Freya, not Rufus.

I woke up feeling groggy and sluggish as I do during allergy season. June is late for allergy season, but all bets off this year regarding what happens when. I think it’s part of everything being great again.

So Freya wakes up unusually bouncy and exuberant. Freya is a lazy dog. The laziest. Basset Hounds talk about her behind her back she’s so lazy. But not that morning. She was all wags and play bows as she followed me down the stairs (nearly tripping me) and into the kitchen. I did my best to acknowledge her excellent mood but was in no condition to keep up. After a couple of minutes, she asked to go outside to do her business, so I opened the door.

We have a fenced-in backyard, so I could drowsily watch her through the window as I sipped coffee from the pot Christian had made and contemplated pouring it over my head to speed up its effects.

As I finished my coffee, I saw Freya do her business, so I grabbed a bag to clean it up and headed outside. As I walked back to where the mess was, I saw a flash of yellow to my right, and the other side of her fence! A dog was running in the neighbor’s backyard!

My mind raced. There was no way for Freya to get on the other side of the fence. Right?  Not unless it had been damaged.

So I called Freya and she came running from the far side of the house and still inside the yard. Phew!

But she barreled past me, and right up to the other dog who had popped out of the bushes in my neighbor’s yard and was looking at her. At her from the other side of the fence.

Do you believe in love at first sight?

Freya is the most dog-friendly dog we’ve ever had. She’s lazy, and she loves other dogs. That’s Freya in a nutshell. Add a love of peanut butter and iceberg lettuce, and you’ve got her figured out.

Freya and the dog were in love. They immediately started playing, starting out oblivious to the fence and then literally whining because they couldn’t get to each other.

So I had a problem. I didn’t want to let this dog get away and run into traffic or get more lost than he already was. But I didn’t want to just invite him into the yard with Freya there either. While he seemed friendly, that kind of immediate introduction, especially on one dog’s “turf,” is risky. (Seriously, don’t do stuff like that.)

I managed to get Dagmar’s attention without leaving the yard. I sent Freya inside (and was impressed that she obeyed) and told Dagmar to head to the front of the house with a leash while I tried to keep the dog’s attention through the fence.

Even without Freya there, he stayed nearby. He was a friendly guy. He knew “sit,” and I read his name, which was embroidered on his collar, and he responded to it. I worked with him until my wife came around to the other side of the fence. He went right to her and let her leash him.

His collar had a phone number on it too. I called the number, and an older man answered. He was relieved to hear someone had Rufus.

Down the street from our house is the Knickerbocker Country Club. It’s one of the reasons I liked this house when we saw it a few years ago. Not because I have the money for a Country Club (or would spend it that way if I did) but because Country Clubs are large pieces of land that people do quiet things on.

It turns out Rufus’ owner is a member and told us he has special permission to let Rufus run free there. (He must be an important member.) Rufus wandered through an open gate, and there he was.

So it worked out well. And it woke me up, too.

Meet Freya

She's sleeps often, which is good.
She’s sleeps often, which is good.

It’s been a while since I posted but I think a new puppy is a decent excuse, and since it’s my blog it will have to do.

Freya came to us a few weeks ago and at first things were very rough. She did not get along with Buddha at all and we thought we would have to re-home her. Find a new home took some time and things started to work out while that was happening….so here we are.

More soon, including updates on the book.

Gone (Back) to the Dogs: Scent Workshop

It’s about 2 1/2 years since I started my self-imposed exile from dog training. There were a lot of reasons for my dropping out: mild burnout (if that’s possible), facing up to personal and logistical limitations, and discouragement about some of the people in the animal community, which is something I need to learn how to deal with. It’s one of the personal limitations I ran up against.

One of my adorable students.

I’ve done some substituting over the past year or so; but that’s different. Subbing means teaching someone else’s plan. It’s easy to run a class when someone else makes the hard decisions for you. Helping people train their dogs for an hour and then leaving class is easy compared to planning a class, running a school, and of course taking responsibility for the students.

Yesterday I ran a 90 minute Scent Work Workshop at Our Gang in River Vale, NJ. I was intimidated at first, since it was material I hadn’t presented in a long time and there was a lesson plan I had to create myself. Getting in front of a class has always been stressful for me, and doing it after a long break was worse.

But the workshop worked out wonderfully. The humans and dogs both learned quite a bit and everyone had fun.

There’s a visceral aspect of training that I have missed for a long time, probably for longer than I have actually been away from training. It’s that moment when you feel like you made a connection to a dog, or better yet that moment where you help someone else make that same connection.

It’s a brief moment: seconds at most. It’s marked by a shift in the dog’s body language, indicating that the dog “gets” what you are trying to tell her. I can’t really explain, at least not without treading too close to Arnold in Pumping Iron.

I got some of that yesterday. I have another workshop coming up this weekend and then…we’ll see.

This is a busy week, with some travel for the day job. I have another post planned about my Grandfather, but it may not be edited in time for this week. Please stay tuned, and consider signing up for my email list.

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