Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What was I Thinking?

The longer days have snuck up on me and dawn passed before Kona and I reached the ridge. Kona seemed extra frisky this morning as she raced from one side of the trail to the other, following sent trails. Most of the pictures I took turned out as a blur of red fur, or of a quick shot of Kona's rear.

She followed the path of a cottontail, then quickly zoomed to the other side of the ridge. While Kona kept her watchful eye downslope, I enjoyed the recent bloom of flowers.

As we made our way to the midpoint of our hike, I put Kona on her long line so she could burn more energy even as I trudged along slowly. Kona was tense for awhile, and instead of using the extra freedom to explore, she ran to the end of the leash and pulled me up the trail, just as she does on her normal lead. I became frustrated.

I stopped several times to turn my back to Kona and take several breaths. My mood was low to begin with, and combined with the tension I often feel from being connected to an anxious dog, and the pain from reawakened tendonitis, I was agitaged. I knew taking any frustration out on Kona, even a yank on her line, wouldn't do either of us any good.

When we turned around to head home, I unclipped her leash. Kona's fear response is flight. She has a prey drive that has no sense of self-preservation. What was I thinking?

I wasn't. I was responding to my fatigue and frustration. Off Kona ran. She charged up the fireroad and very quickly became smaller and smaller. I held my breath. I gave out a frantic "Kona come!" Kona stopped, turned to face me, and didn't budge. In hopes of preserving that command, I didn't call her again. Instead, I turned around and took a couple jogging strides on the other direction. Kona sprinted towards me twice as fast as she first ran away.

I gave her a handful of treats and sent her on her way. I still wasn't thinking. Kona got about 30 feet ahead of me when a tire blew out on the freeway below. I held my breath again. Kona rotated one of her radar ears in the direction of the bang and then went on with her exploring.

I let Kona romp for about five minutes. I didn't call her back to me again until I needed to re-leash her. I did kneel down a couple times, which is Kona's cue that we're playing hide and seek. Although she seemed to run with abandon, she kept a quarter eye on me. I knelt for only a couple seconds before Kona would notice me and race in my direction. When I did need to leash her, she came when I called her.

Kona and I were the only ones on the trail this morning. The sun was too high in the sky for either coyotes or rabbits to be out. The fireroad we traveled stretched rolling hills than ran directly East and West, making it impossible to turn a corner and disappear from sight. All of these factors kept Kona safe. I also forget that although her training seems to be in its infancy, it's still solid. I'm not going to make a habit of unleashing Kona, but I have to say that she did really well.

Before we left, I stopped to catch a view of Downtown.
As I thought of the scurry wakening below the highrises, I was relieved to feel my frustration melt to gratitude. I felt grateful for our empty ridge and for my safe and happy companion that I got to share it with.


Sam said...

I know, I have my days where I get like that too and do things without thinking about how bad I'll feel when it's all over with. You kind of feel like.. why can't I just have a NORMAL day out with my dog? It can get frustrating especially when you're depending on that walk with your dog to make you feel better.

Kudos to Kona for coming right back to you - I honestly think Marge would just sprint off if she heard one of the loud sounds that scare her. I hope I'll never have to find out.

Sara said...

Oh, I've been there too. Angry, frustrated...why can't I have a tail wagging, run up to people, beg for treats dog? Especially when all I want to do is take a nice walk, and he freaks out over a garbage can that the neighbor put on the "wrong" side of his driveway. LOL.

I'm impressed by Kona's recall skills, and I think it was good that you took that risk. How else can you truly test though skills than use them in real scenarios?

KB said...

It sounds like it all turned out pretty darn well. By turning and running away from Kona, you triggered a great recall. Then, a blowout on the freeway below didn't phase her too much (at least that's how I read it).

I hope that the tendonitis isn't too serious. I know how the two of you love your runs.

Here's to empty trails!