For the first time this week, Kona and I headed out on a longer run. To cover more distance and not run in circles, we have to go somewhere other than our two neighborhood trails. While Kona is most comfortable on these "backyard" fireroads, I was feeling hopeful about challenging Kona. We have taken on nose work, a new calming supplement, and daily relaxation protocol work. I thought we could put the confidence boosting work to the test. Out the door and to the Creek we went.
Alright, I got my reality check. A couple weeks of a new routine doesn't cure a scared dog's worries. Our run was rather predictable. Kona did alright on the way up, although she spent most of her time slinking on the trail.
She relaxed into a bit of exploring and treat eating at our peak.
Then our descent just wasn't fun. Some of you have asked why Kona is more afraid when we head back downhill. I think it's two things. First, she's scared of "human world" things. As my trainer describes her, Kona is semi-feral. The litter I adopted her from may have been truly feral. While the shelter wasn't sure of the litter's history, I got to see all of Kona's sisters, and Kona didn't just get the "scared gene." I also adopted her from a rural shelter that sat off a dirt road—a far cry from even our quiet city neighborhood. Her hyper vigilance and fears seem so innate and ingrained that I really believe that her mother lived under serious stress while Kona was in utero.
All that to say, Kona's fears surround "city civilization" and when we turn around on a trail, we face the city. All our trails bump up against neighborhoods, so we can both see and hear street activity as we descend. The closer to the car we get, the closer to the streets we are. This makes it hard for Kona to relax, even when she's hanging out by her favorite creek.
Second, because it's later in the morning, we run into more people on our way downtrail. Kona has gotten so much more comfortable about meeting strangers on the trail. As long as they ignore her, she's willing to take treats, or just keep exploring. Even though she has improved in this area, any trail activity can increase her stress and the repetition of people encounters slowly makes Kona more and more uncomfortable.
Having a stressed Kona Dog with me this morning made me sad. I had a sense of defeat. This wasn't a city street. This wasn't a hospital visit or a trip to the vet. This was a jog on a quiet trail, and Kona was looking for a hiding place.
When we got back to the parking lot, I sat next to Kona's crate and let my legs hang out of the open car door. I felt grief that such a beautiful morning was lost in fear and frustration. I sat there until I found that voice that told me to keep my chin up. Only work and patience will help Kona learn to be an ease. And only then may we be able to soak up our mornings together.