperate. I took him back in, wiped him off, then let him out back where it’s a little more sheltered. He did what he had to do as fast as possible, then raced back inside.
Five days of being cooped up had its inevitable results. On Sunday we took him out back, and off he voomed like a rocket. The Spouse drove around the block to see if he’d gone through the backyards to the next block; the kids ran up and down the street shouting his name; and I stood in the backyard, shaking his container of treats like a moron, hoping he would hear and come back. Suddenly, we could hear him barking somewhere up the street. I got very nervous, wondering if he had wandered into the yard of Buster the Pitbull, a little beast who hates other dogs. Fortunately he showed up about five houses down the street, trotting back home. He was only gone 10 or 15 minutes, but it felt like forever. I don’t know whose yards he violated, if he scared any of the neighbours, or what he was thinking. (Yes I do. He’s a dog– he was thinking, “I’M GOING TO RUN!”) We brought him in, gave him dirty looks, and made him stay in his bed. He knew he’d done bad, but I’m not sure he knows what bad exactly. We’re just lucky he stayed out of the street and didn’t get hit by a car. We’re also lucky he doesn’t want to run away. He just wants to run. He’d be lost without us, and he knows it.
We finally got back to the park yesterday for about 20 minutes, in between appointments, laundry, and picking the kids up from school. He was full of energy and mild aggression, behaving atrociously to our friends Sienna the poodle and Cocoa the greyhound. (They tried to sniff a toy he found– found, not his toy from home!– and he got territorial.) I had to make him sit and stay. Our friend Matt, the greyhound’s owner, shook his head sadly at the neglect of our pooch, telling me, “Cesar Millan would have a field day with you.” (Of course, Matt’s the one who thinks OBF needs to live on a farm.)
I’ve had it with the guilt, with the bad weather, the thousand and one excuses that keep us from being the best dog owners we can be. Our back door leads out to a badly designed deck, where the stairs do not lead directly to the yard. We need to build a second set of stairs, so we can just attach a long leash and let OBF run around the yard without fear he’s going to bolt.
Ideally, we would train him to come when called, even when he’s chasing a squirrel, even when he’s full of pent-up energy and ready to explode. We’re not the ideal dog owners. OBF is not the ideal dog. But as I’ve said, we’re stuck with each other. The holidays come around every year. Next year, we’ll be better prepared.